“Gravity Moves Me” is the first institutional exhibition of the American artist Tom Burr in France. The show, curated by Florence Derieux, includes works that have been created especially for the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne’s exhibition spaces.
Though the works in the exhibition are intrinsically linked to each other, they are also directly connected to Deep Purple, a monumental sculpture which Tom Burr created in 2000 and which has been installed in the courtyard of the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne since 2008. It is therefore through the angle of the “effect” of the passage of time, both on bodies as well as on the objects surrounding them, that the artist conceives of the notion of “gravity”. This word describes the influence of weight on a given body, but it can also be understood as referring to a cerebral state describing serious, sombre, sometimes even morbid thoughts. Paradoxically, these very thoughts can give rise to a sense of humour that emerges from a consciousness of decline, ruin, and inevitable disappearance or death.
Deep Purple is a response in wood, at two-thirds of the initial size, to Richard Serra’s famous Tilted Arc (1981), which could be “accessorized” in order to become adjustable, adaptable and mobile. It is this very notion of in situ, and through it the entire history of contemporary sculpture that is evoked here in order to push against both formal and conceptual limitations. Through the exceptional trajectory of Serra’s work, and the publicity process it has engendered, Tom Burr’s work also articulates problems related to architecture and the public sphere, with questions from politics, sociology, psychology, etc. Its title evokes the celebrated British rock group of the same name, a colour prized by the gay community, a colour that has associations with grief or even the purple curtains of certain short stories in the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
Tom Burr, Deep Purple, 2000
The title of Tom Burr’s exhibition, Gravity Moves Me, pays homage to Carl Andre, another great figure, along with Richard Serra, of Minimalism. With his works composed of steel plates aligned directly on the ground, Carl Andre has conditioned the relationship of the spectator to the work by demolished several of the principle characteristics of sculpture, including verticality, gesture, the material and the autonomy of the work, and by advancing the idea that the sculpture is the site of the work. The project that Tom Burr has developed at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne undertakes to question and test these ideas.
Similarly, the long ramp extending from the ground floor of the FRAC appears in direct reference to Seedbed, the legendary performance that Vito Acconci produced in 1972 at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York, where, lying under a ramp for three weeks, he masturbated 8 hours a day while murmuring fantasies that the visitors inspired in him, and which were re-broadcast on speakers. The artist was at that moment both producer and receiver of the pleasure of the work. Tom Burr’s bare wood ramp becomes the medium of a fractured narration. Just like the series of walls that inhabit and literally cloak the exhibition, it also represents a hybrid form of previous works, including the platforms, the mural pieces entitled “Bulletin Boards”, and the room dividers. Though it shares some formal similarities with the platforms, the ramp also constitutes a pictorial surface that one might more easily imagine hung on a wall. Such arrangements recur throughout the exhibition. The walls here are covered, enveloped, protected, indeed, swathed in heavy fabrics, and seem to practically dance throughout the exhibition spaces. They echo a series of “skirts” revealing the nudity of these spaces, which would otherwise have escaped our attention.