- Burri, Alberto
▪ 1996Italian artist (b. March 12, 1915, Città di Castello, Italy—d. Feb. 13, 1995, Nice, France), devised collages and abstractions by using such unorthodox materials as old rags, sackcloth, burnt wood, cellophane, rusted metal, and brightly coloured plastic, often scorched or partially melted. Burri trained as a physician at the University of Perugia and served in the army medical corps in North Africa during World War II. He began painting while interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Texas and abandoned medicine entirely when he was repatriated to Rome about 1946. Although Burri's earliest works were conventional landscapes and still lifes, he quickly moved in a new direction with a series of pieces in which he used burlap sacks—stitched together, torn, patched, and splashed with red paint—to evoke powerful images of bloodstained wartime field dressings. His first major exhibition was in Rome in 1947. From the early 1950s, Burri divided his time between Europe and the U.S., where his work influenced young American abstract painters and collagists.
* * *▪ Italian painterborn March 12, 1915, Città di Castello, Italydied Feb. 13, 1995, Nice, FranceItalian artist known for his adventurous use of new materials.Burri was trained as a physician and began to paint only in 1944, while in a prisoner-of-war camp in Texas. About 1946 he moved to Rome and began to paint seriously. His early works—rags splashed in red paint to simulate blood-soaked bandages—grew directly out of his experiences as a doctor in the Italian army. He then began to produce works grouped into series according to the material used. The works of the earliest series (c. 1953) were made of coarse cloth stitched together. After 1956 he employed thin pieces of burned wood and layers of polyethylene in which holes were burned, creating a rich spatial network within the layers of plastic. The humble and sometimes crude materials used in these works contrast effectively with their elegant designs, and the easily destroyed materials form a perforated network over an impinging background field. In his series of metal works done after 1959, however, the solid material completely encloses the background field, although the metal is hammered from behind as if the imprisoned field were trying to break out.
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