NEW YORK, NY.-
This October, the New Museum
presents Chris Burden: Extreme Measures, an expansive presentation of Chris Burdens work that is the artists first New York survey and his first major exhibition in the US in over twenty-five years. Burdens epoch-defining work has made him one of the most important American artists to emerge since 1970. Spanning a forty-year career and moving across mediums, the exhibition presents a selection of Burdens work where physical and moral limits are called into question. Chris Burden: Extreme Measures is on view from October 2, 2013, to January 12, 2014.
Occupying all five floors of the Museum, Extreme Measures offers an extraordinary opportunity to examine the ways in which Burden has continuously investigated the breaking point of materials, institutions, and even himself. The exhibition also features an ambitious installation of two iconic works on the exterior of the Museum, which alter the visual landscape of Lower Manhattan. Twin Quasi Legal Skyscrapers (2013), each measuring thirty-six feet in height, have been erected on the roof of the building. The two structures speak of the constantly evolving nature of the urban landscape while also evoking the lost Twin Towers. Ghost Ship (2005), a thirty-foot double-ended vessel originally designed to sail a four-hundred-mile unmanned voyage guided by computer, hang on the Museums façade like a lifeboat at the ready. Burdens exterior sculptures will remain on view for a year as part of the New Museums ongoing Façade Sculpture Program.
Over the past four decades, Burden has created a unique and powerful body of work that has redefined the way we understand both performance and sculpture. His early works of the 1970s remain some of the most extreme and influential performances of the era. These iconic works continue to inspire artists through Burdens radical approach, not only to the body but also to issues of power, control, desire, and repression, and their connections to larger social and political concerns. In the late 1970s, series of ambitious sculptures of increasing size and complexity that chart dense political and historical relationships, and register the depth of our mechanical and technological imagination.
At the New Museum, the exhibition features a selection of Burdens work focused on marvels of engineering, such as buildings, vehicles, war machines, and bridges, consistently engaging with the representation of masculinity and the destructive potential latent in engineering pursuits. The Big Wheel (1979), a pivotal early work marking the artists transition from performance to sculpture, presents a six-thousand-pound cast-iron fly wheel that becomes activated by a motorcycle. When the motorcycle is accelerated at full throttle, the fly wheel spins to a maximum speed of two hundred rpm. Three examples of different bridge models also are featured in the show, including Mexican Bridge (1998), built through a laborious and intricate process with Meccano and Erector metal toy construction parts, and two new works, Three Arch Dry Stack Bridge, ¼ Scale (2013), where the cinderblock structure is held up without mortar by the force of gravity alone, and Triple 21 Foot Truss Bridge (2013), a fifty-nine-foot-long cantilever bridge. L.A.P.D. Uniforms (1993), made in response to the Los Angeles riots that followed the beating of Rodney King, speak to Burdens critical engagement with authority figures, the military, and those occupying positions of power. These themes are also explored in a dazzling construction composed of 625 miniature cardboard submarines that, when it was created in 1987, fully represented the pieces title: All the Submarines of the United States of America. Since the early 1980s, Burden has used materials common to childhood playtime activities (such as action figures, toy trains, and construction models) to create miniaturized yet monumental models of buildings and environments. A Tale of Two Cities (1981) is a particularly remarkable example of these large-scale tableaux, depicting two city-states at war. The massive installation is made out of over five thousand toy and model pieces, live plants, and heaps of sand, taking the childs war game to another level of complexity, obsession, and absurdity. These works are being presented along with documentation of Burdens early performances, video works, and other ambitious installations that rigorously test the artist, the viewer, and the institution, and challenge our beliefs and attitudes about art and the contemporary world.
Chris Burden (b. 1946 Boston, MA) currently lives and works in Los Angeles. He attended Pomona College and received his MFA from the University of California, Irvine, in 1971. He had a major survey exhibition at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA, in 1988 and at MAKAustrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, in 1996. His work was presented in the 48th Venice Biennale and at the Tate Gallery in 1999. In 2008, the Public Art Fund presented WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME, one of his skyscraper sculptures, at Rockefeller Center in New York City.