This monography, edited by Bruno Corà and published in occasion of Art Basel 2018, presents the creation, critical analysis, and exhibition history of the Combustioni Plastiche [Plastic Combustion] by Alberto Burri. This cycle of works is an extremely composite type that spans a quarter of a century (from the ﬁrst use of plastic in Sacco 5P [5P Sack] in 1953, through to the circular combustion work in Il Viaggio [The Journey] in 1979). What’s more, if you consider the fact that the series ranges from items that measure just a few centimetres across to larger works installed in places of worship (such as the choir of the church of Sion in Switzerland), as well as in stage designs for theatre performances in the 1970s, you could say that this superb series of works functions as a lens through which we can reassess Burri’s entire creative career. Historical photographs by Claudio Amendola and Ugo Mulas, newspaper articles and critical essays give a deep analysis of this extraordinary artistic production.
Alberto Burri graduated in medicine in 1940, and while serving as a military medic during the war, he was captured by the Allies in Tunisia. He began his artistic career while he was a prisoner of war, and as a result, later abandoned medicine. Fascinated by the mixed-media experiments produced by Enrico Prampolini, and Jean Dubuffet’s research into Art Brut, he decided to focus his attention on new materials and techniques, ignoring matter and analysing the tactile aspect of pigments, interpreted through the use of dense enamel paint that gradually replaced oil paint. Following his works on canvas, Burri embarked on a stylistic challenge using artificial contemporary industrial products as well as wood, iron, natural materials used since time began, plastics, resin, and cellotext that have now become part of our everyday environment. His work was a constant battle against the dictates of the past in favour of an art form that created a clean slate eliminating the mannerist involution of abstract art.