Magazine article Artforum International

Alberto Burri: Luxembourg & Dayan

Magazine article Artforum International

Alberto Burri: Luxembourg & Dayan

Article excerpt

Shown in this bijou Upper East Side town-house-gallery, a group of ten paintings titled Nero Celotex (Black Celotex),.1986-87, by Alberto Burri (1915-1995) bring to mind contrasting works by Dieter Roth (1930-1998) and his son Bjorn in a concurrent exhibition at Hauser & Wirth's dauntingly mammoth new outpost in Chelsea. Both Burri and Roth the elder, in some measure overlooked in the United States, are in their own countties--Italy and Switzerland, respectively--regarded as iconic figures. I briefly couple these exhibitions because they curiously illustrate reverse patterns of development.

Roth's work--the earliest dates to the 1950s was at first Characterized by immaculate neatness, but over the decades transformed into an art of histrionic self-exposure deeply caricatural of presumed Swiss mores. His infamous moldy and collapsing chocolate sculptures, for example, ridiculed the country's emblematic industry. Yet Roth began as an epigone of Max Bill, obsessively perfect in every way.

Conversely, Burn, during a nearly contemporaneous career, began his art with the telling disorder of the burlap constructions. By the time of the Nero Celotex paintings, he had become a kind of progenitor of Group Zero sensibility, or, rather, the strain of it embodied in the work of Enrico Castellani and Lucio Fontana, the movement's leading Italian associates. True, Roth seems more topical today, owing to the broad range of contemporary arts emphatic of atomized, decentered structures. Butt, for his part, becomes in the Nero Celotex paintings a model for the unitary and the static and in that sense appears less in touch with the intentions of younger artists and more stylistically fixed and historicized.

Still, the Burri example is deeply instructive. His most esteemed works are, of course, those torn and hemp-sewn burlap constructions stretched and stitched upon painted supports. …

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