The spatial investigations of Lucio Fontana are not limited to painting and sculpture. Indeed,the artist sought to transcend these boundaries, in favor of a new form of art that might offer a broader sensory experience. With his Ambienti Spaziali (Spatial Environments), Fontana wanted to make all of space present, turning it into a direct experience, both sensory and mental, for the public. On February 5, 1949, he installed his first Ambiente Spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment with Black Light), called “Black Environment,” at the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan.
The gallery was illuminated with Wood lights, the “black light” that brought out the phosphorescent colors of the abstract forms hanging from the ceiling, which in turn was obscured by black draperies.
This same principle is articulated differently in Ambiente Spaziale (Spatial Environment), (1967) 1981, installed at the Castello di Rivoli, in which ultraviolet light reveals the sinuous double trajectory of circles, which are painted in phosphorescent colors. Following the artist’s stated intentions, viewers find themselves face-to-face with themselves. It is not only visual perception that is referenced, but all the senses, which come together to make perception a more total experience, both psychological and physical.
Fontana’s environmental work can be seen as the first realization of the projects outlined in the manifestos of the Spatialist Movement, which the artist founded in Milan in 1947. “The work of art is eternal, but it cannot be immortal,” states the first Manifesto of Spatialism. For it to be immortal, art must free itself from perishable matter and become pure gesture, pure idea, with the complicity of tools of expression borrowed from technology. The second Manifesto of Spatialism (1948) states: “We want the picture to break away from its frame and sculpture from its bell jar. An expression of aerial art for a minute is as if it were to endure a millennium, in eternity.” What Fontana delineates with his Ambienti Spaziali are, indeed, aerial images, without body, that transcend their physicality. They are, moreover, abstract images—that is, disconnected from a specific meaning and now universal. As the artist intended, they open up to imaginative integration on the part of the viewer, and thus it is an open work that Fontana proposes; not an object to be observed, but a sensation to be experienced. The spatial environment in the Castello’s collection was created for the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine (The Space of the Image), organized in Foligno, Italy, in 1967. After Fontana’s death, the environment was reconstructed by Gino Marotta in order to show it in future exhibitions. The example owned by the Castello di Rivoli is the only one that was not destroyed after an exhibition that was held in Rimini, Italy, in 1982.