Tate Modern Level 5
15 March 2005 – 28 February 2006
The work of Alberto Burri (1915-1995), Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) and Piero Manzoni (1933-63) are the subject of new display which will open at Tate Modern on 14 March. The show focuses on the period 1950-1963 when the work of these three radical artists had a profound impact on shaping developments in art in Italy, and beyond in Europe and America. It offers an exploration of how each pioneered the shift beyond painting using unusual materials, such as sacking and china clay, and innovative techniques, including puncturing and burning. The display, which features a selection of twenty-five pieces, includes a group of ten works lent by the Burri Foundation in Umbria which have never been seen in this country.
Burri, Fontana and Manzoni are among the most prominent artists who redefined what it has meant to make art in the last fifty years. Their art embodies a release from canvas and paint, pushing boundaries in the exploration of materials and energetic gestures, such as Fontana’s slashing of the canvas. This significantly altered the way in which artists subsequently worked around the world. Most obviously their art provided the foundations for the younger generation of Arte Povera artists who extended the openness to new methods and concepts while engaging more explicitly with social and political context.
Alberto Burri used raw materials such as sacking, cloth and wood which he sewed, cut and burned. His important Sacking and Red 1954, part of Tate’s Collection, is included in the show alongside other works involving this material and his burnt plastic pieces from the Burri Foundation. Lucio Fontana conceived his puncturing of the canvas as introducing a view onto the infinite, which he termed Spazialismo, allowing a new energetic exploration of the physical gesture in art. This was most notable in the tension induced by his holed and slashed canvases (the so-called buchi and tagli). Tate’s important holdings of Fontana are joined by loans from private collections and the extraordinary black Spatial Concept 1960 from the Fontana Foundation.
Significantly younger than either Burri or Fontana and predeceasing them both, Manzoni drew upon and subverted the positions achieved in their work. He aimed to strip away the extraneous materials in a work of art and conceived his white achromes as neutral works that existed without any outside reference. A number of his achromes will be on display, from the early encrusted canvases to accumulations of bread rolls set in china clay.
The selection for Beyond Painting: Burri, Fontana, Manzoni has been made by Matthew Gale, Tate Curator, and guest curator, Renato Miracco, who are the authors of the catalogue that accompanies the display. Renato Miracco is also the curator of Afro at the Italian Cultural Institute (for details see www.italcultur.org.uk )