From matter to color

La Galleria Nazionale

Graphic Works by Alberto Burri

"A graphic work produced using very modern methods"
Alberto Burri's involvement in the world of graphic production began in the 1950s with his famous "Sacchi" (Sacks) series, and continued until the final years of his life. In 1973 he received the Feltrinelli Prize for graphics from the Accademia nazionale dei Lincei (an Italian scientific academy). It was awarded for "a graphic work produced using very modern methods that tie in perfectly with the artist’s paintings. Rather than being a side note, it marries extreme rigidity with an incomparable, excessive purity, bringing them to life."

The resulting product is certainly not inferior to his paintings, but different and parallel, both in concept and execution. It therefore occupies a prominent position among the artist's work, alongside the many revolutionary innovations he brought to the table.

It is surprising to discover how Burri, who has made "matter" the central element of his distinctive style, was able to convey this extremely individualized form of self-expression on paper, both conceptually and physically. His "Cretti" (Cracks), for example, produced on paper and with paper, using his master craftsmanship with sheets and printing, are not really cracks but a perfect simulation. They use the techniques of etching and aquatint, occasionally supplemented with relief printing on very thick paper.

In the white "Cretti," the light is diffused, creating a contrast between light and dark, while in the black ones, the cracks are less visible: the webbed matrix begins to appear as light reflects off the shiny surface. This subtlety and transparency is less evident in his colored serigraphs. Burri showcases the vivacity of each color and the way the piece’s vital energy increases when they are placed side by side. The color appears to take on a feeling of weight, as though it has assumed the status of physical "matter."

Burri therefore saw graphic production as a new opportunity for risky experiments. The printers who worked with him over the years, such as Enrico Castelli (founder of the print house with the same name on Via Flaminia in Rome) and Valter Rossi of the 2RC print house (also in Rome), can attest to this. They remember Burri as an experimenter and researcher—along with them—into the best technical solutions for achieving the desired results, and a sophisticated investigator of innovative solutions and processes.

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