A retrospective of Alberto Burri’s work, The Trauma of Painting is at The Guggenheim in New York now through January 6th, 2016.
Alberto Burri, 1915-1995, was born in Umbria, Italy, and trained as a doctor serving in WW II in North Africa. He was captured in May 1943 and imprisoned in Hereford, Texas where he began painting. After returning to Italy in 1946 he gave up medicine and continued painting.
He was thought of as a process artist of the 1960s. He combined abstract, semi-structured rectilinear shapes, some curvilinear, with an earthy palette (black, umber, tan, white and a strong red, the only primary or secondary color) and with the texture of the materials used – burlap, wood, metal, plastic, etc.
Also noteworthy are the techniques employed which determine the look and feel of the textured surfaces – burning, stitching, protruding, cracking, welding, etc. He worked in series, ten identified by the curator, Emily Braun, in the Guggenheim brochure and in the catalog, Alberto Burri, The Trauma of Painting, a large heavy book. These series are:
- Catrami – tars
- Legni – woods
- Gobbi – hunchbacks
- Ferri – irons
- Muffe – molds
- Combustioni plastiche – plastic combustions
- Bianchi – whites
- Cretti – cracking
- Sacchi – sacks
- Cellotex – Celotex fiberboard
For me, Burri’s most well known and loved work is typified by the work shown here, the detail on the front of the catalog, Bianco (White), and Bianco grande (Large White), both from 1952. Classic, collage-like compositions balance chaos and control, the mastery of artistic intuition.
If you can go before the exhibition closes on January 6, 2016, don’t miss the video of Burri’s monument, Grande cretto,1985-89, for a Sicilian town destroyed by an earthquake – a hillside of rectilinear concrete solids with paths wandering through – amazing, stunning, breathtaking! This and eight other videos can be found on the museum’s Burri video channel.
Even if you can’t get there, you can check out the audio visual presentation on the musuem website. Enjoy!