Working With the Given: Alberto Burri, 1915-1995

The life work of Alberto Burri was born in an American POW camp in Gainesville, Texas, where he was interned after the capture of his unit by the Allied forces in Tunisia in 1944. Defeated and confined in a strange land Burri turned his hand to making art out of the common materials that were available to him. The discarded burlap potato sacks from the kitchen with their subtle variations of color, repetitive linear weave and texture, were a rich source of visual matter for him.  Returning to Italy after the war Burri continued fashioning compositions from burlap and other found materials. The revival of Italy’s post-war economy gave Burri a new palette of industrial materials to work with. Plaster, discarded metal, plastic sheeting and common building supplies presented to his imagination unique physical qualities from which he created works of astonishing beauty.

The impact of Burri’s work goes beyond the visual. It appeals to a sense of play that perhaps is more common in children with their innocence about the prescribed meaning of things. In Burri’s hands plastic, burlap, and scraps of wood and metal vie with the most sublime subjects of art. Like a crazy and inappropriate uncle who is not above making a broom become a horse for the delight of children, Burri charges extraordinarily ordinary utilitarian materials with an esthetic power that is completely contrary to their original intentions and purposes. That’s his great lesson and example to us all.

Read more:

Alberto Burri bio

Arte Povera

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