Anthony White


    ART WOULD NEVER BE QUITE THE SAME: ripped open, on fire. ALBERTO BURRI demystified painting through radically simple means, but his legacy remains complex and little understood. Here, scholar ANTHONY WHITE finds renewed force in the postwar artist’s combustible innovations—on view in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s major retrospective in New York until January 7—tracing a surprising afterlife for the work in GIOVANNI ANSELMO’s investigations of matter, nature, and ecological crises.

    EVEN AS THEY UNRAVELED abstract painting’s identity, Alberto Burri’s torn and soiled burlap sacks were largely ignored or greeted with disdain when they were first exhibited in Italy in the 1950s. Their reception on this side of the Atlantic was a little better, but in the ensuing decades the artist’s work fell out of favor, was deaccessioned by institutions, and came to be viewed as a dated sidetrack to the broader historical narrative of modern art. We are now in a critical moment when we might revisit those very culs-de-sac of modernism—and chart a more nuanced turning point for painting.

  • “Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting”

    To commemorate the centenary of Alberto Burri’s birth, the Guggenheim is organizing the most comprehensive US retrospective of the late Italian artist’s work yet. When Burri’s abstract compositions of torn and soiled burlap sacks were first exhibited in Italy during the 1950s, they were treated largely with disdain. Their abject materiality was an affront to a society still recovering from the devastations of war. Although their reception across the Atlantic was initially more positive, in recent decades the artist’s work has been framed as a mere precursor to later

  • “Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe”

    The Italian Futurist movement was launched in 1909 with its belligerent leader F. T. Marinetti’s proclamation “Art can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.” Given the fashionability of social inclusion in art today, Marinetti’s dictate is a bracing reminder of a darker, more radical tradition of artistic activism. The Guggenheim’s survey of the movement will not only be sweeping—with more than three hundred works that cross the boundaries of art, architecture, design, film, literature, sound, and performance—but will be the first of its kind in the

  • “Piero Manzoni: When Bodies Became Art”

    Can the radical nature of Piero Manzoni’s work be appreciated in a museum retrospective mounted fifty years after his death? What power do his cans of “Artist’s Shit” still wield now that they no longer shock? Aiming to refocus our attention on the moment “when bodies become art,” curator Martin Engler posits that Manzoni’s primary target was the mythologization and commodification of the human body in postwar gestural abstraction. This exhibition brings together some 120 works—including Manzoni’s Day-Glo polystyrene monochromes, as well as documentation of the people

  • “Lucio Fontana: Ceramics”

    Lucio Fontana, founder of the Italian Spatialism movement, is best known today for his slashed canvases of the late 1950s and ’60s

    Lucio Fontana, founder of the Italian Spatialism movement, is best known today for his slashed canvases of the late 1950s and ’60s. As this exhibition will demonstrate, however, for the three decades before he arrived at his signature gesture, the artist had been productively at work sculpting extraordinary figurative ceramics. The rugged modeling and shiny glazes of these works, which are reminiscent of both Baroque sculpture and funk art, shocked and appalled contemporary Italian critics at a time when Neoclassicism was the norm. Fontana’s intention, however, was more