The Artist Alberto Burri was born on March 12 1915 in the small Italian town of Città di Castello. He was a qualified physician and served in the Ethiopia campaign and then World War II both as a front line soldier and as a doctor. At the end of the war he spent some time in an American prisoner of war camp and when the war finished took up art as a vocation. By 1947 he had his first solo exhibition and by 1950 his multi material pieces using burlap bags and household linen won him international acclaim. In further multi material work he used scorched wood, cold-rolled steel and melted plastic in his compositions.
By 1963 he had began a dialogue with minimalism and his majestic large scale paintings of induced craquelure for me are a particular highlight. He took this craquelure idea to an even bigger scale in Grande cretto (1985–89), one of the largest land at works realised, it was built over the ruins of Gibellina, a Sicilian town destroyed by a 1968 earthquake. The individual “nodes” of the craquelure become buildings and the cracks little alley ways that criss cross this minimalist, megalithic, memorial sculpture.
One of the common themes in Burri’s work is atrophy and decay but not in a nihilistic sense, instead the framing and artful arranging of scorched and cracked materials imbues a mediation on the beauty of this universal truth. Everything put together will fall apart. The artists eye often finds beauty where others see decay or imperfection and Burri for one channels this in sacks, melted plastic and cracked paint.