The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City is currently exhibiting "Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting", a major retrospective of the Italian artist's work. The retrospective at the New York City art museum is the first in the United States in over 35 years and the most comprehensive ever mounted.

Primarily process-based, the exhibition explores the beauty and complexity of the art of Alberto Burri (1915–1995) who used unconventional materials to make his work. Burri rarely painted and rejected the gestural painted surfaces and mark making used by both the American Abstract Expressionism and European Art Informel.

Burri favored, instead, unorthodox pigments and humble prefabricated materials and worked his surfaces with stitching and combustion and other signal processes. His unorthodox usage of process and material created a new kind of picture-object that directly influenced Arte Povera, Neo-Dada, and Process art, according to the Guggenheim.

Burri is best known for his series of Sacchi (sacks) made of stitched and patched remnants of torn burlap bags, often combined with fragments of discarded clothing. Far less familiar to American audiences are other series which are represented in depth in the exhibition. They include Catrami (tars), Muffe (molds), Gobbi (hunchbacks), Bianchi(whites), Legni (woods), Ferri (irons), Combustioni plastiche (plastic combustions), Cretti, and Cellotex works.

"Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting" includes over 100 works, including many that have never been seen outside of Italy. Installed on the ramps of the Guggenheim, the work is presented chronologically and is organized by series highlighting the artist's use of materials, process and colors. Taken together, the art and the exhibition demonstrates how Burri blurred the line between painting and sculptural relief.

The exhibition also includes an immersive new film commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum by Dutch filmmaker Petra Noordkamp. The film documents Burri’s singular Land art memorial, the enormous Grande cretto (Large Cretto, 1985–89; with its last section completed posthumously in 2014) in Gibellina, Sicily, a town devastated by a 1968 earthquake. The film captures Grande cretto as an experiential work of art filled with a sense of place and history.

"Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Paintingis organized by Emily Braun, Guest Curator, and Distinguished Professor, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, with Megan Fontanella, Associate Curator, Collections and Provenance, and Ylinka Barotto, Curatorial Assistant, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. An accompanying study was led by Carol Stringari, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The Guggenheim Museum collaborated with the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, Italy for the retrospective.

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"Grande bianco plastica (Large White Plastic)" by Alberto Burri, 1964. Plastic (PVC) and combustion on aluminum framework, 191.8 x 292.1 cm. Glenstone, © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello/2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART, courtesy Glenstone.

"Grande bianco plastica (Large White Plastic)" by Alberto Burri, 1964. Plastic (PVC) and combustion on aluminum framework, 191.8 x 292.1 cm. Glenstone, © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello/2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART, courtesy Glenstone.

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"Ferro SP (Iron SP)" by Alberto Burri, 1961. Welded iron sheet metal, oil, and tacks on wood framework, 130 x 200 cm. Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea, Rome. © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello/2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Photo: Antonio Idini, Soprintendenza alla Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea, courtesy Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e del Turismo.

"Ferro SP (Iron SP)" by Alberto Burri, 1961. Welded iron sheet metal, oil, and tacks on wood framework, 130 x 200 cm. Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea, Rome. © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello/2015. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Photo: Antonio Idini, Soprintendenza alla Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea, courtesy Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e del Turismo.

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"Grande bianco (Large White)" by Alberto Burri, 1952. Oil, tempera, fabric, burlap, thread, and Vinavil on canvas, 151.5 x 251.5 cm. Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, Italy. © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello/2015. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome.

"Grande bianco (Large White)" by Alberto Burri, 1952. Oil, tempera, fabric, burlap, thread, and Vinavil on canvas, 151.5 x 251.5 cm. Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, Italy. © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello/2015. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome.

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BASIC FACTS: "Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting" remains on view through January 6, 2016.  The Guggenheim is located at 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128. www.guggenheim.org.

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