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Author: Rainer Ganahl --- Date: 12/09/95 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Tom Burr
American Fine Arts, Co
22 Wooster Street, NYC
November 18 - December 16, 1995

Conceptually oriented artists tend to be either obsessed or dismissive towards the objects they use. In most cases somebody else produces the work for them using standard industrial materials. The function of these objects is often descriptive, illustrating of a set of ideas expressed more accurately by textual means. The ideological value of the present or absent texts is mainly to justify the uninteresting objects in their expository function which are as quickly to be interchangeable as produced. This explains why artists who pursue these strategies run the easy risk of ending up arrogant, cynical, arbitrary and formalist in their object choice and presentation. To be informed by an analytical and critical approach often doesn't change this trap. Previous shows by AFA and others have exemplified these failures.

A more satisfying relationship between text and objects is "staged" right now with the works of Tom Burr. Very well written texts address the social, architectural, and psychological space of the fluorescent, mirrored 42nd street milieu that one finds all over the "peep showed" world. The short instructive texts ("blue movies", "blue laws", "peep scumatrium" ...) open up a rich conceptual parenthesis which the artist filled with a series of uncompleted light interior short hand architecture in varying sizes. These wooden models fulfill in their simplicity not just the function of restaging these more masculine interior worlds (i. e. a very psychological environment of unfulfilled canned desires), but also play with the vocabulary of minimal art. The game with minimalism is very hot these days but only few know how to play this card that most artists fail at completely.

The very pleasant aspect of Tom Burr's show is that the artist, - of course, he also learned from the models of Dan Graham and others - researched the subject sufficiently and played well the difficult balance of abstraction and illustration. As opposed to his peers, Burr avoids the arrogance of the cynical, imposing, wooden gesture and the imbecile neo-Disney landing that capitalizes endlessly on the ridiculous.

-Rainer Ganahl

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Carol Broad --

Does the unity of the "minimalism" used by Burr to "illustrate/abstract" his experience of an architecturally heterogenous and soon to be destroyed area of New York (by the "neo-Disney landing") function in any way to relate to us his experience of that place? Or, if you didn't know it was about Times Square, you might think it just as anachronistic in other ways.

William C. Ryan --

Ranier Ganahl: My mother was a Ganahl, and I am always interested in the Ganahl side of my family, which is very extensive in the U.S. I would be interested in learning about you family and see if there are any holes in the family tree that can be plugged.