Alberto Burri (1955-1995) was born in a small town in Umbria, Italy, called Città di Castello. At the age of 25 he graduated with a degree in medicine from Università degli Studi di Perugia. He served as a physician in World War II, where his unit was captured in Tunisia in May 1943 and imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Texas. Following his release, Burri abandoned medicine and never practiced again. Instead, he took up painting.
Burri set up his first studio in Rome following his repatriation to Italy in 1946. His first solo exhibition was at the Galleria La Margherita in 1947. Burri exhibited with the Rome Art Club and was influenced by the growing Futurist use of multi-material art among his Italian contemporaries.
Growing in popularity for his experimental use of pigment and resin - as well as his incorporation of burlap bags and household linens to make his famous Sacchi (sacks) and Bianchi (whites) – Burri began to exhibit in the United States from 1953. His fist exhibition in the USA was at the Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, and the Stable Gallery in New York.
Burri’s incorporation of raw material into his art pushed the boundaries between painting and sculpture. His ingenuity only increased over time, and there seemed to be no distinction between artistic materials and simply materials that he harnessed and moulded into art. He developed unprecedented techniques such as painting with combustion to make torched wood veneer works (Legni). steel (Ferri) and overlays of melted and charred plastic (Combustoioni Plastiche).
From 1963-1991 Burri spent the winters in Los Angeles with his wife, American dancer Minsa Craig. Here, Burri ventured into Minimalism, painting black and white fields of induced craquelure that make up his famed Cretti monochromatic collection. His Grande Cretto (1985-89) is of course at the heart of this moment as a Land art work built over the ruins of Gibellina, the Sicilian town destroyed by the Belice earthquake sequence.
In 1978, Burri designed his own museum in his birth town’s Palazzo Albizzini, which opened in 1981, with works from his last series, the Cellotex, on permanent display from 1990. Since Burri’s death in 1995, in Nice, France, Burri has been the subject of many retrospectives, most notably Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2015-2016). His work is held at the Tate, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and has been included at the Venice Biennale International Exhibitions and the Biennale de Lyon.