2015_0610_guggenheim

Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting 

by Andrea Kutsenkow 

When I buy tickets for a scary movie, I enter the theater wanting to be scared. When I received my invitation for the exhibition Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting, I wanted to feel uncomfortable. With the word “trauma” used in the exhibition title and with curator and exhibition catalogue author Emily Braun referring to Burri as the “artist of wounds,” I wanted to be confronted with the vulnerability of my own flesh and blood. However, the show was not as engaging as I had desired. Roberta Smith, in her review for The New York Times, points out the overall consistency of the show.  However, the show’s weakness may be it is too consistent. Many of the works, often neutral in color, begin to look interchangeable as the ramp of the rotunda winds to a nearly anti-climatic end, except for maybe the immense scale of some of the artist’s Nero Plastic pieces and the striking red hue of his Rosso Plastic series. The show simply cannot live up to the museum’s 2013 exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground, where the tactility of the works made the viewer more aware of his or her own body. There were many standout works in Gutai: Splendid Playground, including Kazuo Shiraga’s Wild Boar Hunting II, 1963, where viewers could almost feel the weight of the piece, of the numerous layers of viscous, red paint bearing down upon a splayed animal hide. The piece was visceral; it was raw. It convincing mimicked the turning of the inside of the body outward in ways that were perhaps never Burri’s intention. Nonetheless Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting does successfully display an admirable exploration of materials and techniques that is still inspiration to contemporary artists who utilize unconventional materials within their own work today.

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