Galleria d’Arte San Luca, Bologna
Johnny Dorelli, Rome
Private Collection, Rome
Galleria dello Scudo, Verona
Private Collection, Milan
Tokyo, Keiô Department Store, Tokyo International Exhibition of Art, October 1966, p. 30, no. 73, illustrated
Venice, Giardini di Castello, XLVI Biennale di Venezia, Identità e alterità, figure del corpo 1895/1995 – Padiglione Italia, June – October 1995, pp. 510 and 518-519, no. 10, illustrated in colour
Danna Battaglia Olgiati, ‘Introduzione alla mostra’, in: Fonte d'abisso arte, Ed., Eventualità : Burri, Colla, Consagra, Fontana, Kounellis, Leoncillo, Manzoni, Melotti, Scarpitta, Vedova, Milan 2002, p. 9, illustrated
Laura Tansini, ‘Esserci o non esserci’, in: Ars, No. 5-6, Rome, May - June 2002, p. 101, no. 10, illustrated in colour
Bruno Corà, Ed., Alberto Burri, Catalogo Generale, Pittura 1958-1978, Vol. II, Città di Castello 2015, p. 130, no. 939, illustrated in colour, Vol. VI p. 145, no. 6217, illustrated in colour
In Rosso Plastica 5, scorched layers of red plastic and cavernous blackened voids guide the viewer's eye across an eviscerated landscape. Redolent of an existential but living body, lacerated and tortured in the wake of war's atrocities, Burri's gaping apertures of molten red plastic form a cathartic repost to the psycho-social wound of post-war Europe. As so poignantly analysed by legendary curator James Johnson Sweeney: "Burri transforms rags into a metaphor for bleeding human flesh, breathes fresh life into the inanimate materials which he employs, making them live and bleed; then heals the wounds with the same evocative ability and the same sensibility with which he first inflicted them. What for Cubists would have been reduced to the partial distillation of a painted composition... in Burri's hands becomes a living organism: flesh and blood... The picture is human flesh, the artist a surgeon" (James Johnson Sweeney cited in: Exh. Cat., Rome, L'Obelisco, Burri, 1955, n.p.). Burri had trained as a surgeon before the war, herein these apparent biological and surgical comparisons are apt visualisations of the vicissitudes of the artist's biography. Having been captured by the allied troops and imprisoned in Hereford, Texas, Burri spent most of the Second World War in America. Thus, it wasn’t until he returned to Italy, in 1946, that he witnessed the abysmal destruction that conflict had inflicted upon his home country. Whole cities had been reduced to rubble, and thousands of people were left homeless and starving. The artist’s brother had been killed, and everything he had previously held dear and true was destroyed. It was through the violence and pathos redolent in the layers of molten plastic, scorched wood, and stitched burlap that he found an outlet to fathom the inconceivable horrors of the war.
The reductive and nihilistic tendencies at the core of Burri’s Plastiche invoke a similar mode of transfiguration to that of his contemporaries Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein. Fontana’s forceful puncturing and slashing through the surface of a pristine monochrome canvas furnished his unique Spatialist theorems of a further infinite dimension. Similarly, Yves Klein’s pursuit of a mystical and otherworldly infinite found its ultimate expression in the alchemical potential of fire: the theatrical command of an enormous fire hose brought forth a series of works in which fire's symbolic prima materia status and annihilative/sublimative force provided Klein with a definitive symbolic and spiritual expression of the void. Echoing Fontana and presaging Klein, Burri’s alchemical transformation has opened apertures onto a blackened void beyond the picture plane. Yet, contrary to harbouring a spiritual dimension or posing a metaphysical breach, Burri’s use of fire serves rather to heighten our knowledge of materials and explore the expressive potential inherent within the moment of a work’s creation.
Rosso Plastica 5’s dramatic landscape of combusted cavities and sweltering plastic evinces a powerful material destruction. While psychically reductive, the crater-like surface simultaneously evidences a physical act of regression via an operation of the tabula rasa. This drastic reduction, achieved via an agenda of minimal artistic intervention and exploited through the transformative nature of fire, divulges the primary nature of materiality. Herein the present work beautifully summates Burri's radical artistic expression, whereby the limitless potential of materiality became a vehicle for a radically new artistic expression.
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