Artist Chris Burden’s Extreme Measures at the New MuseumPosted on October 7, 2013 | by David Bologna
A motorcycle starts and its throttle is pushed to its maximum. The 6,000 pound wheel that once rested upon the bike’s back tire suddenly begins to spin chaotically. The Big Wheel continues on its own for another three hours. Outside, the 30-foot Ghost Ship precariously hangs over the edge of a building’s exterior. These pieces are both parts of the New Museum’s current art exhibit, “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures.”
Burden, an active artist since the early ’70s, was first known for his performance art. The museum features a compilation of many of these performances, and while some are incredibly interesting to watch, the graphic videos push the limits of its audience with pieces like Through the Night Softly, where Burden crawls naked across 50 feet of broken glass. After the 1970s, Burden’s work evolved to visual art, which is what he continues to create today.
In this museum exhibit, his first New York survey, Burden displays his sculptures that seem to push every possible limit, especially the laws of physics.
“Every piece in this exhibit is a universe unto itself with its own demands, its own needs, and its own requirements,” director of the New Museum Lisa Phillips said. “Many of the pieces are tough to install [and] difficult to move.”
For his piece A Tale of Two Cities, Burden’s team spent three weeks installing 6,000 meticulously placed toy figures to create a battle scene that spans over a quarter of the gallery’s second floor. Not only does this war involve comedic armies of Transformers, but its chaotic effects are seen throughout the entire city with buildings mapped out in scrutinized geography. This playful imagination of a child’s take on war resonates the extremist qualities of Burden’s work.
An additional juxtaposition lies in the drastic piece Porsche with Meteorite. The piece shows a fully restored 1974 Porsche and an actual meteorite suspended on opposite sides of a giant metal structure evoking the image of a scale. The two figures hang equally but immediately question the alien world of nature and the familiar inventions of humanity.
“I was working at the Whitney … and tried to bring [an exhibit of Burden’s] to New York at that time, 1988, and there was very little support. It never came … which was a real tragedy,” Phillips said. “It’s taken this long to get here, and I’m so proud the museum was able do this.”
Three Arch Dry Stack Bridge is another piece by Burden, but this piece shows a quarter scale construction of white concrete blocks erected without mortar — only gravity holds this structure up.
“My favorite pieces were probably the bridges,” Gallatin freshman Smritaa Massey said. “It’s so miraculous … I love that it’s so structured and plain yet still artistic.”
“Chris Burden: Extreme Measures” will be on display at the New Museum at 235 Bowery until Jan. 12, 2014.
David Bologna is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.