1915 - 1995 · Italy
Alberto Burri was a visionary Italian artist active in the second half of the XX century. He explored the possibility of unconventional materials (wood, nails, tar, plastic, zinc oxide, PVC among others) to create abstract shapes and textured volumes. Associated with the Arte Povera movement and the matterism of the Informal Art, his aesthetics was an explicit expression of the trauma coming from his war experience.
Burri’s first experiments with unorthodox media begun with the "sacchi" (sacks) series: stitched, patched, and painted rough burlap bags, then went on with the use of fire to produce burnt plastic works through combustion. Later on, he began his “cracked” paintings series and then turned to industrial material such as Cellotex.
Born on 12 March 1915 in Città di Castello (Italy), Burri studied as a doctor at the University of Perugia and, in 1940, he was called to military service and sent to Libya as a war physician. Three years later he was captured and transferred to Hereford, Texas in a prisoner-of-war camp where he began painting on discarded burlap. This traumatic experience, along with the tragic death of his younger brother on the Russian front led him to abandon the medical field in favour of a career as an artist once returned to Italy in 1946.
Burri was awarded prestigious prizes including the UNESCO Prize at the São Paulo Biennial (1959) and the Critics' Prize at the Venice Biennale (1960). His work can be found worldwide in high-calibre institutions such as MoMA and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Mambo in Bologna, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome as well as in Collection Burri Foundation in Città di Castello (Italy) created in 1978 by the artist himself with a donation of thirty-two works. Burri’s career was celebrated with a major retrospective in 2015 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York titled “Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting.”