For much of his artistic career, Italian painter Alberto Burri worked broadly with Cellotex, a compressed particle board that was used primarily in construction projects after the conclusion of World War II. Sharing the sensibilities of his Arte Povera compatriots, Burri embraced the material’s easy accessibility and ubiquitous presence in the reconstruction of the country. Using Cellotex, Burri would create painting after painting that worked beyond the limits of the flat plane of the canvas, bringing the heavily layered paint of his works out into the room.
It was from this self-imposed technique that Burri eventually broke, sacrificing his heavily layered works for more minimalist interrogations, scraping and reshaping the material’s black surface to create new compositions within the Cellotex itself. These later works comprise the focus of Luxembourg and Dayan’s current show of rarely-seen later works by Burri at the gallery’s New York City location, documenting the series of Black Cellotex paintings done by the artist between 1986 and 1987.
Using the black particle board as his sole material, Burri scratched and carved his forms into its surface, pulling forms from the flat plane in a manner that walked the line between sculpture, painting and ready-made appropriation, while challenging conceptions on the nature of the framed work itself. In Burri’s works, the image constantly works with and against the frame itself, using its lines and forms to create within the visual plane while fundamentally created through the altering of the flat plane itself. The line biomes pure movement, made in relation to the visual plane while carved in a manner the places its in direct contrast with the very same plane. Alberto Burri, Black Cellotex (1986-87), via ArtCritical Throughout the works on-view, Burri toys with a potent, minimalist symmetry, depicting balance itself, and discarding any human metaphor to distract from the arrangement of forms. His works are studies in the essential nature of composition, playing between light and darkness, absence and presence, chaos and harmony.
Alberto Burri, Black Cellotex (Installation View), via Luxembourg and Dayan The works of Alberto Burri seem unable, or perhaps unwilling, to reconcile the material with the content it contains, the two locked fundamentally together through their reliance on each other in expression of the image. Utilizing the easily recognizable materials of Italian construction during the 1980’s, Burri’s work confronts the environment of production, and forces the viewer to consider the origins of both the work and the pieces involved.
Challenging the contracts inherent in artistic production, Burri’s Cellotex works underline the artist’s constant interplay between artist and society, while inquiring into the nature of production and perception in the artistic enterprise itself. Black Cellotex is on view until April 20th.