dust in the wind?


For most of us, one of the fundamental appeals of art is its exemplary capacity in the struggle against entropy — a cultural artifact is valued according to the degree of order it embodies — and the strength of its resistance to the ravages of time. The more intricately woven the tapestry or solidly constructed the pyramid, the more reassured we are that perhaps Kansas got it wrong with regard to all we are being dust in the wind. Of course, this being the case, modernist and postmodernist artists have made it their business to challenge this preconception on a number of fronts — by ostentatiously reintegrating the already discarded detritus of culture into new arrangements, as in the collages of Kurt Schwitters and the Combines of Robert Rauschenberg; by emphasizing the spontaneous improvisational gesture in order to destabilize the balance between order and chaos, as in the abstract expressionist drip paintings of Jackson Pollock; by creating deliberately ephemeral performances, happenings and installations whose only record is whatever documentation or relics happen to be left over, as in Chris Burden’s often life-endangering actions of the early 1970s, whose collectible evidence consists of snapshots, Super-8 film, audiocassettes and a handful of used bullets. One of the pivotal figures in the development of this broad-spectrum aesthetic of decay was Alberto Burri (1915-1995), an Italian painter who first gained attention with his abstract compositions stitched together from scraps of surplus burlap sacks, then proceeded to explore the surface possibilities of shredded and burned plastic, welded plates of scrap metal, eroded acoustic tile and other quotidian industrial materials.

more from Doug Harvey at the LA Weekly here.