Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Postwar Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia
Lucio Fontana and the Politics of the Gesture
In 1949, Lucio Fontana’s “painterly” work appeared from out of the blue, after his years of rigorous training and successful practice as a mason and sculptor for small private commissions in Italy and in Argentina. He declared the practice of painting dead at the very moment he assumed its burden, and he took on an identity as a painter, which he declared to be the most empty, obsolete, and irrelevant occupation after the war. This chapter explores Fontana’s violent gestures of slitting and puncturing the canvas as a response to abstract expressionism, which he referenced repeatedly in his publication Il Gesto. Fontana’s tactic is read as a double movement: at once internalizing and negating the expressive mark, in order to recover a horizon lost to the era of reconstruction.