Altered and Substituted Canvases


“While working on one of my perforated canvases, I do not want to make a painting: I want to open up space, create a new dimension for art . . . I have not attempted to decorate a surface but on the contrary I have tried to break its dimensional limitations.” —Lucio Fontana

Since the 1950s, many artists working with canvas have used the medium to probe the fundaments not of paint on a support, but of the support itself. Some have explored the material properties of the support by perforating and slashing it (as did Fontana), twisting and contorting it (like Stephen Parreno), or replacing it entirely with everything from metallic foil to plastic. For Fontana, the alteration of a canvas in his "Concetto Spaziale" (spatial concept) series was a way to move beyond the picture plane and activate the space behind and around the work. German artist Blinky Palermo’s “Cloth Paintings” (produced between 1966-72) were made by sewing two different colors of cloth together and stretching them over a canvas, which for Palermo expressed the “spiritual presence of color.”