At Rockefeller Center
Presented by Public Art Fund
Hosted by Tishman Speyer
June 11 – July 19, 2008
"I have always wanted to build a model skyscraper using Erector parts. This summer, internationally renowned artist Chris Burden will exhibit a new sculpture at Rockefeller Center in New York — WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME, a dramatic, 65-foot-tall skyscraper made entirely of toy construction parts. Standing more than six stories tall at the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Channel Gardens, WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME will pay homage to the historic skyscrapers that populate New York and give the city its iconic architectural presence. WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME will be on view, free and open to the public, from June through July 2008. The exhibition is presented by the Public Art Fund and hosted by Tishman Speyer, co-owners of Rockefeller Center.
The model skyscraper, built from a toy and 65 feet in height, takes
on the dimensions of a full sized building. The circle of actual buildings
inspiring a toy in 1909, which is then used to build a model skyscraper
the size of an actual building in 2008, is a beautiful metamorphosis."
WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME will be by far the most complex artwork that Chris Burden has ever made, comprised of approximately one million stainless steel parts that are replicas of Erector set pieces, the popular 20th-century children's building toy. Over the past decade, the artist has been using these specially stamped stainless steel metal parts based precisely upon those of the original Erector set to create complex and elegant sculptures of bridges. Intricately engineered to support and bear enormous weight, Burden's colossal toy constructions showcase the versatility, simplicity, and strength of their unassuming parts, combining technical sophistication with a child-like enthusiasm: building for building's sake.
In 1912, an inventor named A.C. Gilbert created the first Erector set, inspired by the steel framework of skyscrapers that he saw under construction in New York City, then at the height of a building boom. The Erector Mysto Type I — the first set Gilbert made — was a collection of small metal girders, which could be assembled with miniature nuts and bolts. Burden's fascination with this original — and now rare — building kit led him to create his own replica parts, fashioned in stainless steel and electro-plated to produce a polished nickel finish in order to make them weather — and rust — resistant.
Despite being constructed with toys, WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME will take on the dimensions of a full-scale building. Burden anticipates that its construction will require approximately one million parts total, and that the sculpture will weigh over seven tons when complete. Models and collectibles have long been important in Burden's work, reflecting his fascination with humankind's industrial ingenuity and creativity, investigating relationships between power and technology, nature and society, and enlightenment and destruction.
About the Artist
Chris Burden was born in 1946 in Boston, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. He attended Pomona College, Claremont, California (BA, 1969) and University of California, Irvine (MA, 1971). In addition to his sculptures and installations, Burden is well-known for his live endurance works of the early 1970s, including Shoot (1971), the legendary performance in which he had a friend shoot him in the arm, and Five Day Locker Piece (1971), where he spent five days and nights in a school locker. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Burden moved away from body works to create a series of monumental kinetic sculptures involving engines and hydraulics, reflecting a fascination with engineering, invention, and technology that continues to influence his work today. Recently, Burden permanently installed 202 vintage streetlights outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in a piece titled, Urban Light (2008) to inaugurate its new Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM).
Burden has held recent solo exhibitions at South London Gallery (2006); Gagosian Gallery, New York and Beverly Hills (2007 and 2004); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England (2002); Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (2002); Gagosian Gallery, London (2002); Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2000); and Tate Gallery, London (1999).
Organized by Public Art Fund and Hosted by Tishman Speyer. Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer would like to thank Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills.
Chris Burden's WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME will be exhibited at Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, at the end of Rockefeller Center's Channel Gardens.
Other Public Art Fund projects at Rockefeller Center: Anish Kapoor and Jonathan Borofsky.
Chris Burden is an artist living and working in LA, California. He pioneered (championed?) performance art during the 70’s in LA. He took things to extremes using his body as the art object.
He had himself shot for one unforgettable piece, called “shoot”. Pictured here.
He crawled chest first through broken glass on TV for a 20 second commercial spot he bought. He shot a pistol at a 747 in flight.
All this and more, way before “Jackass”. Not that Jackass is on the art tip, but their extremist approach and use/abuse of their bodies as an object to make comedy is similar to Burden’s approach to making art.
Really dope shit if you take time to look at his work.
He’s also created a lot of really interesting and influential sculpture. Maybe I’ll post some later.
Check him out on the all knowing internet or check out his recently released book, appropriately named “Chris Burden” ...
... Here, as in many of the early performances, Burden takes back the power over his own body by willfully assigning it to someone else.
