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Pol Bury

(1922 - 2005)

Pol Bury was born in La Louvière, Belgium, on April 26, 1922. After attending the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Mons in 1938–39, he joined a group of Surrealist poets that included Achille Chavée. Bury’s early artistic endeavors suggest the influence of René Magritte and Yves Tanguy, and paintings he produced in the late 1930s and first half of the ’40s were included in the 1945 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme held in Brussels. Reflecting on his initial attraction to Surrealism, Bury later noted: &ldquoIt was the total stance of the Surrealist movement which fascinated me.” The focus of Bury’s art shifted in 1952 after he visited an exhibition featuring Alexander Calder’s work. The movement of Calder’s mobiles captivated Bury, and he began producing sculptures with moving components. These early kinetic sculptures were exhibited in the 1955 group exhibition Le Mouvement at Galerie Denise René in Paris. The exhibition proved particularly influential for the international ZERO network (active in the late 1950s and early ’60s), and Bury went on to participate in ZERO exhibitions and contribute to Heinz Mack and Otto Piene’s ZERO journal. Bury began to include electric motors in many of his sculptures in 1957. The concealed motors activate the works, prompting elements to twist, tilt, or spin. Around 1964, the artist started creating his Cinetizations: photographs and prints depicting well-known monuments, but with the architectural structure fundamentally altered. In a Cinetization featuring the Eiffel Tower, the iron structure appears to wobble as if on the brink of collapse. Bury’s sculptures and Cinetizations both demonstrate moments of physical contingency that belie gravity’s certain pull. In a 1969 interview, the artist explained: “I am searching for the point which exists between the moving and the non-moving.” In the late 1960s, Bury began working with stainless and Cor-Ten steel, polished brass, and copper. By 1969 he had created his first public fountain, at the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Similar in many ways to his kinetic sculptures, the numerous fountains that Bury designed throughout his lifetime involve arrangements of cylinders and spheres that move slowly and irregularly. In these works, he embraced the reflections and light effects produced by the interaction of metal and water in the open air.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Bury exhibited his work alongside that of other ZERO artists in Vision in Motion—Motion in Vision at Antwerp’s Hessenhuis (1959); Bewogen Beweging (Moving Movement, 1961), which traveled from Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum to the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Louisiana Museum, Humlebk, Denmark; tentoonstelling nul (known as Nul 62) and nul negentienhonderd vijf en zestig (Nul 65), both at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum (1962 and 1965, respectively); and Documenta 3 (1964) in Kassel, Germany. Retrospectives featuring the artist’s work have been organized by the University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1970); Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City (1977–78); Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1982); and Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop, Germany (1990). Bury died on September 27, 2005, in Paris.

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