Lothar Wolleh first met Lucio Fontana in 1963, in Milan. Wolleh’s esteem for the ‘old master’ among artists from ZERO circles resonates in the opening salutation of his letters –‘Grande Maestro’– as well as in numerous portraits, photographs of the Milanese studio, of the artist at work and of individual artworks.
It is a rare booklet from 1966, a catalogue on Lucio Fontana, issued by Alexandre Iolas, a gallery with branches in New York, Paris and Geneva. The frontispiece of the catalogue shows Lucio Fontana in the courtyard of his Milanese studio, photographed by Lothar Wolleh in 1965. And it is the personal dedication in this catalogue that demonstrates the close connection between the two artists: ‘Al amigo Lothar, Lucio Fontana, Milan 19-4-1966’.
Argentinian-Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) burst onto the German art scene in 1960, with an inaugural exhibition at the renowned Düsseldorf-based Galerie Schmela. Two years later, a retrospective exhibition in the nearby city of Leverkusen established Fontana’s indisputable status as the éminence grise of the international ZERO movement (1958-1966). Fontana laid the foundation for a new understanding of artistic practice and art, beyond the demarcations of the flat surface.
Lothar Wolleh and Lucio Fontana got to know each other in 1963, through Wolleh’s close friendship with German ZERO artist Günther Uecker (b. 1930) and American artist-curator Willoughby Sharp (1936-2008). During the years 1963-1967, Wolleh visited Fontana’s Milanese studio 15 to 20 times. Of special significance is a collaborative project between the two artists. In 1967, Fontana provided 15 to 20 of Wolleh’s photographs with a signature as well as a taglie, his characteristic razor-sharp cut. The project bears witness to an intensive exchange in the relatively short period of only three years and, moreover, to their shared artistic views.