Press Release: Chris Burden

New Museum to Present First New York Museum Survey of Works by 
Chris Burden

Burden’s Most Extensive Presentation to date includes an 
Ambitious Installation on the Exterior of the New Museum

New York, NY…This October, the New Museum will present “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures,” an expansive presentation of Chris Burden’s work that is the artist’s first New York survey and his first major exhibition in the US in over twenty-five years. Burden’s 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 Burden’s work where physical and moral limits are called into question. “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures” will be 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 will also feature an ambitious installation of two iconic works on the exterior of the Museum, which will alter the visual landscape of Lower Manhattan. Two Small Skyscrapers (Quasi Legal Skyscrapers) (2003/2013), each measuring thirty-six feet in height, will be 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, will hang on the Museum’s façade like a lifeboat at the ready. Burden’s exterior sculptures will remain on view for a year as part of the New Museum’s 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 Burden’s 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, he began a 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 will feature a selection of Burden’s 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 artist’s 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 will also be 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 Burden’s 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 piece’s 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 child’s war game to another level of complexity, obsession, and absurdity. These works will be presented along with documentation of Burden’s 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.
The exhibition is organized by Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director, with Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, and Jenny Moore, Former Associate Curator.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by the New Museum and Skira Rizzoli and edited by Lisa Phillips and Jenny Moore. The catalogue includes essays by Johanna Burton, Thomas Crow, Amelia Jones, Jenny Moore, Guy Nordenson, Lisa Phillips, and Helene Winer, and artists Matthew Day Jackson, Tom Marioni, and Oscar Tuazon.
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 MAK–Austrian 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. 
“Chris Burden: Extreme Measures” is made possible through the lead support of the Henry Luce Foundation.
Major support is also provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Lonti Ebers and Bruce Flatt, Gagosian Gallery, Eugenio López, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Generous support is provided by the Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica, F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc., the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, LLWW Foundation, Catriona and Simon Mordant, Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation, Aby Rosen and Samantha Boardman, and Åke and Caisa Skeppner.
The International Leadership Council of the New Museum is gratefully acknowledged.
The publication for “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures” is made possible by the Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson Foundation.
About the New Museum
The New Museum is the only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to contemporary art. Founded in 1977, the New Museum is a center for exhibitions, information, and documentation about living artists from around the world. From its beginnings as a one-room office on Hudson Street to the inauguration of its first freestanding building on the Bowery designed by SANAA in 2007, the New Museum continues to be a place of experimentation and a hub of new art and new ideas.
Images (top to bottom): Chris Burden, The Big Wheel, 1979. Three-ton, eight-foot diameter, cast-iron flywheel powered by a 1968 Benelli 250cc motorcycle, 112 x 175 x 143 in (284.5 x 444.5 x 363.2 cm). The Museum of Contemporary Art Collection, Los Angeles; Chris Burden, Trans-fixed, 1974. Performance on Speedway Avenue, Venice, California: April 23, 1974. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery
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