Artwork Detail

Grande Ferro M3
Italian, 1915–1995
Welded iron with paint and nails
78 9/16 x 74 5/8 x 3 "
Gift of Richard K. Weil, 1963
WU 4065
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Alberto Burri emerged as a self-taught artist in Italy just as modernist abstraction was regaining popularity throughout Europe and the United States after World War II. His Ferri (Iron) series begun in 1957 is a group of large-scale works made out of sheets of iron that are cut, welded, and shaped into abstract compositions. Many critics understood the signature features of these works—the seams left by welding and the open cuts into the plates of iron—as an allusion to Italy’s recent traumatic past, both the very real disasters of the war and the more metaphorical crisis of painting in the postwar period. Grande Ferro M3 features an open joint at the center marked by a slash of red paint, provoking competing associations of physical danger and brute strength. Its overt references to the act of wounding can be aligned with an existential pessimism prevalent in postwar Europe. The work is neither purely formalist nor purely symbolic but is caught, as many works of art of this time were, somewhere in between. [Permanent collection label, 2017]