Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting" at the Guggenheim Museum

Alberto Burri, born in 1915 in the Italian city Citta di Castello, is one of the most important Italian artists after World War II. This major retrospective exhibition at Guggenheim Museum is first one in 35 years in the United States and takes place one hundred years after he was born. It is a comprehensive review of this important artist's life and career. Visitors follow spine route of the Guggenheim to explore more than one hundred works, including many that have never been exhibited outside of Italy. The hallway circling up looks like a white ribbon extending to the infinite which provides an excellent space for Burri’s exhibition.

Burri utilized mundane materials such as sand, rock, mud, old cloth, burnt wood, rusted iron, and burnt plastic sheets. Burri transforms these cheap materials to express emotional trauma as in abstract and modernist work. He also takes the advantage of materials to blur the line between the painting and sculpture. He emphasizes the power of substances and his works often made metaphors to skin and wounds with stitching, riveting, soldering, and stapling of his paintings.

In addition to paintings, there is a special exhibition room, which presents his large-scale outdoor sculptures - Grande Cretto through medium of a documentary film. This is a work commemorating his hometown. In 1968, this city was completely destroyed by earthquake. Burri created a 8,000 square meter of concrete works in 1985. After more than 30 years preparing the work, he finally completed. The film leads audiences around the work as if they really would walk into it. As with many of his paintings, this work is full of complex textures and sharp lines, which appears to brand the face of the earth with scars post-earthquake and has the same form and spirit of his other works.

Along the Guggenheim exhibition abstract space, which is a perfect path for viewers to experience the art path of Burri’ various aesthetics from texture, form and color to his mentality and psychological progression.


  1. I also paid a lot of attention on the outdoor sculpture Grand Cretto. It may be one of my favorite piece in this show. I think I can easily spend an hour on it. I like how you have a brief biography of Burri at the beginning. Even he is famous anyways, his biography is still worth mention since this is a retrospective exhibition of him. I also think that the spiral showing space of Guggenheim is good for solo shows. Especially for artist like Burri, who work on mostly one major medium.

  2. I think your review has a good structure, starting with an introduction to Burri's life and work and then focusing on his large-scale piece. It was a good choice to focus on this work, since I felt that it successfully translated his small works into the scale of a city - something that really surprised me when finding this work at the exhibit. It also shows Burri's ability to experiment with materials and scales in order to express deeper traumas, scars, and sufferings. It could be interesting to compare Grand Cretto with another work to understand how Burri creates such powerful works in different media and scale.