39 Walker Street, New York, NY 10013

Tom Burr and Andrea Zittel

Bortolami, New York

29 June – 11 August, 2017

Bortolami’s current exhibition, concrete realities, is a two-person exhibition by Tom Burr and Andrea Zittel. Since the 1990s, Burr and Zittel have trained their attention on the built environment, addressing questions of site-specificity, subjectivity, and the body. This exhibition focuses on their ongoing projects in sites outside of art world centres, which find the artists developing distinct, but congruent methods of tackling their overlapping spatial concerns.

Andrea Zittel founded A-Z West in the California High Desert near Joshua Tree National Park in 2000 as a “life project” in which all aspects of day to day living become the site of investigation into human nature and the social construction of need. Included in the exhibition are Tellus Interdum and Single Strand Forward Motion (both 2011), which make visible the patterns of everyday routines. For Tellus Interdum, Zittel replaces the articles in an issue of her local Yucca Valley newspaper with lorem ipsum placeholder text and applies the sheets to gallery walls in a loose grid formation. The work highlights the newspaper’s capacity to compartmentalize and routinize its ever-changing daily content. Single Strand Forward Motion extends this rumination on the ontological frameworks we inhabit. Each of Zittel’s Single Strand works is created according to a “ruleset” that then determines its defining pattern. The shapes of the works are never the same, but the rule-sets always result in visually identifiable geometries. More recent works in the exhibition include Parallel Planar Panels and Hard Carpets (both 2014) from an ongoing series that explores the subtle contextual shifts that establish a planar object’s identity and function. Put simply, panels on the floor become rugs or carpets while panels on the wall become fine art and thereby objects to be viewed, but not necessarily handled or used.

Tom Burr has produced six new bulletin board works related to his current Artist/City project, BODY / BUILDING, at the Marcel Breuer-designed office building in New Haven, Connecticut that was previously occupied by the Armstrong Rubber Company and the Pirelli Tire Company, and is now owned by IKEA. Burr, who was born in New Haven, weaves together images of cultural figures that have shaped the city’s past, including Jean Genet, Anni Albers, J. Edgar Hoover, and Jim Morrison. Pinned on wood boards with thumbtacks, the images form an oblique social network that merges with Burr’s own personal history. While often semi-autobiographical in nature, the new bulletin board works specifically address the confluence of urban development, modernism, and radical utopian political programs in New Haven during the 1960s and 70s, reflecting on the movements through the prism of their protagonists and the aspirations they have come to represent. Using an approach that balances formalism with intuition, Burr’s emotive grids provoke a contextual reading of history that brings to light overlooked associations.

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