Alberto Burri | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books
Alberto Burri (Città di Castello, 12 March 1915 - Nice, 13 February 1995) was an Italian artist, painter and doctor.
He was born in Città di Castello (Perugia) on 12 March 1915, the eldest son of Pietro, a wine merchant, and of Carolina Torreggiani, an elementary teacher.
After graduating from high school at the Annibale Mariotti high school in Perugia, in 1934 he enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the city, graduating on 12 June 1940.
On October 9, 1940, with the rank of second lieutenant, he was recalled to arms and soon discharged to follow the internship at a hospital for the purposes of qualification to practice. After obtaining his diploma, he returned to the army and, at the beginning of March 1943, assigned to the 10th legion in North Africa. In the days of Italian surrender in Africa, he was captured by the British on May 8, 1943 and, handed over to the Americans, was imprisoned, together with Giuseppe Berto and Beppe Niccolai, in the "criminal camp" for non-cooperators of the Hereford concentration camp (in Texas) dove remained for 18 months. In the spring of 1944 he refused to sign a declaration of collaboration proposed to him and was cataloged among the "irreducible" fascists.
He returned from American captivity long after the end of hostilities, arriving in Naples on February 27, 1946 and living for a short time in Città di Castello, before moving to Rome, where he shared a studio in Via Mario de 'Fiori, near Piazza of Spain, with the sculptor friend Edgardo Mannucci.
The first personal exhibition, favored by the architect Amedeo Luccichenti, took place in July 1947, at the La Margherita gallery of Gaspero del Corso and Irene Brin, and was presented by the poets Libero de Libero and Leonardo Sinisgalli. The works on display were still of a figurative nature, with some due to the tonal painting of the Roman School of the 1930s. In the days of the exhibition he met the sculptor Pericle Fazzini, vice-president of the Art Club, an important open artistic Roman association and the innovations of abstract-concrete art: already in December 1947 he took part in the II Mostra del Sodalizio and continued to exhibit with the Art Club until the early fifties, both in Italy and abroad.
In his second solo exhibition: Bianchi and Catrami, still at the La Margherita gallery, in May 1948, for the first time propose abstract works that, with their now amebic and organic forms, now filiform and reticular, revealed some affinities with the language by Jean Arp, Paul Klee and Joan Miró. Soon started in early tars where the qualities of materials are making their way to simple organization.
At the end of 1948 he went to Paris where he visited the studio of Miró, he saw the most recent abstract works of the Italian Alberto Magnelli and knew what he exhibited at the René Drouin gallery, which is said to be one of the most important centers of the new artistic season. , then called "informal".
In 1949 he created SZ1, the first printed sack.
In 1950, the Muffe and Gobbi started with the series and used the worn-out material in the Sacks for the first time. 1950 is a year of great experimentation, during which he painted various molds, exploiting the efflorescence produced by the pumice stone combined with the traditional oil painting, but also the first hunchback, with the characteristic bulge made with wooden branches arranged on the back of the canvas, and the first bag, made with jute, patched and sewn up. Also in 1950, he performed the large "Fiat Panel" (a square of almost 5 m on the side) for the exhibition hall of a Roman automobile dealership.
In January 1951 he took part in the founding of the Gruppo Origine, together with Mario Ballocco, Giuseppe Capogrossi and Ettore Colla. and participated in the inaugural exhibition of the group, which broke up the following year.
1952 opened with the personal exhibition "Neri e Muffe", at the Galleria dell'Obelisco in Rome. In April, at the Origin Foundation of his friend Colla, the exhibition "Homage to Leonardo" was held in which he exhibited, among others, "Lo Strappo", one of the first bags that only a few months later was rejected by the Venice Biennale jury. Instead, in the "black and white" section of the Venetian exhibition, the design "Studio per lo strappo", purchased by Lucio Fontana, was accepted. On May 17, Burri was among the signers of the "Manifesto of the space movement for television", promoted by Fontana himself. During the year he moved to via Margutta, in a studio bordering that of the painter Franco Gentilini and the Pincio embankment. In the same year Robert Rauschenberg, while spending almost a year in Rome, visited the studio of Alberto Burri, thus being able to see the Sacchi.
