After three decades of construction, Alberto Burri’s monumental land art installation “Grande Cretto” has finally opened to the public, The Art Newspaper reports.
The work features some 64,583 square feet of white concrete poured directly over the ruins of Gibellina, a town in central Sicily that was destroyed by a 6.1-scale earthquake in 1968. The artist left pathways where the city’s streets once were so that visitors could travel through them and reflect on what’s been lost.
Burri began the project in 1985, after Gibellina’s mayor invited several notable artists and architects to help design a new town some seven miles away from the original site. Burri was asked to “translate for the present generation and for future generations the tragedy, the struggle, the hope and the faith.”
He chose to do that not by helping create the new town but by memorializing the old one with a concrete shroud. The work commenced for four years until funds dried up in 1989, 21,528 square feet short of completion. Burri died in 1995 before ever seeing it finished.
That was in itself a mini tragedy, considering “Grande Cretto” was the largest and most dramatic work he ever conceived. He modeled it after a series of paintings he created in the 1970s by intentionally building up the paint so that it cracked. He called these works Cretti, which makes the title of the Gibellina piece — translating to “large” or “great” cretto — fitting. Today the paintings seem like studies of fragility and durability, building up to a final masterpiece.
Not everyone can go see “Grande Cretto,” but luckily many of Burri’s smaller works are on view now in the Guggenheim’s retrospective of the artist. Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting runs through January 2016.