This first major retrospective of Alberto Burri's (1915-1995) work in the United States in nearly forty years will close at New York City's Guggenheim Museum later this week. More than one hundred works are on display covering his entire career, culminating in a film of Burri's largest work: the reinterpretation of the ruins of Gibellina, in Sicily. The old city, destroyed by the 1968 Belice earthquake, was later encased in concrete preserving the morphology of the buildings and the city's medieval streetscape. Alongside his two-dimensional work, the exhibition ultimately seeks to demonstrate how Burri blurred the line between painting and sculptural relief that directly influenced the Neo-Dada, Process art, and Arte Povera movements.
Exploring the beauty and complexity of Burri’s process-based works, the exhibition positions the artist as a central protagonist of post–WWII art and revises traditional narratives of the cultural exchanges between the United States and Europe in the 1950s and '60s. A key figure in the transition from collage to assemblage, Burri rarely used paint or brush in conventional ways, and instead worked his surfaces with stitching and combustion, among other signal processes.
With his torn and mended burlap sacks, “hunchback” canvases, and melted industrial plastics, the artist often made allusions to skin and wounds, but in a purely abstract idiom. The tactile quality of his work anticipated Post-Minimalist and feminist art of the 1960s, while his red, black, and white “material monochromes” defied notions of purity and reductive form associated with American formalist Modernism.
You can see Albert Burri: The Trauma of Painting at New York City's Guggenheim until January 6th 2016. Find out more, here.