In a rage of frustration, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) destroyed a painting by piercing his canvas in 1948. From this act of destruction, a new concept of art was formed, which Fontana referred to as Concetti Spaziali, or "Spatial Conceptions." Instead of creating the illusion of space through trompe l'oeil depiction, he frees the canvas from two dimensions. His punctures and tears draw attention to the space behind and in front of the canvas itself. By breaking through the surface of the canvas, Fontana found the third dimension. He emphasizes the material reality of the canvas surface and the painting itself rather than its illusion of a three-dimensional representation. He explained, "art dies but is saved by gesture;" his revolutionary gestures called into question the established Western tradition of easel painting and presented a new artistic direction.
Before his first Concetto Spaziale, Fontana worked as a sculptor in Europe and South America. Perhaps his career as a sculptor inspired his search for the third dimension in painting. The first examples of Fontana's new pictorial conception took the shape of Bucchi, or holes, and it was not until a decade later, in 1958, that he began his signature knife-slashes, or Tagli, which he named "Concetto Spaziale, Attese" (Spatial Conception, Expectation). These cuts and holes enable the viewer to look into the dark, imaginary space behind the canvas surface rather than focusing on the representation atop the picture plane. Fontana often lined the reverse of his canvases with black gauze so that the darkness would shimmer behind the open cuts and create a mysterious sense of illusion and depth.
Until his death in 1968, Fontana continued to experiment with his ruptures and tears of the canvas surface, widening and shrinking his holes, varying the color of the canvas and the number of cuts, and changing the painting's shape. He almost always worked with monochrome colors, connecting his works with the new monochrome European painting established by artists such as Piero Manzoni and Yves Klein.