Burt Barr (1938-2016) was known for his use of traditional cinematic techniques to create simple but humorous videos. Characterized by minimal processes and presentations, use of the single take, 4:3 aspect ratio, and slow fade-ins and fade-outs, Barr’s work was the antithesis of most other contemporary video art. His works often punned, both verbally and visually, on conventions of filmmaking with videos like Slo Mo (1996), featuring a turtle moving in slow motion, and The Long Dissolve (1998), showing an ice cube slowly dissolving in a glass dish.
Burt Barr began making videos in the mid-1980s. These early works were shown at film festivals in Montreal, Berlin, Toronto, San Sebastian, Melbourne, and Rotterdam, as well as on PBS. In 1993 he made the transition to the installation works that have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide including solo presentations at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul.
From early in his career, Barr worked with personalities of the art world, many of them actors in various roles. Included in this group are Clarissa Dalrymple, Klaus Kertess, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Trisha Brown (his wife), Robert Rauschenberg, Elizabeth Murray, Cecily Brown, Billy Sullivan, Jessica Craig-Martin, Nessia Pope, Stephen Mueller, Carroll Dunham, Teresita Fernandez, Tim Davis, Ester Partegas, and “downtown” performers such as Willem DaFoe, Diane Madden, Lance Gries, Stephen Petronio, Jodi Melnick, Stanford Makishi, Jimena Paz, Roz LeBlanc, Mindy Myers, and Judith Sanchez-Ruiz. Working with these artists formed yet another dimension to the work – that of documentation of the art community during a particular time in New York City.
Barr was the recipient of grants from The Andrea Frank Foundation (1999), John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1998), The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (1996), The Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities (1984), WGBH/WNET (1987), Brooklyn Arts Council (1989), the National Endowment for the Arts (1983,1985,1988,1989,1993), the New York State Council on the Arts (1986,1989,1996), and The American Film Institute (1992).
Barr served as an Instructor of Film and Video Projects at the Pratt Institute, an Instructor of Creative Projects at New York University, and was a Visiting Artist at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He lectured at Cornell University, Ohio University, Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, Rhode Island School of Design, Parsons School of Design, the Museum of Modern Art, Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, CAPC Musée in Bordeaux, Anthology Film Archives, and Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.