Alberto Burri

Turin Triennial

This exhibition of Alberto Burri’s work consisted of 20 large paintings, entitled Opere Recenti Cellotex (New works cellotex), created specifically for the occasion. Each individual canvas was the supporting element for a structure of forms and colors with which the artist constructed the space. The internal design of the forms evoked the first images painted by Burri in the late ’40s, while their architectural layout created a bridge to his plastic, burlap, and cracked-surface pieces. A fundamental element of these new works can be perceived within the physical and theoretical structure of the paintings. The surface of the cellotex (an impasto of wood chips, generally used in industry) is both the support for the painting and the painting itself. The large white, black, red, and blue fields of the painted forms are excavated in infinitesimal depths, bringing forth tonal variations in the individual colors. The same variations appear in the surface of the cellotex: sometimes it is coated with a transparent film of varnish, which polishes or lightens the natural tint; sometimes it is slightly peeled away, so that the underlying fibers reveal another material consistency and another color; and sometimes its own natural porosity predominates. The ample plastic forms, which harbor a purified sensuality, are interconnected and skim along the surface of the painting. They are divided by precise, almost surgical incisions, exposing the cutaneous and subcutaneous physical nature of the material. If we compare these paintings with the plastic, the burlap, and even the cracked-surface pieces, the relationship among them is apparent. There too, the constant investigation of the surface of the color, of its merging with and detachment from the support, becomes clear. What is embodied in Burri’s previous paintings is the equilibrium between material in its pure state and the coloristic skin that covers it and enlivens it. His latest paintings exhibit this same trait. Here Burri has investigated the energy of the material even more deeply, revealing the mysterious—beneath-the-skin—depths of the surface.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.