Gagosian Shows Radical Conceptualist Chris Burden for Frieze Viewing Room Los Angeles
Chris Burden, The Hidden Force, 1995
Concrete, aluminum, magnets, and water, in 3 parts
Each pool: 36 x 108 x 108 in.
91.4 x 274.3 x 274.3 cm, © 2021 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
So, just as we thought the successful vaccination programs were moving us towards that proverbial light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel, yet another new term in the COVID lexicon has emerged: the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” This means that what might have been a robust return to physical events in 2021, instead finds us anxiously looking ahead to next year.
To wit, the third edition of Frieze LA will be taking place in a new location – 9900 Wilshire Boulevard, adjacent to the Beverly Hilton Hotel – from February 17 – 20, 2022. In the interim, the Frieze Viewing Room, Los Angeles Edition (July 27 – 31) will be digitally exhibiting works from 47 galleries, both local and international, concurrently with Gallery Weekend Los Angeles. And decisively capturing the current cultural zeitgeist, the Viewing Room will feature a special digital art section, curated by Venus Lau, and boasting new commissions by Peng Ke, Nik Kosmas, Liu Chuang, aaajiao and Lu Yang – all available for purchase as, of course, NFTs.
But a particular highlight will be Gagosian’s showing of a survey of works by the late Chris Burden, whose radical socio-political fearlessness might just hold a very relevant message for these times of significant panic, fear and bitter division. The controversial American conceptualist would have turned 75 this year, but tragically succumbed to melanoma in 2015, aged just 69.
Burden will surely be forever known as the artist who in 1971 asked an assistant to shoot him in the arm at the Santa Ana gallery F-Space, for a performance piece pithily titled Shoot. Said shoot ultimately went a bit wrong (Who could have guessed?), and Burden suffered a wound more significant than he had actually planned for; but it proved how far he was willing to go to make a statement, which at the time had to do with drawing attention to the horrifying violence of the Vietnam War. Two years later, he would have photographer Terry McDonnell film him firing shots at a Boeing 747 as it took off from LAX.
Gagosian, mercifully, is not planning to re-enact any of this as a livestream for Frieze LA. Rather, the gallery’s Viewing Room will feature ink-on-paper drawings and site-specific sculptures. Notably, The Hidden Force (1995), a sculptural installation first assigned him by the Washington State Arts Commission, will be recreated by the Burden Estate. For it, Burden himself had installed three circular pools near the cellblocks of the now defunct McNeil Island Corrections Center, metaphorical “compasses” if you will, meant to evoke the invisible forces that guide people’s decisions on their moral journey through life. A long way, conceptually, from taking a bullet for art.
The poignance of the work could certainly be tied to the ethical struggles of the current pandemic, especially as political opportunism continues to impel people towards dubious and dangerous decisions regarding the health and safety of their own communities. Art, as ever, capturing something deeply visceral about the tragic human condition.
The Chris Burden exhibition will be on view at Frieze.com and Gagosian.com through July 31. Gagosian will also publish Poetic Practical: The Unrealized Work of Chris Burden, a comprehensive illustrated volume of his unfinished works of art.