Fontana and his Environments at Hangar Bicocca

Have you ever heard about Lucio Fontana? He is one of my favourite Italian artists.

Living Milan, also means having the possibility to experience a lot of exhibitions. So, I went to a Lucio Fontana exhibition last Sunday, with some of my friends. It was about different environments designed by Fontana through the use of neon light and architecture.

Through these works, Fontana wants to merge painting, sculpture and architecture in order to attempt to overcome the static conception of the plastic form, devising a space that a visitor could touch, walk through and experience.

The exhibition is free and it is made of 11 environments put in a chronological way, from the oldest one to the most recent one. It takes place at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca in Milan and I kindly suggest it to you. What stroke me was seeing a lot of children experiencing the different environments and having fun with their friends, not because seeing children laughing and having fun sounds strage to me, but because It sounds strage to me seeing children having fun in a museum. I think that the reason is because the exhibition was about environments, light and exploring spaces and these are the first things that a child experience when it comes to life, so it sounds natural to them. 

Environment 1: Neon structure for the 9th Milan Triennale, 1951

HangarBicocca Lucio Fontana

A luminous arabesque made of over 100 meters of neon tube. Very similar to the one exposed at Museo del ‘900 in Milan. I find it a very “sweet” and sinuous shape. 

Environment 2: Spatial environment in black light, 1948 – 1949

HangarBicocca Lucio Fontana

This is the first environment created by Fontana. It is a dark corridor with black curtains at the entrance and at the exit of it. At the centre of the environment, there is a suspended sculptural element painted with a special paint that makes the sculpture fluorescent, when exposed to the ultraviolet lights that illuminate the corridor. 

At the time (1948), the public was not ready for such a contemporary masterpiece and they did not like it, because they were not able to understand its meaning. So, more or less ten years passed before the second environment created by Fontana.

Environment 3: Ambiente spaziale “Utopie”, for the 13th Milan Triennale, 1964

HangarBicocca Lucio Fontana

This is the first Ambiente Spaziale “Utopie”. It has walls and ceiling covered with metallic red wallpaper , while “quadrionda” glass sheets are positioned at the two edges of the shorter side of the environment, filtering the red light produced by the neon tubes. The floor in undulated and covered with a thick red carpet that creates a soft and continuous space.

Environment 4: Ambiente spaziale “Utopie”, for the 13th Milan Triennale, 1964


This is the second Ambiente Spaziale “Utopie”. It is a corridor painted entirely black with a curvilinear wall marked by a series of holes that produce two waving lines, through which a green neon line shines.

Environment 5: Spatial environment, 1966


This environment can be reached through a short dark tunnel, at the end of which there is a dark room with a rubber floor. The walls are black and there is a rectangle made of fluorescent dots, with one side per wall. The rectangle creates a sort of artificial wall, but If you pay attention you can notice that the floor continues over the rectangle. It is a sort of illusion. The feeling of my feet on that floor was pleasant and made me feel like a child, again. It reminded me of those carefree afternoons, passed in my grandparents’ home, jumping on the trampoline. I definitely did not want to get out of that space.

Environment 6: Spatial environment, 1967


This environment is an ideal reconstruction of “Ambiente spaziale a luce nera”, his first environment. Both of them are created in a black and empty space, but the 1967 version differs from the previous one. Lucio inserts a different suspended wood sculpture that runs from one edge of the room to the other. The sculpture edges are painted with a white paint that gets fluorescent when exposed to the lights put in the room.

Moreover, there is a line made of fluorescent dots, that runs all the walls of the room and creates a sort of constellation on that black surface.

Environment 7: Spatial environment with neon, 1967


This environment is a totally empty space illuminated by a pink neon. The power of the light turns everything into pink and changes the perception of space. So, the space is also the place where the light can be touched, because the light is physically on the walls and on the floor, due to its power. So, the space is also the place through which you can experience the light.

Environment 8: Spatial environment with red light, 1967


A labyrinthine space melted with a red light produced by two red neons, one positioned at the entrance of the space and one at the exit of it. The red effect produced by the neon light was both passionate and lethal. So, we discovered very soon, that place to be the perfect location for some good pictures. What a liked the most was the softness of that red light.

Environment 9: Spatial environment, 1967


It is similar to Spatial Environment with black light, but there is not a suspended sculptural element at the centre of the black space. There is only the presence of dots, on the walls,  which are made fluorescent by the ultraviolet light.

Environment 10: Spatial environment at Documenta 4, in Kassel, 1968

Spatial environment at Documenta 4, in Kassel, 1968

A white space with different walls in it that creates an itinerary, that leads you to a wall with big “vertical cut”, one of Lucio’s identifying marks. 

Environment 11: Energy sources, neon ceiling for “Italia 61”, in Turin, 1961


This is the last masterpiece of the exhibition and even the most impactful, in my opinion. For this work, Fontana was inspired by the technical progress and development of the energy sources in the last hundred years. 

It is a luminous structure made of blue and green neon tubes organized in seven different levels, inside an octagonal shaped room. This was the most appealing room, because It made me want to be Tarzan and start jumping from one tube to the other ones, pretending to be a monkey. 

This was not the first time that I saw Fontana’s works, because I have seen many of them exposed in different museums, but this was the first time that I went to an exhibition entirely dedicated to him. I want to thank you very much Hangar Bicocca, for its social commitment and for giving the chance to art for being spread among the people for free. 


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