Land Art Gibellina by Burri

by Alain Chivilò


January 14, 1968, earthquake in the Belìce valley. Seven Richter degrees for interminable seconds made of collapses, destructions, deaths and escapes from the ancient and rickety houses.

In the devastation between some towns standing and others razed to the ground, Gibellina represents the only example in Italy of Art for the City.

In fact, the forerunner of an artistic conception with a social role too, although the reconstruction of the town was planned in another area, the mayor, elected on several occasions, Ludovico Corrao had the intelligent idea of providing a soul to his New Gibellina, in order to get out of that impersonality that a reconstruction after a tragic event determines.

Starting from this concept, artists such as Pietro Cosagra, Franco Angeli, Mario Schifano, Andrea Cascella, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Mimmo Paladino responded.

Alberto Burri (Città di Castello 1915 – Nice 1995), on the other hand, decided not to insert a work in the new urban context, but created a “Grande Cretto” in the old Gibellina, in memory of the earthquake that destroyed the town.

Along a fruitful pictorial cycle, the monumental Cretto is a flow of white cement that covered the ruins leaving the old road system unchanged.

About one meter high, the work falls within that concept of land art, assuming connotations of respect and memory.

As Maestro Burri declared: “I almost felt like crying and immediately the idea came to me: here I feel that I could do something. I would do this: let’s compact the rubble which is a problem for everyone, arm it well and with the cement we make an immense white crack, so that it remains a perennial memory of this event”.

The Grande Cretto was designed in a first phase between 1985 and 1989, remaining incomplete until 2015, the year of its conclusion.

What are “Cretti”? They consist of thick rectangular or square surfaces in white or black, within which a dense network of cracks and fissures winds. Like from nature, cracks that are created in the ground with drought.
Burri’s artistic effect was born using a mixture of white zinc and vinyl glues, to which he added lands for the colored ones. He applied a thick layer of this material onto a cellotex backing, with a subsequent drying/drying stage. Subsequently, for larger dimensions, he used a mixture of zinc white, kaolin and earth, which after drying he covered with vinavil.

Through the cracks, the flow of life, the difficult moments, the cracks highlighted the passage of time, the will to artistically replicate a natural phenomenon but at the same time a monochromatic work through essentiality, randomness and expressive simplicity.

More info in the video: Grande Cretto | Alberto Burri | Land Art | Gibellina



©AC, NDSL, AM, Alain Chivilo

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