Spencer Brownstone Gallery launches its Fall program with our second one-person exhibition by Ian Burns. Burns’ acclaimed kinetic dioramas and ‘trompe l’oeil’ video works have engaged with subjects as diverse as the war in Iraq, TV culture, colonialism, and art history, and have been featured in important group and solo exhibitions worldwide. For ‘The Manner Of Work’ the artist summons the spirit of William Morris with a series of major new works that further Burns’ unique formulation of the hi-tech and the handcrafted.
The main gallery will be set up as a kind of fallen Victorian drawing room, replete with large chandelier, sublime mountainous landscape, and patterned wallpaper design. In ‘Himalayas’, a wall projection of misty mountaintops is rendered by a teetering stack of tables absurdly suspended from the wall. ‘The End of an Era’ is a chandelier of sixteen small monitors hanging from the ceiling, all displaying an image of a light bulb created by the perversely archaic method of a camera obscura. And in ‘Sanitary Gesture – Gray’, an abstract projected ‘wallpaper’ fills one wall with the patterns thrown by hand sanitizer smeared on the surface of an overhead projector.
All of these pieces develop, in varying ways, the artist’s signature ‘trompe l’oeil’ video work, where elaborate mechanized constructions created out of small motors and primitive electronics suddenly coalesce into a realistic image when fed to a monitor via a small camera and live video feed.
Also included will be a new series of large format photographs of (apparently) mountain, sea, and cloud landscapes, whose monumentality is undermined by accompanying small studio shots that reveal the often abject nature of the images’ construction. And the gallery’s back space will include multiple riffs on contemporary art, including three new live video feed works that re-imagine the classic land art projects of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Smithson, and De Maria from a mixed array of household plumbing and kitchen materials.
At the heart of the artist’s new work lies a concern with the gap between how images are constructed and how their end product is consumed. Noting the contradictory forces at play in the contemporary art world, where the ever more fragmentary art object of a contextual or ‘situational’ art practice coexists alongside a return to highly crafted drawings and paintings, Burns demonstrates how everything can ultimately boil down to a set of signs whose origin often seems arbitrary. We have clearly fallen some distance from Morris’ ideal of an integration of social and aesthetic agendas, and yet, through the ingenuity of his manipulation of materials and the acuity of his vision, Burns ultimately offers an upbeat assessment of the transformative potential of art.
Born in Newcastle, Australia, Ian Burns has been living and working in New York since completing his MFA degree at Hunter College in 2003. The artist had his first solo show at Spencer Brownstone Gallery in 2005 and, since then, has featured in major exhibitions including ‘Greater New York’ at PS1; The Turin Triennial, Castello di Rivoli, Turin; ‘Stereovision’ at South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa; and ‘New York State of Mind’ at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Ian will have his first one-person museum show at Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008, which will be accompanied by the publication of a major catalog.