The viewer also becomes a witness, as in Dead Man
in 1972, where Burden covered himself with a tarp lying in the road flanked by two flares. The flares would eventually burn out increasing the risk of the artist being run over by a car. In Trans-Fixed, 1974, the two nails that were used to crucify the artist to a Volkswagen car are preserved as a relic
. The Volkswagen was chosen because it was the car of the “people” and Burden wanted his crucifixion to liberate not just himself but everyone. In experiencing this type of pain and vulnerability firsthand, Burden is able to make it more familiar and, in turn, he demystifies the horror of such acts by making them knowable, both for himself and for the audience. As a result, the collective fears that society uses to keep people in order are exposed and the idea that the human body is governed by law is rendered impotent.
Burden said that his work is the “acting out of an idea, the materialization of the idea”. The performances demonstrate this in their unencumbered actions that vehemently avoid any move towards symbolism.
TITLE: Beehive Bunker
ARTIST: Chris Burden
WORK DATE: 2006
MATERIALS: Sacks of concrete
SIZE: Height: 285 cm
Diameter: 305 cm
STYLE: Contemporary (ca. 1945-present)
PRICE*: Contact Gallery for Price
Chris Burden with Beehive Bunker, 2006, at his home in Topanga Canyon.
Chris Burden has gone from the bad boy who got shot for his art
to an enlightened engineer with nothing left to prove.
By Eric Banks
Related: Video of Burden's Shoot and other performance art
Photo: Jonas Karlsson
Chris Burden tends to Metropolis II, a wildly kinetic sculpture involving 1,200 Hot Wheels
at his studio in Topanga, CA.
Chris Burden is leading me up the muddy path to the summit behind his studio. I'd spied an odd-looking sculpture at the top of the hill and asked him what the hell it was. It looked to be nothing less than a medieval Genoese watchtower. As we huff and puff, I begin to feel guilty for dragging him along to get a closer look, and fear that at any moment he and his roly-poly frame will begin a slick and dangerous descent.
The piece turns out to be an actual bunker, made of layered bags of cement left out in the rain. Burden gives me a boost to scale its slippery surface — it's been pouring for days in not-so-sunny California — so I can have a look at the manhole cover he incorporated as its roof. When lowered, it offers absolute protection from marauders or, for that matter, from the coyotes you can hear off in the hills ...
Burden never had children, but with What My Dad Gave Me, the installation that debuts this month in front of Manhattan's Rockefeller Center, his serious pursuit of kid stuff comes full circle. A 65-foot-tall "skyscraper" (it's really more the structural skeleton of one), the work is a demonstration of engineering might. It's built entirely out of Erector Set parts — specifically, the Mysto Erector Number 1, the inaugural one put out by inventor A. C. Gilbert in 1913 — and, once you count the nuts and bolts, contains a million components. Burden created replica parts from the originals and assembled the sculpture in three sections in his studio. So hulking are the resulting segments they had to be airlifted by helicopter out of the canyon in a West Coast version of the Jesus-flying-over-Rome scene in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, to be put together elsewhere in Los Angeles.
"To get it here, we'll have to close down Fifth Avenue," says Rochelle Steiner, director of New York's Public Art Fund, which is presenting the work. "One of the things I love and respect about Chris is that he's really hands-on — the sheer putting-together of a work of almost a million pieces. But it's also the hands-on mental thinking that goes into it. It's not like, 'I have an idea, can you figure out how to make it stand up?'"
Burden shows off the diamond-shaped patterns on one of his Erector Set pieces and points out their resemblance to those on the Turkish rugs draping the railing around the second floor of his hangar-like studio. "People were doing engineering long before it had a name," he says. "I mean, 'How do you build a castle?' 'Ask my grandfather, he knows how to build a castle.' How did a lot of this shit get built?" For him, the engineering impulse that lies behind What My Dad Gave Me is as sharp as steel Erector edges: His father was an engineer who worked at Rockefeller Center during the late fifties. Returning to the scene of his father's work with a boy's toy skyscraper must feel Oedipal, or Prodigal, or something ...
Stacy Bolton Communications
WHAT MY DAD GAVE ME
At Rockefeller Center Presented by Public Art Fund
and Hosted by Tishman Speyer
June – July, 2008
Chris Burden, What My Dad Gave Me
(artist rendering), 2008,
electro-polished stainless steel, 11'6” x 11'6” x 65',
© Chris Burden, 2008,
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery / Public Art Fund.
(L) Portrait of Chris Burden, © Lisa Eisner,
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery;
(R) Chris Burden, 65 Foot High Skyscraper,
Front view, 2008,
17 x 11 inches, ink on paper, Courtesy of the artist.
Chris Burden, What My Dad Gave Me
© Joel Searle, Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.