Italian painter and sculptor Alberto Burri was born in Città di Castello, near Perugia, on 12 March 1915. While usually associated with the Materialist current of the European movement of “Art Informel”, Burri also had ties with Lucio Fontana’s Spatialism and, alongside Antoni Tàpies, influenced the renewal of post-war Assemblage Art (Robert Rauschenberg) in America and in Europe.
After graduating from medical school in 1940, Alberto Burri was sent to fight in World War II. He was captured by Allied forces in 1943 in Tunisia, whereupon he was sent to the Hereford camp in Texas, where he started painting landscapes.
His first solo exhibition took place in 1947, but he quickly developed a highly experimental practice, and from 1949, he used burlap as a substitute for canvas. In 1951, Burri founded the Origine group alongside Mario Balloco, Ettore Colla and Guiseppe Capogrossi, which rejected the decorative effects of abstract art and explored the permanence of constructive reflections, such as reducing color to its most simple – yet peremptory and incisive – function, in order to return to the origins of art.
In 1952, Burri took part in the Venice Biennale, and the following year he was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. His position as the central figure of Informal Art was thus internationally established. Despite his success, the artist continued to research common, humble materials, giving life to some of his most incisive works: the <i>Combustioni</i>.
Burri’s artistic production, which is organized in series entitled <i>Sacchi</i>, <i>Combustioni</i>, <i>Cellotex</i>, <i>Legni</i>, <i>Plastiche</i>, or <i>Ferri</i> (Bags, Combustions, Cellotex, Woods, Plastics, Irons) constitutes a material meditation on form and its transformative process. Dissolved by fire, attacked by mold, corroded or consumed by time, the material of his works is “damaged” by the same artistic gesture that transforms it, leaving a residual image, whose very production is illustrated in the work itself.
Burri’s work was exhibited at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1972. In 1981 the Burri Foundation – a permanent collection of the works that the artist donated to his hometown – was inaugurated.
Alberto Burri died in Nice in 1995.