Lucio Fontana, an Italian artist who lived and worked in Argentina, was one of the first avant-garde artists to understand art as gesture or performance. His first solo exhibition at an American museum was held at the Walker in 1966, where a critic wrote in the Minneapolis Star
that "Fontana gives his works a feeling of space by breaking the surface with perforations, punctures, 'nervous' slits, 'quiet and dramatic' slashes, or 'fluttery' holes." The technique, which Fontana named Spazialismo
, was conceived in 1949 when he punctured a thinly painted monochromatic canvas with a knife, exploding the definition--or at least the conventional space--of art. This act challenged the entire history of Western easel painting and led him to the understanding that painting was no longer about illusion contained within the dimensions of a canvas but a complex blend of form, color, architectural space, gesture, and light.
Fontana was completely committed to abstraction, publishing in 1946 his famous "White Manifesto," which expanded on ideas from another Italian movement, Futurism, about the role of science and technology in new art forms. In this manifesto he wrote about "the free development of color and form in real space to create an art that would transcend the area of the canvas to become an integral part of architecture."