Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chris Burden at the New Museum

It was a gorgeous, summer day in early October when John and I visited the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery to see a retrospective of the work of Chris Burden. The show was called Chris Burden: Extreme Measures and I must admit that we were expecting the controversial performance artist of the 1970s who shot himself, crawled through glass and had himself crucified on a Volkswagen bug.
But when we approached the museum we were greeted by new, very different artworks; Twin Quasi Legal Skyscrapers (2013) atop the museum and Ghost Ship (2005) on the facade. The later sailed unmanned using computerized navigation from Fair Ilse to Newcastle on Tyne.
John and I enjoyed The Big Wheel (1979) in which a 3 ton flywheel is revved into action by a motorcycle ridden by a staff-member. Once it's spinning the wheel will keep moving for the next 2 1/2 hours apparently.
Mr Burden's work seems very imbued with his interest and training in engineering and exudes his wonderful sense of humour.
John particularly liked Burden's reproductions of L.A.P.D. uniforms and weaponry for imaginary 7 foot officers.
I got to be the "human scale" element although I admit that I'm a short version of the human scale.
Beehive Bunker (2006) is the artist's vision of a bullet-shaped inexpensive defensive structure to house three soldiers within a simple structure made of bags of concrete which would be wet down with a hose to become the solid bunker.
I myself liked All the Submarines of the United States of America (1987). The 625 cardboard submarines are suspended in an oval school. Simple, fun and amazing to see.
Porsche with Meteorite (2013) balances a 390 lb meteorite with a 2180 lb "Poor man's" Porsche.
Three Arch Dry Stack Bridge, 1/4 scale (2013) uses an 1880s German synthetic stone block building system used by young engineers to build this model without using mortar.
Who can resist Chris Burden's suspension bridge made entirely of Meccano set pieces. The inner boy and the engineer at play.
Pair of Namur Mortars (2013) exactly reproduces functioning 17th century mortars with 18" diameter cannonballs. Terrifying weaponry!
The exhibition ends with the wildly fanciful and chilling A Tale of Two Cities (1981), which uses robot, military and soldier toys to represent warring nations. Those exotic houseplants seem to allude to recent warfare in the Middle East. The game of war.
We left the New Museum with a new appreciation and enthusiasm for the ongoing creations of Mr Burden. Roberta Smith recently published a rave review for the New York Times.
On until January 12, 2014. Go see!


  1. Just what we thought, Shelley. Why have we lost touch with his work? It's great!