VENICE -- The Fondazione Giorgio Cini is presenting a landmark survey show dedicated to Alberto Burri (1915-1995). This exhibition presents the final chapter of a series of international exhibitions and events staged to celebrate the Italian artist over the course of the past year. Taking place at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, between the 10th of May and 28th of July, the exhibition is organised with the Fondazione Burri and in collaboration with Tornabuoni Art and Paola Sapone MCIA, with sponsorship from Intesa Sanpaolo.
Curated by Bruno Corà, President of the Fondazione Burri, the exhibition will chronologically cover the many important facets of Burri’s artistic output, and will include a number of masterpieces belonging to each phase of the artist’s career. From the incredibly rare Catrami series, starting in 1948, to the final Cellotex works from 1994, the show will present around 50 masterpieces on loan from important museums in Italy and abroad, from the Fondazione Alberto Burri, prestigious private collections, and two works from the collection of Intesa Sanpaolo. Significantly, for the first time the Fondazione Burri, based in the artist’s hometown of Città di Castello, Umbria, is lending a number of major works from its collection, creating a fuller picture of the artist than has been seen in previous exhibitions. Together, these works span the entire length of Burri’s career, emphasizing is role as one of the most important figures in Post-War art of the 20th century. The show is also somewhat of a homecoming for the artist, whose work was last shown in Venice in 1983, when the former Cantieri Navali on the island of Giudecca exhibited 18 examples from Burri’s cycle of works entitled Sestante, or ‘Sextants’.
Viewers will have the privilege of seeing a unique grouping of Burri’s most important works, many of which have never been publicly exhibited before –from the rare first series of works titled Catrami (‘Tars’, from 1948) and Muffe (‘Moulds’, from 1948), presented in conversation with his iconic Sacchi (‘Sacks’, from 1949-50) and Gobbi (‘Hunchbacks’, from 1950), all the way through to the fascinating Combustioni (‘Combustions’, from the 1960s), the Legni (‘Woods’, from 1955), the Ferri (‘Irons’ from 1958), the contorted Plastiche (‘Plastics’, from the 1960s) and the extraordinary evolution of the Cretti (‘Cracks’, from the 1970s), which, with the Sacchi and Plastiche, are perhaps among his most recognisable series of works, and ending with the large-scale and colourful Cellotex, which he made up until the mid-1990s. This show proposes a holistic and meaningful analysis of the way in which this pioneer of contemporary art of the second half of the 20th century tackled the central theme that underlies his entire oeuvre: the transformative use of materials, or ‘matter’, into art. Bruno Corà, curator of the show and President of the Fondazione Burri, comments:
“Just over a quarter of a century following his death in 1995, this show will shine a light on the radical transformation that Burri brought to the art of the 20th century. The revolution Burri brought to art by engaging with a systematic presentation of material as the subject matter itself, rather than using it as a tool for representation, is arguably as important as when Giotto abandoned the stylised gold skies of Mediaeval art and began to paint it blue, just as it appeared in nature. What brings these two innovators together is the introduction of something ‘real’ in lieu of imitation. The absolute shock of Burri’s work in the years that followed WWII can be measured in terms of the quantity of art and artists that he clearly influenced, from the New Dada of Rauschenberg, Johns and Dine, to the Nouveau Réalisme of Klein and Rotella, the Arte Povera of Pistoletto, Kounellis, Pascali and Calzolari, as well as process-based art and monochromatic neo-minimalism.”
Highlights of the show at the Fondazione Cini will include some large Sacchi from 1952, each one around 2.5 metres wide. Rauschenberg is known to have seen them in Burri’s studio in 1953, while he was preparing for his own show, at the Galleria dell’Obelisco in Rome, titled ‘Boxes and Fetishes’. Rauschenberg’s visit to Burri’s studio had such a profound effect on him that it changed the way he made art, and in 1954 he began his famous Combine Paintings, which show obvious influences from Burri’s own work. The show will also include a cycle of very important Plastiche as well as a monumental Cellotex from 1979, measuring almost 3 x 4 metres.
The work of Alberto Burri has been receiving increasing international attention in the past years, consecrating him as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. In 2015, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York presented a survey show which then travelled to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21 Ständehaus in Düsseldorf, while the Fondazione Burri itself hosted a major exhibition in Città di Castello (in the province of Perugia).
This exhibition will be complemented by a multimedia archive, including never-before-seen film footage of the artist at work, relating to the entirety of Burri’s professional life. On this occasion, a bilingual catalogue (Italian-English) will be published, with introductions by the curator Bruno Corà, President of the Fondazione Burri, and Luca Massimo Barbero, Director of the Institute of Art History at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. This scholarly catalogue will prove to be a useful tool in the study of Burri’s work and will also include an updated bibliography. The exhibition has been designed by the architect Tiziano Sarteanesi.
Venice, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore 10th May – 28th July 2019
ALBERTO BURRI “The Unbreakable Presence of Painting” curated by Bruno Corà