Alberto Burri (1915-1995)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Alberto Burri (1915-1995)

Nero con punti rossi (Black with Red Stitches)

Alberto Burri (1915-1995)
Nero con punti rossi (Black with Red Stitches)
signed, titled and dated 'Burri 57 nero con punti rossi' (on the reverse)
acrylic, thread, Vinavil and fabric collage on canvas
23 5/8 x 39 3/8in. (60 x 100cm.)
Executed in 1957
Galleria Blu, Milan.
Galleria Bergamini, Milan.
Anon. sale, Finarte Milan, 8 June 1982, lot 129.
Studio Sant'Andrea, Milan.
Private Collection, Milan (acquired from the above in 1985).
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 15 October 2007, lot 235.
Private Collection, Italy.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 13 February 2013, lot 49.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Brandi, Burri, Rome 1963, no. 51 (illustrated, unpaged).
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini (ed.), Burri Contributi al Catalogo Sistematico, Città di Castello 1990, p. 100, no. 398, p. 487, no. 57.55 (illustrated in colour, p. 101).
Milan, Fondazione Marconi Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Autobiografia di una galleria. Lo Studio Marconi 1965/1992, 2004, p. 168(illustrated in colour, p. 169).
B. Corà (ed.), Alberto Burri, General Catalogue, Paintings 1945-1957, Vol I, Città di Castello, 2015, p. 312, no. 638 (illustrated in colour, p. 269).
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini (ed.), Alberto Burri. General Catalogue, Cittá di Castello 2015, vol. I, no. 638 (illustrated in colour, p. 186); vol. VI, no. i.5755 (illustrated in colour, p. 116).
Luino, Palazzo Verbania - Civico Centro di Cultura, Burri & Palazzoli. La Santa Alleanza, 2001, p. 90 (illustrated in colour, p. 91). This exhibition later travelled to Milan, Galleria Blu.
New York, Haunch of Venison, Afro Burri Fontana, 2012, pp. 38 & 75 (illustrated in colour, p. 39).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

With its raw, encrusted surface, Alberto Burri’s Nero con punti rossi is an outstanding example of his celebrated Neri. Swaths of burlap cloak a blackened expanse, attached with vigorous, large stitches that separate the glossy and coarse sections of the canvas. Executed in 1957, the work was created as Burri’s international star was on the rise, coinciding with his mid-career retrospective at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. Taking its place within a practice that challenged all pre-conceived notions of medium specificity, Nero con punti rossi harnesses various construction techniques including collage, painting and sewing to fuse its disparate elements. The Neri were central to Burri’s practice: he began his experiments with black as both a colour and a conceptual preoccupation in 1948. Using tar, enamel and oil paint, he eliminated the work’s subject, frame and canvas to form a new poetics of non-representation. For the artist, black represented chromatic purity and allowed his tactile surfaces to more forcefully assert themselves. He viewed his creations as simultaneously reductive and expressive, and the ensuing compositions were intended to be self-sufficient and self-reflexive. The brazen rigour of this philosophy proved influential for a range of artists including Piero Manzoni, who began developing his Achromes the year that the present work was created. With its emphasis on material realism, Nero con punti rossi is an exemplary early summation of the artist’s vision.

Burri’s stitches were a form of anti-painting, and a direct contrast to the machismo gestures of New York’s Action Painters. His use of sewing embraced both domestic and medicinal histories, invoking his time as an army doctor in Africa during the Second World War. His medical vocation, captivity and return to a war-torn Italy are all retrospectively seen as foundational to his aesthetic. The use of sackcloth, his veneration of humble materials and techniques, and the noticeable absence of real world referents together suggest a disenchanted vision of the world: the art historian Herbert Read described ‘charred edges and rugged cicatrices’ that ‘reveal the raw sensibility of an artist outraged by the hypocrisy of a society that presumes to speak of beauty, tradition, humanism, justice and other fine virtues, and is at the same time willing to contemplate the mass destruction of the human race’ (H. Read, quoted in M. Duranti (ed.), Alberto Burri: Form and Matter, exh. cat., Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, 2011, p. 5). The present work’s rich craquelure is reminiscent of an arid land, anticipating the artist’s later Cretti. As a devoted admirer of Quattrocento painting, Burri saw his scarred, cracked surfaces not as evidence of decay, but rather as self-contained topographies. The fractured lattice in Nero con punti rossi was achieved by mixing glue into his paint, allowing the web of delicate lines to emerge and unfold. The aesthetics of healing remained central to Burri’s work, and in its stitched unions and carefully contemplated creases lies the hope for regeneration. Nero con punti rossi is a promise for the future.

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