Eight Art Project
Eight Art Project

Alberto Burri at Città di Castello.

We can say that 2016 has been Alberto Burri’s year, not just because it marks the centenary of his birth but because it has seen a series of well-made and well thought-out exhibitions that have undoubtedly succeeded in paying homage to his genius. After the major retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York entitled Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting - which opened in October 2015 - and its subsequent transfer to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, in fact, the tributes to the great artist from Città di Castello will conclude in his native city. Alberto Burri: the Space of Matter / between Europe and the USA (from September 24, 2016, to January 6, 2017) is the title of the important exhibition that the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri is staging in the ample spaces of the Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco. This satellite of the foundation, housed in what were once tobacco drying sheds that have recently been restored, is well suited to presenting an incisive comparison between Alberto Burri’s most iconic works and those of many other great artists of the 20th century influenced by his vision.

The title chosen by the close-knit team of curators at the Fondazione Burri refers to a combination that is crucial to understanding the work of the Umbrian artist. Matter and space are in fact the pivotal concepts of his syntax since they are able to unite the substance of the object and of architecture, allowing him to keep to his intention of subverting the formal canons of the history of art. In Alberto Burri’s works matter takes on a life of its own, disengaging itself from the uses to which it is normally put to embark on a new existence, made up of chemical and, of course, spatial equilibria. Space, for its part, does not exist a priori, but seems to be generated by salvaged materials arranged in advance with Renaissance care. It is in fact common and not at all rash to draw a conceptual parallel with Piero della Francesca (c. 1416-92), another great artist from the region between Umbria and the Marche who was also capable of thinking about painting in geometrical terms, turning his compositions into studied ensembles of solid bodies.

Looking at the enormous Black and Gold Cellotexes (1970s-’90s), in fact, one cannot fail to notice his extraordinary capacity to work material, in the way that the masters of 16th-century sculpture had done before him; the same can be said of the control exercised over the Tars and the Molds (1950s), orchestrated in a crescendo of chemical reactions and chromatic transformations. And then the Humps, Combustions and Plastics (1950s-’60s), evocative material inventions able to transport the viewer into an aesthetic dimension filled with ancestral meanings, so suggestive that it has influenced the careers of the many artists whose works are present in the exhibition: Fautrier and Dubuffet, spellbound by the mater materia concentrated in the Molds; Pollock, Motherwell, Hartung, de Kooning, Wols and Calder, induced to reinterpret space as an emanation of painting; Beuys, Kiefer, Scarpitta, Calzolari and Kounellis, among others, convinced by the energetic capacities of poor materials, as well as Manzoni and Klein, seduced by the rationality of the planning of the early monochromatic Cellotexes. At a distance of a hundred years from his birth, in conclusion, there are very few artists who can be said to be untouched by the legacy of Alberto Burri. Owing to his singular ability to overcome the ritual divisions between the arts, every phase of his career was an occasion to untangle many of the knotty problems of contemporary art, clearing the way for later and more promising aesthetic pronouncements.

Elena Tettamanti


Città di Castello // until January 6, 2017
Alberto Burri: the Space of Matter / between Europe and the USA
Idea and project by Bruno Corà
Exhibition curated by Aldo Iori with Rita Olivieri
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri – Ex Seccatoi Tabacco
Via Albizzini, 1
06012 Città di Castello, Perugia

Photo credits:

1. Alberto Burri
Red Plastic M3 [Rosso Plastica M3], 1961
plastic and combustion on canvas
121.5 x 182.5 cm
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri

2. Alberto Burri
White Hump [Gobbo Bianco], 1953
cloth, oil, sawdust and pumice stone on everted canvas
100.7 x 87 cm
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri

3. Alberto Burri
Wood SP [Legno SP], 1958
wood, canvas, acrylic, combustion and polyvinyl acetate glue on canvas
129.5 x 200.5 cm
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri

4. Alberto Burri
Crack G3 [Cretto G3], 1975
acrovinyl on Cellotex
172 x 151 cm
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri

5. Jasper Johns
Figure 8, 1959
encaustic paint on canvas
51 x 38 cm
The Sonnabend Collection Foundation.
On long-term loan at Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice Italy

November 2016
Elena Tettamanti