Tom Burr / Grips

May 19 – Aug 28, 2016

For his second solo show at Sommer Contemporary Art, American artist Tom Burr will exhibit new works in his recent series called ‘Grips’. Burr’s diverse practice, which includes sculpture, collage, installations and writing, draws from minimal and conceptual traditions as well as from contemporary architecture.


The ‘Grips’ series includes objects made of hot rolled steel. These are sculptural collages, combining the partly oxidized surface with mirror-like polished stainless steel, glass, and images printed on stainless steel panels. These panels, some large, some intimately small, are geometrically punctured, creating empty frames. They will be exhibited along the walls of the gallery, encompassing a central piece made of a large glass panel.  Positioned between the two columns of the gallery, this panel will be gripped by two steel braces.


The word ‘grip’, meaning to seize or hold firmly, may also refer to emotional or intellectual grip. A grip can be passionate and loving or violent and suffocating. The word also contains physical and sculptural qualities; it is a meeting point, a place where one form holds or carries the other. A grip is also a device used in filmmaking, and Burr’s Grips indeed bare cinematic qualities: steel plates carrying still images, or ‘frames’. The images, taken by Burr with a simple iPhone camera, create a kind of anecdotal, dismantled urban narrative.


This narrative is duplicated in the gallery space itself. The Grips, referring to human dimensions, grip the viewer – they create a reflexive environment, in which, much like our contemporary urban surroundings filled with mirror towers, the viewer is constantly echoed. Burr’s previous works explored the privatization of public spaces and means of surveillance, at a time when the distinction between private and public was still present. The current ‘Grips’ series mirror the collapse of these spaces in a time of self-surveillance and urban isolation, a time when shiny artworks become a Selfie photo-op.


Tom Burr (b. 1963, New Haven, Connecticut) lives and works in New York. He studied at the School of Visual Arts, New York and the Whitney Independent Study Program. He exhibited solo shows and participated in group shows at major international institutions such as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2016), MUMOK, Vienna and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014), Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2012), 12th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2011), the Hayward Gallery, London (2010), the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2009), Sculpture Center, New York (2008) and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2002). His work is included in collections of institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Baltimore Museum and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. His anthology of writings ‘Anthology: Selected Writings 1991-2016’ was published recently by Sternberg Press.