Pol Bury was born in 1922, in Haine-Saint-Pierre, Belgium. In 1938/39, he studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Mons, and, inspired by Yves Tanguy, started to focus on painting. He also became involved with various artists groups of the time: In 1947/48, Bury became a member of »La Jeune Peinture Belge« (»Young Belgian Painting«), a group founded by Bertrand, Cox, Van Lint, Bonnet, Mendelson, in 1945. From 1949 until 1951, Bury participated in the activities of the group »CoBrA« (Copenhagen, Brüssel und Amsterdam) and, also, did the book illustrations for Noiret’s »L’aventure dévorante« (»Devouring Adventure,« 1950). In 1952, he was among the founding members of the group »Art Abstrait.« Initially working as a painter, Bury realized the programmatic turn away from surrealism, following the demands of his membership in CoBrA. In 1953, he started to entirely devote himself to sculpture and the graphic arts. During the same year, together with his friend André Balthazar, he founded the »Académie de Montbliart« and edited the journal »Daily Bûl.« In 1961, Bury moved to France and, in 1966, he went to New York for two years. In 1970, he became a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Starting in 1973, Bury taught at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and, in 1983, was awarded a professorship for sculpture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) in Paris.
With the Plans mobiles and his experiments with various drive mechanisms, done in the early 1950s, Bury’s interests started to focus on optical and kinetic phenomena, on »painting that moves.« In 1957, he developed first kinetic sculptures with a motor (Multiplans). With these works, he continued a tradition that had started with Dada and Marcel Duchamp (Roto Relief). While it did not originate in modernism itself, it is still a highly significant modernist tradition. It was modified and further developed by Gabo, Pevsner, Moholy-Nagy, and Calder, by Tinguely and de Soto, but also in kinetic light objects. At first, Bury worked on reliefs that include mobile parts. Extremely slow, hardly recognizable movements distinguish these objects that are driven by motors, light sensors or magnetic power. Bury considered them »live beings.« The behavior of the objects and their sometimes quasi-imperceptible movement as well as their constant changing are made accessible to experience, a concern that is also decisive for Bury’s graphic works (Cinétisations, 1964ff.) as well as his work with film (e. g. Bury/Prevost, 135 km à l’heure (135 km per hour), 1972). In the late 1960s, Bury also turned towards monumental works and fountain projects in public space. Newer objects, for example his moving disks, reflect the interplay of color and shape in motion (Plans tournants (Turning Planes), 2004).
Bury’s work was shown at the Venice Biennale, in 1964. In the same year and in 1968, it was also shown at the Documenta 4 in Kassel. Bury participated in numerous international exhibitions, for example in 1966, at the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His first retrospective took place at the University Art Museum in Berkeley, in 1970. Other retrospectives followed, for example at the Kestner Society, Hanover (1971), at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Ville de Paris (1982), and at the Dortmund Museum am Ostwall (1994). As part of thematic exhibitions, Bury’s work was also shown at the Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAMCS), Strasbourg (»L’Œil moteur – Art optique et cinétique («The Motor Eye – Optical and Kinetic Art»), 1950 — 1975,« 2005), at the Museum Tinguely, Basel (»Bewegliche Teile. Formen des Kinetischen« (»Moving Parts. Kinetic Forms«), WHEN), at the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (»Zero;« 2006), and at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (»Op Art,« 2007).
Aside from his stays abroad, Pol Bury lived and worked in Paris since the early 1960s. He died in 2005, in Paris.
Pol Bury: Ausst.-Kat. mit Œuvrekatalog, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund u. PMMK Museum Moderner Kunst Ostende, hg. v. Rosemarie E. Pahlke, 1994/95
Ionesco, E. u. Balthazar, A.: Pol Bury, Brüssel 1976
Pol Bury: Ausst.-Kat. Kestner-Gesellschaft u.a., red. v. A. Balthazar u. W. Schmied, Hannover 1971