The Tactile Art of a Surgeon Turned Artist

At Mazzoleni Galleria d’Arte’s booth on Pier 92, a burnt canvas by Alberto Burri sparked a conversation with the gallery regarding the Italian surgeon turned artist’s uncanny ability to work with his hands. “What is most interesting about his work is that he developed a tactile technique in order to deal with the scarcity of materials while [interned in a WWII prison camp] in Texas,” said Roberto Annicchiarico, the gallery’s U.S. art advisor. Known as a father of the Arte Povera movement—literally, poor art—Burri established an affection for unorthodox materials and a finesse with his hands that he explored infinitely throughout his career. “Everything was done with his hands—there is no brush, even when using acrylic or tempera.”

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