Haunch of Venison presents Afro Burri Fontana

Haunch of Venison, London

January 20, 2012

Curated by Elena Geuna

March 8–April 28, 2012

550 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011


Haunch of Venison is pleased to announce Afro Burri Fontana, the first exhibition in the United States to focus on the work of the internationally renowned Italian artists Afro, Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana, from March 8 to April 28, 2012. Organized by curator Elena Geuna, the exhibition will feature a selection of seminal works from each artist’s career—many of which have rarely been exhibited publicly. Haunch of Venison’s International Director Emilio Steinberger explains that the exhibition “continues the gallery’s longstanding interest in Italian artists whose contributions are invaluable to the evolution of Contemporary Art.”

Afro Burri Fontana highlights the remarkable influence these three Italian artists had on the evolution of the history of art after the Second World War. The exhibition focuses on the experimentation of each artist from 1950–1968, during the height of post-war Italy’s cultural flourishing. It was during this period that a small group of artists including Afro, Burri and Fontana sought to create a new type of visual vocabulary anchored in an intense cross cultural exchange with the United States. Because of that dialogue, each artist in the exhibition has works held in the permanent collections of major American museums. With this exhibition, Elena Geuna, independent curator and advisor, who was also responsible for Jeff Koons – Versailles in 2008 and Lucio Fontana: Light and Color at the Palazzo Ducale, intends to illustrate “the extraordinary poetry and innovation of the works by these three artists. I am honored to present once again masterpieces of Italian art abroad”.

Afro (1912–1972) was one of the main abstract painters at the time. His abstract style is balanced by an elegance and refinement in compositions that are reminiscent of classical culture. Influenced by Abstract Expressionism and friendships with artists like Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly and Franz Kline, Afro praised his American counterparts for their freedom, “They have given new life to a set of values and beliefs that, though born in Europe, were beginning to become sterile through complacency and mannerisms.” This pursuit of purity of expression lead Afro to make key paintings like La Fabbrica di San Pietro (1960) and Tavola Rotonda (1966) using vivid colors and vibrant brushwork.

The potential of matter is central to the work of Alberto Burri (1915–1995). Iconic examples of his series will be on view including a wonderful burlap work entitled Sacco (1954), which highlights the way in which the artist transforms the traditional definition of painting by incorporating various materials, specifically burlap, with oil on canvas to create a delicate and melancholic abstraction. The holes in the sack paired with the black background of the canvas suggest bandaged wounds that he witnessed as a physician in World War II.  Another work L.P. Nero 1 (1956), composed by juxtaposed wood panels on acrylic and cloth, demonstrates Burri’s transformation of the traditional definition of paint. As expressed by James Johnson Sweeney, Burri “vitalizes the dead materials in which he works, makes them live and bleed”.

Several of Lucio Fontana’s (1899–1968) accomplished works will be on view, including Concetto Spaziale (1950), a refined early example in which he punctured the surface of the yellow canvas with holes or “buchi”. The father of Spatialism, Fontana’s technique expresses the power of gesture and invites the viewer to look beyond the canvas, introducing the concept of the 3rd dimension in painting and “opening up the universe within”. He further developed this concept by adding stones to or slashing his canvases and creating more contemplative and innovative series of works. One of the highlights of Afro Burri Fontana is Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1968), an imposing red canvas where eight vertical slashes vibrate like musical notes.

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