Victor Burgin: Photopath — Around
At Conceptual Projects, we are pleased to announce a new series of articles called ‘Around’.
Every month we will be bringing a short article exclusively on Medium reviewing photography exhibitions that are taking place in museums, institutions, project spaces and commercial galleries. Independently from its location, we will scout inspiring shows for our audience and bring them to you in a review format. With these short articles we encourage everyone to visit exhibitions regularly as they are incredibly important to stimulate debate and knowledge.
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The first show that we want to highlight takes place at The Bowery in Lower Manhattan, New York City. If you want to visit the show you will have to head to 219 and go up to the second floor. There you will find Cristin Tierney, a contemporary art gallery committed to promoting critical thinking. The gallery focuses its program mainly on conceptual art, video and performance, and photography has a pivotal role in some of its presentations.
Their current exhibition, Victor Burgin: Photopath caught our attention due to the remarkable role that Burgin had in the late 1960s as a conceptual artist. The British photographer had an innovative approach to photography at that time, combining concept and text, and exploring the materiality of the images.
Photopath (1967–69) is a great example of this investigation and remains one of the artists’ most renowned pieces. The work was made shortly after he graduated from Yale University in 1967. The importance of this exhibition at Cristin Tierney and the reason why we consider it is an unmissable opportunity to review (or maybe for some of you to rediscover) his work is that the show marks the first time Photopath has been exhibited in New York City in the last 50 years.
During those college years, Burgin was rethinking the materiality of the object in art. He started including text to his works as a way of escaping the physicality of art. Burgin realised that in order to complete this particular artwork, he needed to establish it in between the idea and the object itself. That’s one of the reasons that drove him to include a simple set of instructions describing the work.
These instructions automatically define the initial attitude that the audience will have with the artwork. From now on, their reaction will be different and the behaviour towards the work will be biassed. This is what makes Photopath not just an artwork in between the physical and the abstract concept, but also represents a challenge for the medium itself. Nowadays we already acknowledge most of these ideas, but by that time Burgin’s practice was revealing the artistic potential of photography by pushing its boundaries.
Alongside the exhibition room, a series of photographic prints are laid from side to side. A path can be clearly seen thanks to the natural light that enters the space. Its disposition unconsciously guides the visitor without giving too many instructions but leaving them with some questions. This performative and site-specific character adds a new conceptual perspective to the work.
To commemorate Victor Burgin’s career and the importance of Photopath for opening new ways of conceptual exploration in photography, British curator and writer David Campany approached the artist in order to publish a short book which was finally launched in 2022 by MACK. The book expands the understanding of a work that has been exhibited on very few occasions since its inception.
Victor Burgin: Photopath | Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York, January 20 — March 4, 2023
Hope you enjoyed the article and if you want to discover more about emerging photography. Visit our website for more information and make sure you follow us on Medium!
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Juan Blasco — Founder & Curator of Conceptual Projects