The great international success begins with the 1953 Chicago and New York exhibitions. The first American solo exhibition (Alberto Burri: paintings and collages), staged at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in Chicago, took place between January 13 and February 7, 1953; she was then transferred to the New York Stable Gallery by Eleanor Ward at the end of the year. Meanwhile Burri had met the critic James Johnson Sweeney, then director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, who decided to promote his work through critical support, which led to the first monograph dedicated to him (1955), and the inclusion of some of his works in the exhibition activity of the museum. A month later, between the 18th and the 30th of April, a new personal exhibition was presented at the Fondazione Origine, presented by the poet Emilio Villa, with whom the collaboration continued even in the following years.
1954 was characterized by the transfer to the studio of via Salaria and the entry into the group of artists supported by the French critic Michel Tapié, father of the Art autre. Towards the end of the year, he began to use himself in his fire works, realizing the first small combustions on paper.
On May 15, 1955 he married, in Westport (California), the American dancer of Ukrainian origin Minsa Craig (1928-2003), known in Rome the previous year. In the same period he opened the group exhibition "The new decade: 22 European painters and sculptors", organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (May-August), where five of his works were exhibited; dates back to that shows one of the few statements of poetics of the artist, which is found in the relative catalog. Also in 1955, a successful outcome was attended by the Roman Quadrennial and the São Paulo Biennial of Brazil.
Despite the successes and the support of his friend Afro Basaldella, at the Venice Biennale in 1956 he was allowed to exhibit only two works. However, in September, while the Biennale was still in progress, the Venetian Galleria del Cavallino dedicated an exhibition with many of its well-known sacks.
Meanwhile, Burri continued to perform numerous combustions (with wood, canvas and plastic) and experimented with the characteristics of wood.
1957 was characterized by numerous solo exhibitions in Italy and in the United States. Towards the end of the year he realized the first tools, in which he exploited the possibilities offered by the welding technique within a two-dimensional pictorial discourse. The first of these works maintained compositional analogies with bags, woods and plastics, while subsequently Burri matured a more rigorous layout and suited to the characteristics of the new material used.
The exhibition activity was quite intense in 1959 and early 1960. In June, Burri obtained a room at the Venice Biennale, where he also received the award of the International Association of Art Critics. In the same year, during which he moved his residence in via Grottarossa, outside Rome, Giovanni Carandente made the first documentary of his work.
A long journey between Mexico and the United States and the aftermath of a delicate surgery slowed down his production, although he continued to exhibit in solo and group shows.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the first anthological recapitulations, with the new contribution of Plastics, will become true and immediate, in Paris, Rome, L'Aquila, Livorno, and then in Houston, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Pasadena. historical retrospectives in Darmstadt, Rotterdam, Turin and Paris (1967-1972).
At the end of 1962, the year in which he bought the villa of Case Nove di Morra, near Città di Castello, he reappeared to the public with the results of the last months of work. Between December 1962 and January 1963, the Marlborough gallery in Rome hosted an exhibition dedicated to plastics that, after the irons, represented a new and unexpected turn. Perhaps by correcting some mid-1950s plastics, he decided to focus his attention on the transparent plastic film.
The new plastics season lasted for the whole decade and Cesare Brandi was the main exegete: he introduced many exhibitions and wrote a fundamental monograph on Burri (1963).
In 1963 he designed, before a long series of ideas in this field, the set design and costumes for five ballets by the pianist, conductor and American composer Morton Gould at La Scala in Milan. in the same year one of his works was exhibited at the Contemporary Italian Paintings exhibition, set up in some Australian cities. In 1963-64 he exhibited at the exhibition Peintures italiennes d'aujourd'hui, organized in the Middle East and North Africa. In 1964 he won the Marzotto painting prize.
In the late sixties he bought a house in Los Angeles (California) where he spent the winter months until 1990; in this period and in the following early seventies he devoted himself to theatrical productions.
The seventies recorded a progressive reduction of technical and formal means towards monumental solutions, from Cretti (lands and vinavil) to Cellotex (compressed for industrial use), while historical retrospectives followed: Assisi, Rome, Lisbon, Madrid, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Milwaukee, New York, Naples.
In those years he began to work also in the cretto, originating from a measured mixture of acrovinyl glues with other materials used to cover the substrate (clay, kaolin, white zinc), on which he worked for the whole decade and which were exposed for the first time in October 1973 in Bologna (San Luca gallery).
