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Small Skyscraper by artist Chris Burden towers over Pasadena, California
Chris Burden, Small Skyscraper (Quasi Legal Skyscraper), 2003. One Colorado installation shot in progress August 9, 2012. Photo: Gregory Michael Hernandez.

PASADENA, CA.- Armory Center for the Arts and One Colorado, in Pasadena, California, present Small Skyscraper, a temporary, large-scale, outdoor sculpture by world-renowned artist Chris Burden. Small Skyscraper will be sited in the One Colorado Courtyard, located in Old Pasadena, and will be on display from August 11 - November 11, 2012. In conjunction with ArtNight Pasadena, a free, city-wide arts festival, a reception will take place on Friday, October 12th, from 6 -10pm. Generous funding of Small Skyscraper comes from One Colorado.

“A modern-day log cabin”
Small Skyscraper is a sculpture as well as a prototype for a hypothetical dwelling. Described by Burden as “a modern-day log cabin,” Small Skyscraper represents a quasi-legal structure that exploits a loophole Burden discovered in the Los Angeles County building codes. This loophole, since closed, allowed small out buildings, like green houses and sheds, to be built without a permit if they stayed within 400 square feet and under 35 feet high. Small Skyscraper uses these legal size restrictions as a point of departure. The total structure, constructed with a prefabricated interlocking aluminum framework, consists of four rooms stacked one on top of the other, measuring 400 square feet and rising 35 feet in height. Even though Small Skyscraper strictly adheres to the County’s spatial requirements, it continues to push the legal and physical parameters of architectural construction because of added design features, such as a low roof parapet, and because it functions as a hypothetical domestic dwelling.

Small Skyscraper was conceived of in 1991while Burden was building a studio on his rugged, mountainous property in unincorporated Los Angeles County. Frustrated with navigating the labyrinth of Los Angeles County building codes, he sketched the first drawings of Small Skyscraper. Eight years later, architects Linda Taalman and Alan Koch of TK Architecture invited him to collaborate on developing actual building plans based on these provocative drawings. The work debuted at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in 2003, under the direction of Irene Tsatsos and project co-curator Julie Deamer; there it was installed sideways – the only way it would fit within the galleries – further blurring the boundaries between conceptual sculpture and architecture. Small Skyscraper was most recently exhibited in 2004 at Art Basel, the international art fair in Switzerland, where it was presented upright as originally conceived. It will now be shown this summer, in the Courtyard at One Colorado in Pasadena, CA, for the first time in the United States according to Burden’s original design.

According to Irene Tsatsos, Chief Curator at the Armory Center for the Arts, “The piece is a beautiful and provocative work of art that embraces and exploits tenets of architecture and design. Nearly ten years after its debut at LACE, Small Skyscraper continues to provoke consideration of the merits, conventions, and limitations of traditional dwelling spaces and serves as reminder of the growing and urgent need for affordable, portable shelter around the world.”

Chris Burden’s large and diverse body of work has confronted and upended art world conventions throughout his career into the present. The website of Gagosian Gallery, which represents Burden, notes: “During the early seventies, Burden’s first mature works were characterized by the idea that the truly important, viable art of the future would not be with objects; the things that you could simply sell and hang on your wall. Instead art would be ephemeral and address political, social, environmental and technological change. Burden, with his shockingly simple, unforgettable, ‘here and now’ performances shook the conventional art world and took this new art form to its extreme. The images of Burden that continue to resonate in public mind are of a young man who had himself shot (Shoot, 1971), locked up (Five Day Locker Piece, 1971), electrocuted, (Doorway to Heaven, 1973), cut (Through the Night Softly, 1973), crucified (Trans-fixed, 1974), and advertised on television (4 TV Ads, 1937–77). His work has subsequently shifted, focusing now on monumental sculptures and large scale installations, such as B-Car, 1975, The Big Wheel, 1979, A Tale of Two Cities, 1981, Beam Drop, 1984, Samson, 1985, Medusa’s Head, 1990, L.A.P.D. Uniforms, 1993, Urban Light, 2008 and Metropolis II, 2010. These works often reflect the social environments, make observations about cultural institutions, and examine the boundaries of science and technology.”

Chris Burden was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1946. He moved to California in 1965 and obtained a B.F.A at Pomona College, Claremont, California in 1969 and later an M.F.A at the University of California, Irvine in 1971. He has had major retrospectives at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, California (1988) and the MAKAustrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (1996). In 1999, Burden exhibited at the 48th Venice Biennale and the Tate Gallery in London.

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Small Skyscraper by artist Chris Burden towers over Pasadena, California

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