Pol Bury, Belgian (1922 - 2005)

Pol Bury (26 April 1922 - 28 September 2005) was a Belgian sculptor who began his artistic career as a painter in the Jeune Peintre Belge and COBRA groups. Among his most famous works is the fountain-sculpture L'Octagon, located in San Francisco.

Belgian kinetic artist, painter and film-maker, born in Haine-Saint-Pierre. After studying briefly at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Mons 1938-9, he frequented the circle of Surrealist poets at La Louvi-24re and was influenced by the paintings of Magritte and Tanguy.

His own painting largely interrupted from 1940 to 1945. Represented in the Exposition Internationale du Surr-23alisme in Brussels 1945. Painted geometrical abstract pictures 1949-53 and was associated with the COBRA group 1949-51, but in 1953 started to make 'plans mobiles' of painted shapes which could be pivoted manually on their axis. First principal one-man exhibition at the Galerie Apollo, Brussels, 1953. Gave up painting in 1953 and experimented with various types of kinetic works, introducing motors in 1957 and making the parts move with an almost imperceptible but jerky slowness, and in a random way. Moved to France in 1961 (first Fontenay-aux-Roses, then Saulx-les-Chartreux), and since 1964 has frequently visited the USA.

His later works also include cinetizations of photographs and engravings, a few large-scale sculptures such as '25 Tons of Columns' and several films. Lives in Paris.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.87


Born, on April 26, at Haine-Saint-Pierre in Belgium (Walloon part of the country).
His father, a garage proprietor, constructs motor cars with the care and devotion of a dedicated amateur; one such car, assembled in the constructor's bedroom, could never be gotten through the window or down the stairs.

1929 to 1932
Lives in France in various towns - Guise, Angouleme, Lens ¬depending on his father's professional caprices.

Music in general, and the cornet in particular, commands his attention, thanks to his grandfather, musical director of the Harmonie des Huit Heures society at Haine-Saint-Pierre, and to his father, who plays the tuba in this same musical group.

After various studies which might perhaps have been a bit more classical and a bit less scattered, he enters the School of Art at Mons, taking courses in painting, drawing and decoration. His teachers (Louis Buisseret, designer of a very attractive and inexpensive banknote, and Louis Navez, Hainaut's most distin¬guished painter of still-lifes) have little influence on him. The same year, he tours France on a bicycle and executes a number of watercolors.

For reasons not entirely unconnected with current events, he abandons his bicycle and, temporarily, his paintbrush in favor of the manufacture of pick-hammers in a factory near La Louviere. It is in this industrial center that he meets, during this period, the poets Achille Chavee and Andre Lorent, two of the founders
of, the surrealist research group calling itself "Rupture". He joins up with them. Magritte and Tanguy greatly influence him.

Leaves for Marcillac, in the Lot.

1941 to 1943
Back in Belgium, he does painting on fabrics, among other activities designed chiefly to nourish the appetites of the stomach.

Goes into hiding. Comes out again the following year.
Politics, indispensable after such experiences, occupy his attentions but he maintains contact with paintbrush and poetry.

Participates in the International Surrealist Exhibition in Brussels. His images begin slowly to move in the direction of more abstract
fields, the forms being at first jostled together, then more closely

Associated with the Belgian Jeune Peinture group.
Voyage to Bulgaria.
Voyage to Italy. Stays in Capri.

Meets Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky... and collaborates in the activities of the Cobra group until 1951.He illustrates Joseph Noiret's L 'A venture devorante. In the
review La Main heureuse, ten of his drawings are presented with accompanying texts written especially by Marcel Havrenne.

He has the idea of becoming a professor of graphic art and presents himself for the necessary examination: although succeeding rather brilliantly in the scientific tests, his failure in the artistic tests nips this particular career in the bud.

Numerous one-man and group shows, throughout Belgium and

Abandons painting. Exhibits his Mobile Planes for the first time, in Brussels: Jean Seaux writes the introduction for the catalogue. Escaping from the frame and from the two dimensions, the forms previously frozen in his pictures thaw out and relax, and the spectator is able to rotate them on their axes, according to choice or chance. Creates, together with Andre Balthazar, the Academie de Montbliart, a rural institution of higher learning open on Saturday evenings only. Flexible statutes, vague mobiles.

Takes part in the exhibition "Le Mouvement" at the Galerie Denise Rene, Paris (together with Agam, Calder, Duchamp, Jacobsen, Soto, Tinguely, Vasarely). Progresses from plane surfaces to volumes which, balancing on a mobile axis, occupy a space constantly liable to modification.

Voyage to Italy.

Exhibits his Multiplanes. For the first time, the electric motor plays a role in his work: already, the principle of slowness asserts itself, joining the imperceptible to the perceptible. Painstakingly elabo¬- rated mechanical devices prevent any regularity from establishing itself in the movements. In March, appearance of the first number of the Daily SuI, an episodically regular publication.

Takes interest in transparent plastics, in the play of light, in the moving solidities of mercury, in the elastic tenderness of rubber. The dot absorbs his attention, and leads him to create a great number of Punctuations.

Takes part in a large-scale exhibition of "new" art, in Antwerp, together with Breer, Klein, Mach, Mari, Munari, Piene, Rot, Soto, Spoerri, Tinguely, Van Hoeydonck. Shortly afterwards, takes part in the first exhibition of Multiples presented by Editions MAT at the Galerie Edouard Loeb, Paris.

