"Chris Burden: Extreme Measures"

Art
Recommended
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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I’ve always thought that Chris Burden and Vito Acconci represented the yin and yang of late-1960s body art. Occupying opposite coasts, they both began as practitioners of performance, before switching to sculptural installations. Acconci, the poète maudit, tried to make sense of the human condition. Burden, the brash showman, threw a spotlight on the far limits of experience. Not surprisingly, Acconci has never received anything like this buildingwide New Mu survey of Burden’s work.

The exhibition recaps Burden’s career, from his start as a L.A. wunderkind—who, fresh out of grad school, became an star by getting himself shot in the arm and nailed to a VW, among other self-inflicted travesties. He matriculated to elaborate gizmos and models that celebrate mankind’s genius for building and destroying.

Burden’s performances are collapsed here into a series of three-ring binders holding photos, located in the museum’s officelike fifth floor. The preponderance of space is given to his later projects, which require explanatory texts to fathom. This includes the New Mu’s roof, on which sit a pair of latticed towers that evoke the WTC, but turn out to represent an oddity of L.A.’s building code.

Pieces such as Burden’s mobile of tiny submarines (representing all such vessels in the American fleet) and his giant flywheel propelled by a motorcycle hold up well enough in the New Mu’s cramped galleries. Offering gee-whiz pleasures, they demonstrate Burden’s pioneering role in making art as spectacle.

In the end, the impression Burden leaves is that he’s a big kid with a technocrat’s soul. I had hoped for something more.—Howard Halle

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Event website: http://newmuseum.org
Event phone: 212-219-1222
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