An anthological exhibition set up at the convent of San Francesco d'Assisi, in May 1975, also offered to the public a recently created cellotex, a material used in construction as an insulator and made with a mixture of wood glues and sawdust.
Meanwhile, the exhibition activity continued without interruption, albeit with less intensity than in previous decades.
In 1973 the cycle of Cretti begins and on this vein is placed the concrete shroud with which he covered the remains of Gibellina earthquake in a famous example of Land Art. In the same year, Burri receives from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei the "Feltrinelli Prize" for the Graphic, with the following motivation: "for the quality and the invention even in the apparent simplicity, of a graphic realized with very modern means, that integrates perfectly to the artist's painting, of which it does not constitute a collateral aspect, but almost a vivification that combines extreme rigor with an incomparable expressive purity ".
In 1975 he took part in Operazione Arcevia, a project coordinated by the architect Ico Parisi,  of the construction of a community to be built in Arcevia, a municipality in the province of Ancona, with contributions from artists, musicians, critics, writers, filmmakers, psychologists, local institutions.  Burri realizes the sketch for the Theater, now kept in the Palazzo Albizzini Collection. 
In 1976 Alberto Burri created (using the "technical" help of the ceramist Massimo Baldelli) a large-scale cretto, the 'Grande Cretto Nero' exhibited in the sculpture garden Franklin D. Murphy of the University of Los Angeles (UCLA). Another similar work, in terms of style, expressive strength and imposing size, is exhibited in Naples, in the Capodimonte museum. The most spectacular evolution was, however, represented by that of Gibellina (Trapani). of almost 90,000 m² on the ruins of the old Gibellina. The works, begun in August 1985, were interrupted in December 1989 due to lack of funds with the work not yet completed.
In 1977 he exhibited an important anthology at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York entitled "Alberto Burri. A retrospective View 1948-77".
The Cycles date back to 1979, dominating all his subsequent production, made up of ten monumental compositions that retraced the most significant moments of his artistic production, inaugurating instead the season of the great pictorial cycles, also realized in the following years and permanently exhibited at the Ex - Tobacco Sacks of Città di Castello. It will present other cycles in Florence (1981), Palm Springs (1982), Venice (1983), Nice (1985), Rome, Turin (1989) and Rivoli (1991)
In 1981 the Burri Foundation in Palazzo Albizzini was inaugurated in Città di Castello, with a first donation of 32 works.
In 1984, to inaugurate the activity of Brera in the contemporary sector, a comprehensive exhibition of Burri was hosted.
In 1994, Burri took part in the exhibition The Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. From 11 May to 30 June 1994 at the National Picture Gallery of Athens, the Cycle Burri the Polittico of Athens, Architectures with Cactus, will be presented later, at the Italian Cultural Institute in Madrid (1995). On 10 December 1994 the Burri donations to the Uffizi in Florence are recalled: a 1969 Black White painting and three series of graphics dated 1993-94.
The Master's works are mainly exhibited in two museums in Città di Castello. The first, at "Palazzo Albizzini", has an area of 1660 m² opened in 1981. The second one hosting the "great cycles of painting" of the artist, inaugurated in 1990, is an unused industrial area, the "Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco" recovered architecturally. At Palazzo Albizzini, home of the homonymous Foundation, established at the behest of Burri in 1978, and in the Ex Seccatoi, inaugurated as an exhibition site in July 1990, the artist set up the collection he donated to his hometown. Through the museum tour organized in these two locations and the systematic catalog of his works, matured at the end of the eighties and realized under his careful direction, he thus offered a precise hypothesis of reading his production in which also found the large sculptures dimensions, which he began to devote himself to the great pictorial cycles.
In the early nineties, Burri and his wife left California and settled in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, on the French Riviera, while continuing to spend the summer months in Città di Castello. Despite his advanced age, he experimented with new materials: his last work was Metamorfex, a cycle of nine works presented by his friend Nemo Sarteanesi in the Ex Seccatoi.
Burri dies in Nice on February 13, 1995, a month before his eightieth birthday. Known for his privacy, he had just finished a long autobiographical recording with Stefano Zorzi who collected its contents in the book entitled "Parola di Burri".
His works are exhibited in some of the most important museums in the world: the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, The Castello di Rivoli (TO), the modern and contemporary art museum of Trento and Rovereto.