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Geelong, Victoria, Australia 1939 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1993

Mirror piece [installation] 1967 Description: An installation of 13 sheets of photocopied text (also exhibited as artist's book) and framed glass mirror

Collection Title: Mirror piece. New York: the artist, 1967
Page: collection record
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, installation, photocopy, printed in black ink; framed glass mirror Support: paper, glass
Edition State: published state
Impression: 31/35
Edition: edition of 35

Dimensions: sheet (each) 27.5 h x 21.4 w cm Frame 52.8 h x 37.5 w x 2.8 d cm installation 52.8 h x 330.7 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1978
Accession No: NGA 78.844.A-B.1-13
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Works on Paper, Sydney, 1978.

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle was born in Montauban, France, on 30 October 1861. He began work as a woodcarver in his father's joinery, but left Montauban in 1876 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse. Eight years later Bourdelle moved to Paris and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. However, he was not impressed by his teacher, Alexandre Falguière, and left the school shortly afterwards and for a while worked with Jules Dalou. He submitted a work to the Salon in 1884 and the following year his Salon submission received an honourable mention. He showed work at the Salon de la Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts and at the Salon au Champ du Mars for the first time in 1891 and thereafter regularly until 1922. Bourdelle was engaged as an assistant in the studio of Auguste Rodin in 1893 but at the same time established an independent reputation with his first major commission, Le monument aux morts de la guerre de 1870 at Montauban. In 1900 be began teaching, although his real frame as a teacher dates from 1909 when he joined the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1905 Bourdelle held his first solo exhibition at Hébrard Gallery, Paris. He travelled extensively between 1907 and 1909, visiting Geneva and Berlin, and in 1909 went to Prague to supervise an exhibition of his work. Bourdelle's work was included in many important exhibitions, including the 'International Exhibition of Modern Art' (the armory Show), New York, in 1913, and the Venice Biennale of 1914. He also received a number of important commissions, notably the reliefs for the façade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in 1911, the equestrian monument to General Alvéar in Buenos Aires (1913-23), and his monument to the poet Thadeusz Mickiewicz (1917-29) in Paris. A major exhibition of his work toured the United States in 1925, and a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, in 1928. Bourdelle died at Vésinet, near Paris, on 1 October 1929.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Ian Burn spent more than one third of his 30-year career overseas, where he was to have a key role in the development of international Conceptual Art. Often referred to as Idea Art, the emphasis was not on the work of art, but what it seems in the experience of the viewer.

Through Mirror piece, produced in New York in 1967, Burn explored the idea of looking and seeing, and demanded a new kind of attention and mental participation from the viewer. He purposely used common materials in this work to copy a household bathroom mirror. Burn felt that if the subject matter is familiar, then the familiar object, in this case the mirror, is seen but not looked at. This is further complicated as the reflective quality of the mirror actually denies the surface any observable substance. Instead the viewer, immediately confronted with his or her own image, cannot look past the reflection. To do so would require an ability to look at oneself seeing, thereby presenting a visual paradox.

What is it that we are looking at? By placing glass over the mirror Burn fragmented the image, the qualities of which he explored in the 13 photocopied pages mounted on card and framed alongside the mirror. Burn also included instructions on how to make the mirror piece, as he felt that, once the structure of the work of art was established, the idea could be repeated at random outside the artist’s involvement.

From 1965 to 1970, Burn produced a series of mirror and glass pieces as he continued to explore how we see things. The growth of Conceptual Art in Australia benefitted greatly through the direct link created by Australian artists like Burn, working in New York.

Barbara Poliness 2002

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002