Artist Chris Burden goes to 'Extreme Measures' at the New Museum in New York

New Museum New York
Capping off Chris Burden's retrospective at the New Museum - literally - is his 36ft tall structure on the museum's roof, 'Twin Quasi Legal Skyscrapers', 2013. Courtesy New Museum, New York.
(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for a major retrospective on home turf, but for American artist Chris Burden, the delay appears to be well worth it. The pioneering artist, who has enjoyed a prolific career spanning 40 years, is the centre of a major exhibition 'Extreme Measures' at New York's New Museum (opens in new tab), quarter of a decade since his last big US show. Bringing together an extensive collection of past and present works that encompass sculpture, video, performance and installation, the exhibition is an inspiring homage to the enigmatic artist and is set to throw him back into the fore.

Taking over all of the New Museum's five floors, 'Extreme Measures' is a demonstration of Burden's dexterity in working with different media. From kinetic sculptures like 'The Big Wheel' from 1979, which consists of a three-ton spinning flywheel (opens in new tab) powered by a 1968 Benelli 250cc motorcycle, to the performance piece 'Beam Drop' and its iterations (opens in new tab) in more recent works like 'Inhotim' and 'Antwerp' - all see 60 steel I-beams dropped into an excavation site filled with wet cement from over 100 feet high - the arresting works are powerful manifestations of Burden's thematic explorations, which touch on engineering, politics, authority and the military, among other themes.

While the kinetic works are undoubtedly dramatic, it is Burden's knack for installations that is truly wondrous (opens in new tab). 'All the Submarines of the United States of America' from 1987, for example, comprises 625 miniature submarines hanging by thin microfilaments from the ceiling. Each cardboard model corresponds to every US Navy submarine launched from 1897 to the year it was created. Across the room, a sprawling diorama made up of five thousand toy robots, vehicles and figures depict two cities at war in a sandy, rocky landscape - again serving as critical commentary for military authority.

Burden's newly unveiled works - two intricate, yet mammoth depictions of bridges made from concrete and Mysto Type I Erector parts (opens in new tab) respectively - also make the most of this life-like quality. Both constructions spread comfortably hinting back at Burden's study of architecture back in college.

Capping off the show (literally) is another installation on top of the New Museum building. Twin aluminium-frame skyscrapers, resembling the World Trade Centre towers and weighing 8,100 lbs each, stand majestically on the building's room, proving that time has done little to quell Burden's ambitious spirit. For that, we are grateful.

Chris Burden New Museum

'Ghost Ship', 2005, is also docked on the facade of the museum. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

Inside the museum, a video installation charts the original 400-mile semi-autonomous journey undertaken by the 'Ghost Ship' from Fair Isle to the mouth of the Tyne River in Britain. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

Burden's newly unveiled works for the show include two intricate bridge constructions. Pictured is 'Triple 21 Foot Truss Bridge', 2013. Courtesy New Museum, New York

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

'Three Arch Dry Stack Bridge, 1/4 Scale', 2013, a mortar-less bridge held together purely by gravity. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

Past works in the retrospective include: 'The Big Wheel', 1979. Collection The Museum of Contemporary Art Collection, Los Angeles

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

'All the Submarines of the United States of America', 1987, comprises 625 miniature cardboard submarines. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

'Mexican Bridge', 1998. Courtesy New Museum, New York. 

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

Installation view of 'Extreme Measures'. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

'Tower of Power', 1985. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Tale of Two Cities

'A Tale of Two Cities', 1981. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

The installation is comprised of two miniature cities made from approximately five thousand toys, sand, plants, and boulders. Courtesy New Museum, New York

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

'L.A.P.D. Uniforms', 1993. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Chris Burden New Museum

'The Rant', 2006. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

(Image credit: Benoit Pailley)

Beam Drop

'Beam Drop', 1984, Art Park, Lewiston, NY.

(Image credit: Chris Burden)

Ton Crane Truck

'1 Ton Crane Truck', 2009. 

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery)

Full Financial Disclosure

'Full Financial Disclosure', 1977. Los Angeles, California

(Image credit: Courtesy Baum-Silverman Gallery)

Dos Equis

'Dos Equis', 1972.

(Image credit: Barbara Burden)

ADDRESS

New Museum (opens in new tab)
235 Bowery
New York 10002

VIEW GOOGLE MAPS

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.