Dienstag, 28. September 2010

"Combustione: Alberto Burri and America" at Santa Monica Museum of Art

By Simone Kussatz

There is a fine line between being a European-born American, and being a European with a second home in America. Italian artist Alberto Burri--who was married to the American dancer Minsa Craig with whom he wintered in Los Angeles for 28 years and kept his main home in Italy--falls under the latter category. This makes sense considering that Burri, a former physician, was first brought to America by force as a prisoner of war, rather than, say, Italian-born artist Joseph Stella who came to America freely. Burri also seemed to be more inclined towards Italian culture, showing a greater interest in Italian Renaissance than in the work of his American contemporaries such as Robert Rauschenberg, whose works he supposedly summed up as being "un'americanata e basta" (an American thing and that's all). Therefore it is no surprise that his ambiguity towards American culture made him nearly forgotten in the canon of American art history, at least until this fall, when the Santa Monica Museum of Art reintroduced him and his contributions to American art.

The exhibition, including 25 paintings (from 1951 to 1986) and ten prints (from 1990), is as beautiful as it is important due to its striking color combinations and display of found objects and outre materials, some with historical significance. White (1952), a painting composed of oil, bronze, enamel paint, cotton fabric and gold leaf with a cracked surface, seems to be inspired by the damaged frescos of Benozzo Gozzoli, which Burri viewed after his return to his hometown Cita di Castello after World War II. Composition (1953), made of oil, gold paint and pieces of burlap stitched together, with small areas of red paint shimmering through, is part of his Sacchi series, reminiscent of the Marshall Plan supply sacks, used by Americans to help Europeans with goods after the war. Nero Plastica L.A. (1963) demonstrates one of Burri's other working methods, in which he pulled and draped black plastic and created holes with a blowtorch. In Bianco Cretto C1 (1973), a white canvas with a craquelure encircles a round smooth area created by thick acrylic paint, sometimes mixed with sand or earth, dried in various ways; the work is part of Burri's Cretti series inspired by his numerous trips to Death Valley. The exhibit beautifully reveals Burri's creative progress, and the artistic expression he found in the merging of two cultures, even two worlds.
Review was published in ART Ltd. on January 7th, 2011
Copyright (C) Simone Kussatz & Art Ltd.