Exhibition of kinetic art at the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum. Festival of Avant Garde Art in Paris.

" Bewogen Beweging" exhibition at the Stedelijkmuseum,
Amsterdam. Erectile (and other) Punctuations presented at the
Galerie Smith, Brussels.
Leaves Belgium, and moves into a small house at Fontenay-
Publishes The Ball and the Hole, a collection of texts and points of

First one-man show in Paris, at the Galerie Iris Clert. Numerous group shows.

polished wood ia material which he increasingly adopts} lends
warm planes to the measured, patient voyages of balls, cubes,
cylinders, fine nylon threads...
Paris: Salon "Comparaisons", Salon de MaL etc.

First stay in New York, a city that fascinates him.
Exhibition at the Lefebre Gallery Cinetizations: he gives a brutal shove to the perceived images that Gallery, London. come into his hands: th e Eiffel Tower totters, th e Mona Lisa gri m-
aces... photographic reality loses face as well as balance.Venice Biennale. Kassel Dokumenta. Marzotto Prize. Decor for a ballet, Le Miroir, presented at the Palais des Beaux-
Arts, Charleroi.Writes Time Dilated, which sets forth his viewpoint..

Participates in numerous exhibitions throughout the world: Art. Today (Buffalo, Albright Knox Art Gallery), Movement (Hanover Gallery, London), Art and Movement (Edinburgh, Glasgow), Lumiere, Mouvement et Optique (Bru~sels), Zero Avant-Garde (Venice), Recent Acquisitions (Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, New York), one-man show at Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles. Leaves Fontenay-aux-Roses for Saulx-Ies-Chartreux (a short distance from Longjumeau).

1966 .
Spends six months in New York.Eugene lonesco writes a preface for his second exhibition at the Lefebre Gallery. The gallery publishes an album of his lithographs,
Cinetizations. Writes a short text, The Small Beginning, for the series "Les poquettes Volantes" : its Exhibition of Cinetizations isilkscreen prints on canvas} at the Galerie La Hune, Paris.

Another stay in the United States. Exhibition at the J.L. Hudson Gallery, Detroit and at the Kasmin Participates in" D ix a ns d' art vivant, 1 g 55- 1 965" at the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh. Works in stainless steel, polished brass. The movement of traveling organisms is supplemented by the sly and supple play of their reflections. He is able to venture into the open air. Exhibition at the Galerie Fran~oise Mayer, Brussels: wins the Prix de la Critique. Illustrates Stendhal's piccola guida af/'uso di un viaggiatore in Italia for Sergio Tosi Editore, Milan. Returns to New York in October. "The 1960s" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Guggenheim International Exhibition, New York.

Becomes interested in magnets. Set into motion deep inside the pedestal, the latter draw into opposing streams the apparently even freer balls. In April, exhibition at the Lefebre Gallery; in May, represented at the group exhibition "Artists for SEDF". Returning to France in May, he spends several months in La Colle-sur-Loup, near Saint- Paul. Participates in "Trois ans d'art vivant" 1965-1968 (Three years of living art) at the Fondation Maeght.

Returns to Paris.
Takes up engraving. New conception, faithful to the essential
preoccupations of Pol Bury.
Free-floating elements (nylon wires, lead plates...) abandon them¬selves to the press and the ink which, sweeping them up, modify their assemblage with each passage of the roller; thus they impose upon the paper the successive stages of a certain fancy which the ensemble of the printing reveals to the naked eye. Motion is in the root.
The University of Iowa commissions from him a huge fountain for the courtyard of a new building.
Work included in the exhibition "Painting in France" which tours a number of American museums.
University of Saint.Thomas, Houston.
Shows a series of Cinetizations, "Manhattan Observed" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Participates in various exhibitions:
Jewish Museum, New York.
I.C.A. London ("Tout Terriblement", hommage a Apollinaire). Musee des Arts Decoratifs" Paris (Cinquante peintres europeens). Nouveau Musee des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre (Art cinetique et Espace) .

Maison de la Culture, Grenoble (Cinetisme, Spectacle, Envi¬
Fifth ronnement).
Exhibition at the Galerie Pierre, Stockholm.
Exhibition at the Galerie Maeght, Paris (Derriere Ie Miroir nO 178, texts by Andre Balthazar and Jacques Dupin).

During spring 1970 an exhibition of his works (from 1953 to 1969)
is organized by Peter Selz. It opens in Berkeley at the University Art Museum and finishes at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, after several exhibits in
some of the most important American Museums: Walker Art
Center Mineapolis, Iowa Museum, Art Club Chicago, Institut of the
Arts, Rice University, Houston.
Teaches at Berkeley University.
Illustrates for Maeght Editeur: "Vins puis faons pour les Anzacs".
By Marcel and Gabriel Piqueray.

Creation of the first Ramollissements (Blurrings).
Retrospective exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Moved into an old farm in Perdreauville, near Paris, with the space to build his monumental sculptures and fountains.

Fountain for the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Became professor at Paris's Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (National School of Fine Arts), where he led a class in monumental sculpture until 1987.

Two fountains in the Palais-Royal gardens in Paris.
Received Paris's Grand Prix National de Sculpture (National Grand Prize for Sculpture).

Named a chevalier (knight) of the French Legion of Honor.

Fountain for the Tohoku University of Art and Design, Yamagata, Japan.

Volumes figés and Papiers collés.

Ramollissements virtuels: digital alterations of old masters' paintings.

P ol Bury died on 27 September at the age of eighty-three in Paris

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