Tom Burr, MOODS, Installation view, Secession, Vienna, April 28-June 24, 2007.
Tom Burr, MOODS, Installation view, Secession, Vienna, April 28-June 24, 2007.
Tom Burr, Thomas the Impostor, 2006, Plywood, perspex mirror, stainless steel hinges, book, suit trousers, suit jacket., 152×81x84 cm.
Tom Burr, Folding Screen (Yellow), 2003, Wooden board, paint, yellow perspex mirror, 178 × 180 x 5.5 cm,
Tom Burr, Deep Purple, 2000, Wood, steel, paint, 250 x 2500 x 44 cm,
Stuart Shave Modern Art
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Tom Burr. Head Ache
February 27-April 9, 2009
Tom Burr belongs to a generation of artists who, since the early nineties and starting from an analysis of Minimal Art, deal with the political and critical implications of art. Unlike their predecessors with their critical approaches towards institutions, artists as Tom Burr and his contemporaries Mark Dion, Renée Green, Andrea Fraser and Christian Philipp Müller do not consider the museum or the classical exhibition hall in the sense of "white cube" to be the only valid reference. On the contrary, their frame of reference now concerns various sites: natural history and ethnology museums, pseudomuseums, zoos, parks and even public toilets. Museums or galleries are considered to be one institution among a number of others, in a network of social and cultural structures. Therefore, Burr's art takes place in spaces in between. His works deal with questions of public nature and the structuring of public spaces. They are founded on careful research, use documentary means and take stock of the social and political circumstances in a critical way.
What sounds to be all theory, in reality is as complex and ambivalent as public life itself. The notions of "adoption" and "sampling" could stand for the methods Tom Burr applies in order to expose the ingrained structures of power and to unmask and bypass social coding. Burr juggles with existent forms, colours, materials and contents and breaks rigidities through displacement — often between public space and exposition hall too. Burrs architectural and sculptural work shows places of every day life and subculture like public toilets, garden hedges, porn cinemas, gloomy bars and video rooms.
Like many of his contemporaries, Tom Burr uses that aspect of Minimal Art which the American art historian Michael Fried in •Art and Objecthood• (1967) made out the weak point of this art movement: the theatricality. Astonishingly it is exactly this supposed weak point which recently had its renaissance and led to a re-politicization, to a (homo-) sexualization of art, to an art which deals with public places and structures and ironically and explicitly discloses a puritanical restriction policy of cover-up and concealment.
Works (selection): Central Park Visitor’s Center: The Ramble (1992): "The Ramble" is the name for a particular area in New York's Central Park which reproduces a natural forest. Rare birds have been attracted by the topography and vegetation of this zone. The birds, on the other hand, catch the attention of ornithologists. "The 'birdwatchers' belong to Central Park's folklore [...] just as the gays. They share the same biotope for different purposes. The Ramble is the most historic and best known cruising area of Manhattan." Burr's work demonstrates how the so called "Visitors Center" represents "The Ramble". It reveals that the "Visitors Center" intends to marginalize the sexual monopolization of one of the park's areas by an unwelcome group and that the holders of power have not succeeded in regulating public behaviour.
42nd St. Structures (1995), an exhibition shown in the gallery American Fine Arts in New York, responds to the "redevelopment" of Times Square and the following closing down of various porn shops in Midtown Manhattan. Burr adopts these sites' typical architectural elements and deduces their forms and materials following the cool aesthetics of Minimal Art which he re-contextualizes and sexualizes by concentrated refraction — e.g. through mirrors. •Partitions, Video Booth and Wall• are some of the exhibition's exhibits. Like relics, they refer to the wiped out subculture. Texts illustrate New York's "erotic history" and its socio-political backgrounds which Burr investigated in the course of this project.
Deep Purple (2000): Burr realizes that installation on the occasion of an exhibition in Kunstverein Braunschweig. Two years later, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York shows this violet sculpture which reminds of a curved, slightly tilted fence. So Burr's sculpture finally is exposed in New York where its work of reference, Richard Serra's Tilted Arc (1981), originally was located. Serra's Tilted Arc was a commissioned work for New York's Federal Plaza and provoked a unique discussion about art in public space which led to its dismantling.
Apart from consciously and immediately visibly imitating Serra's Tilted Arc's formal characteristics, Tom Burr supplies Deep Purple with a rich vocabulary of associations which, in retrospect, allows looking at the model within a widened frame of reference. By naming his work after an eighties rock band, painting it violet and alluding to Edgar Allen Poe, Burr lends the minimalist classic work a new shimmering dress.
Tom Burr was born in 1963 in New Haven, Connecticut. He lives and works in New York. From 1982 to 1986, Burr studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Afterwards, from 1987 to 1988, he participated in the prestigious Whitney Independent Study Program. In his work, Tom Burr deals with Minimal and Post-Minimal Art and some of its most important representatives as Tony Smith, Donald Judd, Robert Smithson, Eva Hesse and Dan Graham. Tom Burr has published various texts.
Solo exhibitions: 2005 ROMA ROMA ROMA, Rome / 2003 American Fine Arts, Co., Colin De Land Fine Art, New York; Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne / 2002 Galerie Almine Rech, Paris; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Greene Naftali Gallery, New York / 2001 Galerie Neu, Berlin / 2000 Kunstverein Braunschweig, Braunschweig / 1999 Galerie Almine Rech, Paris / 1998 Galerie Neu, Berlin; Galerie Marta Cervera, Madrid / 1997 American Fine Arts, Co., New York / 1995 American Fine Arts, Co., New York / 1994 American Fine Arts, Co., New York / 1992 White Columns, New York.
Group exhibitions: 2005 Down the Garden Path: The Artist´s Garden After Modernism, Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York / 2004 Election, American Fine Arts, Co., Colin de Land Fine Art, New York; Genealogies of Glamour. The Future Has a Silver Lining, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Braunschweig Parcours 2004, Braunschweig; It´s All an Illusion, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich / 2002 Centre National d´Art Contemporain de Grenoble / 2001 Partnerschaften: Unterbrochene Karrieren: Ull Hohn & Tom Burr, NGBK, Berlin / 2000 Quiet Life, Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Kraichtal, Germany; Sightings, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York / 1998 Model, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna / 1995 Architectures of Display, with architect Toshiko Mori, Architectural League of New York, New York; Platzwechsel, Kunsthalle Zürich and Schweizer Nationalmuseum, Zurich; Mapping: A Response to MOMA, American Fine Arts, Co., New York / 1994 Lace, Los Angeles; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York / 1993 Kontext Kunst, Künstlerhaus Graz, Austria; What Happened to the Institutional Critique, curator James Meyer, American Fine Arts, Co., New York; Sonsbeek ´93, Arnheim, Netherlands / 1992 White Columns, New York / 1988 Whitney Independent Study Program, New York.
Publications (selection): Partnerschaften: Unterbrochene Karrieren, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V. (NGBK), Berlin 2002; Juliane Rebentisch, Mourning for Disco. Minimalismus, Theatralität, eine Theorie des Sehens und eine künstlerische Arbeit, in: Starship, Number 3, 2000, p. 54-63; Platzwechsel: Ursula Biemann, Tom Burr, Mark Dion, Christian Philipp Müller, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich 1995.