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The Liberation of painting

New Supports and Materials

The disaster of the Second World War forced certain artists to rethink painting and to seek new forms. 

This desire to find another way of representing the world saw the traditional canvas being replaced by materials coming primarily from everyday use: the burlap in Alberto Burri’s work, wire for Manuel Rivera, fabric for Salvatore Scarpitta, wooden slats for César and nylon threads for Pol Bury. Marked by the shortages experienced during the war years, artists recycled what they could find and invented new tools. Both ingenious and crafty, they were quick to use “poor” materials and left an important place to chance, as evident in the first sculpture by Jacques Villeglé, made from steel wires found amongst the ruins of Saint-Malo. They also sought to go beyond the frame of the painting with three-dimensional, mobile and mechanical works, like those of Jean Tinguely. It is not so much the question of the opposition between abstrac- tion and figuration that is at stake here but rather the questioning of the very foundations of painting. Painting no longer had to confront the real world be- cause the latter was an intrinsic part of the work through the materials used, such as the posters torn and removed from walls by Raymond Hains. Some even went further by using not only advertising boards, but also their supports, such as the sheet metal or the wall on which they were pasted, as is the case in Mimmo Rotel- la’s work. Urban reality was now very much part of the works, as were their political, social and economic contexts. After having photographed the bombed cities of Saint-Malo and Dinard as a teenager, Hains created a series of politically engaged works such as La Colombe de la paix, while Villeglé evoked the reality of the Algerian War and the confrontation of two irreconcilable factions in Rue au Maire.


Relief SYN n° VII, 1956


Relief SYN n° VII, 1956
Panneau de bois avec huit formes en aluminium peints et un système mécanique électrique au revers
62,5 x 56 x 22,5 cm

Inv FGA-BA-TINGU-0003 © Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Genève. Photographe : André Morin
© Adagp, Paris, 2020
Umbira Vera, 1952

Alberto BURRI

Umbria Vera (Ombrie véritable), 1952
Acrylique, acétate de polyvinyle, huile, sac en toile de jute, tissu, fil et papier de journal
99,2 x 149,3 cm

Inv. FGA-BA-BURRI-0001 © ​Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Genève. Photographe : André Morin
© Adagp, Paris, 2020