Burri at Basel

Art Basel was in full swing 14–17 June 2018, and brought together international galleries and showcased more than 4,000 artists at this large-scale commercial art fair. Such a visually stimulating event, in its 49th edition this year, presented countless displays of modern and contemporary art. A favorite installation this year was executed by Tornabuoni Arte, occupying Booth F1, which featured work by Italian painter and sculptor, Alberto Burri (1915–1995).

 Alberto Burri was born 12 March 1915, in Città di Castello. His process-based works include the use of unconventional materials such as industrial plastic sheeting. The monographic booth includes eight works in Burri’s series, Combustioni plastiche (Plastic combustions). Works in this series were created during the mid-1960s at a time when plastic was still a novel commodity that had yet to be manipulated by artists. Employing such a volatile method of using a blowtorch to manipulate plastic into architectonic forms, Burri rendered almost dystopian Abstract Expressionist works that seem to actively melt off of their frames. As the plastic melted, it assumed new shapes and Burri was able to render sculptural works through this welding process. The many air pockets that manifested add textural elements to the surfaces, creating tactile picture planes. There is a palpable balancing act performed by Burri’s gesticular plastic works between artistic control in creating these sculptural pieces and disorder through the use of such ambiguous mediums as fire.

The success of his work on view at Art Basel this year attests to Burri’s enduring interest among scholars and art collectors.      


References: “Alberto Burri.” Union List of Artist Names® Online. The Getty Research Institute. .

Tomás Sánchez, “Alberto Burri: ‘Artist, Poet, And creator of the new’” Christie’s. .

Alexander Forbes and Nate Freeman. “The 15 Best Booths at Art Basel in Basel.” Artsy. .


Alberto Burri, Città di Castello, 1976. Photo by Aurelio Amendola.  © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini-Collezione Burri, Città di Castello by SIAE 2016 per Alberto Burri / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alberto Burri, Plastica, 1963. Plastic, combustion on aluminum frame, 38.6 x 29.1 in. (98 x 74 cm). © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini-Collezione Burri, Città di Castello by SIAE 2016 per Alberto Burri / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York      

Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica, 1963.  Plastic, acrylic, vinavil and combustion on canvas, 31.5 x 39.4 in. (80 x 100 cm). © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini-Collezione Burri, Città di Castello by SIAE 2016 per Alberto Burri / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 


Further Reading: Emily Braun, Megan M. Fontanella, and Carol Stringari. Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2015.

Alberto Burri, and Giovanni Mazzoleni. Alberto Burri, 2015.

Burri, Alberto, and Maurizio Calvesi. Alberto Burri. New York: Abrams, 1975.

Massimo Di Carlo and Laura Lorenzoni. Alberto Burri – Black Work: Cellotex 1972-1992. Milan: Skira, 2014.

Massimo Duranti . Alberto Burri: Form and Matter. [Perugia]: Fabrizio Fabbri Editore, 2011.

Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, and Gerald Nordland.  Alberto Burri: a retrospective view 1948-77. Los Angeles: Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California, 1977.


Posted by Diana K. Murphy

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