Tom Burr poses in front of the work 'As Águas de Março' (the body in bed), 2019. PHOTO: Ricardo Kugelmas

The American artist Tom Burr takes to the stables of EAV Parque Lage, in Rio de Janeiro, an exhibition Helio-Centricities, first performed in the auroras, in Sao Paulo. The opening takes place on Saturday, November 3, from 10 am, and the visitation period extends until December 8.

Two unpublished works, specially made for the exhibition at Parque Lage, will also be in the show, being an installation and a video. Check out the article published on our website at the time of the exhibition in São Paulo. Initiative is a partnership between the institution in Rio de Janeiro and the auroras:

“I was really interested in doing this exhibition, connecting these dots between myself and Brazil,” says American conceptual artist Tom Burr, who presents the solo show Helio-Centricities, in auroras, space located in Morumbi. This desire of his can be easily explained by his enthusiasm for art made in Brazil, especially between the 50s and 70s, a period in which our art was very permeated by what was made in North America. But one Brazilian artist in particular always caught Tom's attention: Helio Oiticica, with whom he created relationships in the works that are in the exhibition and even brought to the title.

Tom and Ricardo Kugelmas, owner of Auroras, met through a mutual friend in New York approximately five years ago and have become close ever since. Ricardo's contact with Bortolami Gallery, which represents Burr in the US, made them start thinking about doing something together. The artist says that it is his first time in Brazil and he was very excited about the possibility of having an exhibition here. In less than three weeks, the artist produced, while living at the auroras main house, the series of works that make up the individual: “I preferred to do the works here because I tend to work as a response to the spaces where I am and also because I ship art It's very expensive,” says Burr.

A série Spatial Constraints, produced with t-shirts previously used by the artist, book pages and steel pegs on wood was already something that he had planned for the exhibition, as it brings traces of an idea already remarkable in his work, but always executed in a different way. In this batch, Tom varied by adding the pages of books, all of them with information about situations involving sex. Burr's inclination to work with themes that oppose conservatism is well known throughout his career.

Another novelty is that these pieces are bigger than the ones he usually produces: “I wanted to make bigger ones because I wanted to be able to put other materials. But I didn't know what yet." He says he wanted to find something that would serve the work, and himself, and his body, and Helio's body, among other thoughts that came to him. Tom also imagined a way of posing himself in relation to cultural issues. queer and sexuality: “A parallel between what is happening now here and in the United States, are very similar situations in terms of this type of setback, conservative setback”, he comments.

For these purposes, he visited a series of second-hand bookstores looking for old books: “I found these books from mid-1978/79, which were not written from an 'us' perspective, it was always about the other. They were books created to talk about other people. They had a bit of 'soft porn' so they had a lot of pretty pictures of young straight couples and they always had a chapter on 'the deviants', the gays, the lesbians, 'the pederasts'. I thought that was a kind of humor, but it's like a cage." When he found the book that contained the yellow pages, he thought it was ideal because it did two things at the same time: “It gave the work more information and it had the Portuguese language, which was something I wanted to put in”. The yellow was special because it reminded him of Oiticica: “It's the strong yellow he's known for, but it's also my yellow”.

the canvas-sculpture Helium-Screen, on the other hand, it was an idea conceived when it was already established in the house. It is inspired by works by Helio Oiticica, especially Metaesquemas and a drawing that Tom found in 1957 (“it’s the same year this house was built!”), but it is also within the scope of modus operandi already mentioned by the artist, to respond to spaces. Positioned in front of a door that leads to an external environment, like a barrier, the piece also recalls the feeling of security that the artist observed in that space where he spent weeks: “I thought a lot about the relationship of the house with security, with the privacy, with that kind of neighborhood, with protectionism. All bars, all gates.” For him, this brings an idea of ​​New York in the 70s, where the idea of ​​suffering from potential crime was being permeated by people. In it, Tom also works with the idea of ​​the black shutters on the windows on the second floor of the house, in which the passing of light caught his attention. He jokes that the images created by this phenomenon made him use Instagram's stories feature for the first time ("a part of the exposure that disappears").

In the ones entitled As Águas de Março (the plan of the house) and As Águas de Março (the body in bed), he explains that it was a fun story. The dark, gray blankets that make up the pieces were materials he always used, but he wanted to use different things. It happened, however, that Ricardo had two of these blankets in storage, which he had brought from New York. The unique situation and the continuation of the idea of ​​things that had to do with the house made Tom choose to use these blankets.

“I found myself thinking that I wanted to do something that had to do with the windows [of the rooms in the auroras property], I kept thinking about the shutters. I thought about curtains, about modernist curtains. And so I went to see Lina Bo Bardi's Casa de Vidro and got attached to the curtains there”. The artist went in search of that type of fabric, but he thought it wouldn't work very well, there in the same store he saw fabrics blackouts, in which he was immediately interested (“it meant a lot, blocking the light, Helio…”, he laughs). The juxtaposition of Blackout with the blankets that Ricardo had brought the artist a good feeling: “They have a strange, almost perverse kind of perception, which I like. It is as if sensual skin is rubbing against the blanket.” At that moment, it was decided that it would also be like this for another reason: it would bring a little bit of Tom in the USA, with the blanket, and a little bit of Tom in Brazil, with the blackout.


About his relationship with the idea of ​​personalities that inspire him, Burr says that it wasn't always like this. When he started, he did work on public spaces, parks and physical spaces, but he never had a specific subject. In the 2000s, he made the work Deep Purple, a kind of wall made of wood, steel and purple paint: “It was an appropriation of a piece by Richard Serra, Tilted Arc. I believe this was the first time I took on a character, that it became material. Richard Serra became part of my project.”

Over time, the artist realized that more and more people wanted to know about his relationship with the people he took as characters, but he had always used what he called “white male daddies”. That's when he started to appropriate some figures queers, which could be closer to him and for which he had a certain curiosity to be “confused”, with the writer Truman Capote being the first on this list. “I started thinking about personas. And then at other times Jim Morrison was in my work, Kate Bush was in my work. And these figures keep coming… It's always about figures that interest me, but it's never about me exalting someone.”

It is at this juncture that Helio Oiticica introduces himself to Burr: “He is interesting to me for many reasons. I think somehow when I was younger I was more interested in [Lygia] Clark than I was Oiticica for the sake of formalism. But then I became interested in him because he was a little confusing as a character, and also because he was queer“, he explains. There was no doubt, therefore, that Helio would be the persona with whom his work would converge in his first exhibition in Brazil: “And he went to New York, and I came here. And then I thought it was a time opposite to where we are now. He was believing in freedom. And I think we are in a different place now”, comments Tom, who links this both to the issue of excess security, which he has already spoken about when citing his impression of the property and the region that shelters the auroras, and also to the climate. political, in which he feels that things are regressing in many ways.

“But Helio is also an interesting figure to be close to me. I thought of him in a romantic way, I wanted to be like him. It's like when you lose yourself in someone else, when you have this incredible crush on someone and you lose part of yourself, and you want to be like that other person,” Tom develops. For him, this is a kind of narcissism. And that's what he really wanted to happen during the production of these works of art. Helio-Centricities: confuse oneself with the persona.





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