Pol Bury (La Louvière, 1922 Paris, 2005) is best known for the fountains and sculptures which he designed for public spaces. But he stood for so much more than that: he was a prolific painter, sculptor, jewellery designer, writer and graphic designer. Having experimented with painting in the early years he turned to moving sculpture in the 1950s. In that period he began to create motorised objects, which were completely innovative and bore no relation to known artistic traditions or, for that matter, reality. Hence his place in the art history books as one of the pioneers of kinetic art.
Though Bury was one of the most prolific international Belgian artists of his generation - his fountains and moving sculptures were known from New York to Japan! - his work has been sidelined in recent years. His constant drive for innovation, his probing analysis of time and motion and his use of new materials such as brass, stainless steel, motors and magnets have made his work surprisingly contemporary today. High time, in other words, to revisit one of our most significant post-war artists!
The exhibition features 120 artworks (65 motorised) and a selection of documentation, jewellery and graphic pieces and presents a full overview of his rich oeuvre. The highlights include a working fountain in the exhibition and 4087 cylindres érectiles, a monumental installation 7 metres long.
The retrospective is concurrent with an exhibition on French artist Yves Klein (Centre for Fine Arts
, 24/03 - 27/08/2017). An excellent choice, given that both Pol Bury and Yves Klein, besides being contemporaries, had links to the ZERO art movement.
Pol Bury. Time in Motion gives a chronological overview of the artist's career through 120 artworks - from his lesser known early years, when his paintings were influenced by René Magritte, the surrealists and Cobra, through the innovative, kinetic sculptures, such as the plans mobiles and ponctuations, to the monumental metal sculptures and fountains which brought him fame in his later years.
The absolute eye-catcher is, without a doubt, a working fountain, which has been set up in the exhibition. There are also a few top pieces to be seen, including 4087 cylindres érectiles, a monumental installation, 7 metres in length, from the Pompidou Centre; an Erection molle from the historic Zero collection Sammlung Lenz-Schönberg and a rare colour sculpture, 16 boules, 16 cubes sur 8 rangées from the TATE collection in London.
Of the 120 artworks on display in the Pol Bury. Time in Motion exhibition, 65 are motorised. All have been made to work at the exhibition (some by means of a timer). The exhibition includes extensive documentation (historical catalogues, invitations, archive photos) and looks at some of Burys other artistic endeavours, such as his jewellery, his graphic art, his literary creations and his illustrations. Chief among these, of course, are LAcadémie de Montbliart and Daily-Bul, the publishing house which Bury established with André Balthazar in the 1950s. More than a publishing house, however, Daily-Bul was an artistic laboratory known for its absurd humour, critical disposition and large and cohesive network of writers and artists.
A Potted Biography of Pol Bury
Pol Bury (La Louvière, 1922 Paris, 2005) was a Belgian painter, sculptor, jewellery designer, writer and graphic designer. His early years read like a summary of Belgian fine art at the time: he begins his career as a painter under the influence of Walloon poet Achille Chavée, and René Magritte, and paints in the surrealist style until after the Second World War. Later, he exhibits his work with the Jeune Peinture Belge group and the Cobra Movement. Around 1953 Bury takes a keen interest in contemporary sculpture, inspired by Alexander Calder, whom he discovered at the Maeght Gallery in Paris. This is a pivotal point in his career and eventually leads to his first moving artworks, which are initially moved by the viewer and later, motor-driven. Bury becomes one of the leading protagonists of kinetic art. He is known for the extremely slow and unpredictable movements of his sculptures and art objects.
In 1959 Bury gets his breakthrough, and blazes a trail of his own with his first Ponctuations: these are extremely slow-moving reliefs, bearing no relation to any of the known art traditions of the time.
The artist wins himself a place among the European and American avant-garde and the period 1959 1968 is particularly rich and eventful for him. He takes part in countless exhibitions, including the historic Le mouvement expo (Paris, the Denise René Gallery, 1955) and the groundbreaking exhibition Vision in Motion / Motion in Vision (Antwerp, Hessenhuis, 1959), where he meets Yves Klein. He exhibits his work at the Venice Biennale in 1964 and, in the same year, exhibits in John Lefevres New York gallery (in which Pierre Alechinsky and Corneille have also exhibited).
In the 1960s Bury pursues his career in New York, where he is highly successful. In the seventies he lectures at various American universities, including Berkeley and Minneapolis.
The year 1968 makes another turning point in his career. Aimé Maeght, owner of the gallery at which Bury discovered Caldes work, persuades him to return to France with his new American wife and this brings Bury to the most prestigious European gallery of the day. The collaboration brings with it new opportunities, thanks in part to funding from the Maeght Gallery. With the exception of a series of wooden reliefs, and the sculptures à cordes, the artist is now able to concentrate on monumental artworks, and, in 1978, on the creation of fountains.
From the 1980s until his death in 2005 Bury devotes most of his energies to fountains, the works for which he is best known today.