Aesthetica Magazine

Franco Fontana: Vessels for Colour

Aesthetica Magazine sent this email to their subscribers on April 11, 2024.


Italian photographer Franco Fontana is widely lauded
as a master of colour. It’s easy to see why from his oeuvre
of eye-catching cityscapes showing the bright buildings, tall skyscrapers and palm trees of Ibiza, Havana and LA. Now, Atlas Gallery celebrates Fontana’s legacy in Urbani, a retrospective that honours the artist’s 90th birthday. 
 
 
Fontana dedicated himself to multi-chromatic image-making at a time when the style was looked down upon. Many fine artists avoided colour because of its use within advertising and family souvenirs. It was seen as a technique that belonged either to a purely commercial application or the world of amateurs. Fontana rejected these views and fully embraced the style in the 1950s. His 70-year-long career has been an in-depth exploration of the nuances of colour across a variety of subject matters – from cityscapes to street scenes.
 
 
In Fontana’s compositions, the landscape is stripped back to its most essential shapes and lines. This is clearest in a piece titled Ibiza (2008). A wall of terracotta makes up the foreground. Behind them, the sky and the ridge of a white building interlock. The simplicity of the forms encourages viewers to really pay attention to the subtleties of each hues as well as the ways in which texture and shadow impact each plane. This is a piece that shows his eye for asymmetrical compositions, forced perspective and a flattened depth of field.
 
 
"Delete to elect" is key to the photographer’s visual vocabulary. However, his decision to compress the depth of field actually arose from a technical issue. Fontana’s 50-millimetre lens could not select distant details, which meant he needed to frame a large portion of the visual field. He then enlarged and cropped areas of interest during the printing process. This results in subjective compositions where Fontana consciously subverts the way we are used to seeing the world, for example, with fragments of wall cut against pieces of sky.
 
 
Colour is the undisputed protagonist of Fontana’s artwork. The use of asymmetry and geometry certainly grabs our attention, as we try to locate these unfamiliar views within recognisable city names. However, colour becomes a subject in its own right. It's core to his practice and so he states: “Colour must be seen not as an objective fact but as a subjective element. I view colour as if it were an identity. And for me it consequently represents the joy of living: if you remove the colour from life, you remove everything.”
 
 
 
 
  

1. Franco Fontana, Ibiza, 2008. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 2. Franco Fontana, Los Angeles, 1990. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 3. Franco Fontana, Ibiza, 1992. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 4. Franco Fontana, Ibiza, 2008. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 5. Franco Fontana, Los Angeles, 1990. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 6. Franco Fontana, Los Angeles, (Vertical), 1991. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Text-only version of this email

Meet a Master of Bold, Geometric Abstraction | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Italian photographer Franco Fontana is widely lauded as a master of colour. It’s easy to see why from his oeuvre of eye-catching cityscapes showing the bright buildings, tall skyscrapers and palm trees of Ibiza, Havana and LA. Now, Atlas Gallery celebrates Fontana’s legacy in Urbani, a retrospective that honours the artist’s 90th birthday.  Fontana dedicated himself to multi-chromatic image-making at a time when the style was looked down upon. Many fine artists avoided colour because of its use within advertising and family souvenirs. It was seen as a technique that belonged either to a purely commercial application or the world of amateurs. Fontana rejected these views and fully embraced the style in the 1950s. His 70-year-long career has been an in-depth exploration of the nuances of colour across a variety of subject matters – from cityscapes to street scenes. In Fontana’s compositions, the landscape is stripped back to its most essential shapes and lines. This is clearest in a piece titled Ibiza (2008). A wall of terracotta makes up the foreground. Behind them, the sky and the ridge of a white building interlock. The simplicity of the forms encourages viewers to really pay attention to the subtleties of each hues as well as the ways in which texture and shadow impact each plane. This is a piece that shows his eye for asymmetrical compositions, forced perspective and a flattened depth of field. "Delete to elect" is key to the photographer’s visual vocabulary. However, his decision to compress the depth of field actually arose from a technical issue. Fontana’s 50-millimetre lens could not select distant details, which meant he needed to frame a large portion of the visual field. He then enlarged and cropped areas of interest during the printing process. This results in subjective compositions where Fontana consciously subverts the way we are used to seeing the world, for example, with fragments of wall cut against pieces of sky. Colour is the undisputed protagonist of Fontana’s artwork. The use of asymmetry and geometry certainly grabs our attention, as we try to locate these unfamiliar views within recognisable city names. However, colour becomes a subject in its own right. It's core to his practice and so he states: “Colour must be seen not as an objective fact but as a subjective element. I view colour as if it were an identity. And for me it consequently represents the joy of living: if you remove the colour from life, you remove everything.” Read More » 1. Franco Fontana, Ibiza, 2008. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 2. Franco Fontana, Los Angeles, 1990. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 3. Franco Fontana, Ibiza, 1992. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 4. Franco Fontana, Ibiza, 2008. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 5. Franco Fontana, Los Angeles, 1990. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 6. Franco Fontana, Los Angeles, (Vertical), 1991. Image Courtesy of the Artist. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Change email address / Leave mailing list
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