Stuart Shave/Modern Art
9 September - 1 October, 2011
For his third solo show with Modern Art, American artist Tom Burr has transformed the gallery into a 1980s closet, connoting both display cabinet and clothing collection. But this is not the storage space of neon and Rubik’s Cubes. Rather, Burr’s is a stern nostalgia decorated by Blue Monday kick-drums, overdose trench coats and hammered fashion garments.
Fassbinder Piece, a standalone scaffold which Burr has accessorized with one of the New German Cinema director’s trademark leather coats, a film poster and a vintage magazine, exists as open-casket homage to the filmmaker’s iconic brilliance and self-annihilating indulgence. Fade One and Fade Two, collages composed of record sleeves, find their movement within the mechanics of Futurism, which was so fittingly appropriated by Peter Saville in his late 70s/early 80s Factory Records design aesthetic. In a work called Shades of Green, meanwhile, the artist unfurled stained, seaweed-shaded window blinds across the floor.
The majority of the work, however, finds Burr working on the wall, using fabric as painterly abstraction, and fashion as a forum for sculptural concerns. For the wall series, he has wrapped stained-black plywood panels in dusky shades of wool, and nailed items of clothing to others. The forms find their dialectic shape through reaction: by resurrecting a morning-after crumpled shirt and trousers, and bradding them to a vertical board, Patterned After Pleasure is brought into a narrative alongside the other titles in the series (Last Night and The Night Before Last). Bleakly similar, the wall-works suggest outfits through which persons seek their uniform individuality, at the same time acting as tokens of the ways fabric has been appropriated as artistic attire.
Now near the tail end of its revival, New Wave has enjoyed its recent resurgence due not to shoulder-pads or slick synthesizers, but largely to the experimentation of style and individualism that the period adopted so as to bury a decade of Disco. In the same way that fashion transcends the utility of clothing, Burr’s sculptures eclipse explorations of shape and painting, revealing an interesting answer to the current crisis in mixed media. Long after fads fade and styles disenvogue themselves, what remains are dark shapes desirous of any available garment. By stripping bare the decadence of the 1980s and (re)dressing it with its very genetic makeup, Burr has tapped into a hybrid of a decade as dead as Fassbinder himself, and a present that is very much relishing in Reagan-retro, but without any of the prosperity or blitheness. His work with Modern Art offers a sombre stimulus to the otherwise blissfully stagnant and wastefully recycled claims of culture evident in 2011.
All images courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London