Tom Burr (Installation View), all images via Bortolami
On this month at Bortolami Gallery in New York, Tom Burr reprises his dual role as artist and exhibition maker, relocating the act of making from the traditional studio space into the gallery. With a range of works that mix sculpture, 2-dimensional work and installation, the show is a striking and nuanced investigation of space as a material in art, and art’s ability to generate spaces in turn.
An architectural intervention of four walls defines the show, a deconstructed box whose contents have been scattered both in view and out of sight yet remain connected on levels of materiality, memory, biography, and history. Moving through the gallery, the viewer is directly confronted by Burr’s work, activating the artworks and the physical space created for them. As the interconnectivity of the different facets of the exhibition comes into view, not only here and now but in its connection to the entirety of Burr’s career, we begin to understand this as not merely an assortment of objects as artworks, but on a larger scale as a total artwork. Four new wooden panels populate each makeshift wall, continuing the signature plywood sculptural series begun in the 1990s. Each painted a different color, the artist loosely utilizes the shipping crate motif, a point of interest for Burr. Adhering stainless steel and brass plates to each panel, the images portray the artist himself as well as his own simulation of stereotypical “faggy gestures,” as he refers to them, creating an intersection of public expectations of artistic sensibility, identity performance and exposure.
Tom Burr, Opening Sequence (blue) (2023)
Tom Burr, Floor Model (Adolescent) (2022)
Also on view in the main gallery are a series of furniture-based sculptures. Set behind the walls, each work draws the viewer into the constructed architectural space as they grapple with themes of legacy, memory, and biography. Pulse utilizes various items once belonging to the “lounge” at Burr’s project space in Torrington, Connecticut—a disco ball, a couch, a lamp, a wool blanket — the disco ball being a relic from American Fine Arts, the legendary SoHo gallery run by Colin de Land where Burr exhibited throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Tom Burr, A Pair of Black Chairs (2023)
Tom Burr, Pulse (2023)
Accompanying the work is a wall text listing the various academic definitions of the word “pulse,” while the last line, a new addition by the artist, is a reference to the infamous shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a signal to both the individual and communal meanings associated with the word. Similarly, the artist has gathered various items belonging to his father to create Johns (my father’s chest)—a chest of drawers, long johns, a metal storage box, and a handkerchief— evoking the same ideas of legacy and biography.
The artist’s work is on through May 4th.
– D. Creahan
Tom Burr at Bortolami [Exhibition Site]
on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023 at 12:39 pm and is filed under Art News, Featured Post, Show.
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