Extended through March 12, 2016
It’s about trying to frame something. And to draw attention to it and say, “Here’s the beauty in this. I’m going to put a frame around it, and I think this is beautiful.” That’s what artists do. It’s really a pointing activity.
Gagosian New York is pleased to present Buddha’s Fingers (2014–15), one of the late Chris Burden’s last works.
Beginning with a series of startling actions in the early 1970s, Chris Burden challenged his own mental and physical limitations, as well as the boundaries of art and performance. Shut inside a locker for five days (Five Day Locker, 1971), shot in the arm (Shoot, 1971), and nailed through the palms of his hands to the roof of a car (Trans-fixed, 1974), he sought to reflect the violence that defined American politics, society, and media at the time. Burden soon channeled the daring spirit of these early performances into imposing technical feats that similarly explored challenges both individual and social. He uses toys (figurines, train sets, Erector parts) as the building blocks for expansive scale models of buildings, dystopic cities, and battlefields, while deploying actual vehicles (ships, trucks, and cars) in surreal and improbable ways.
Buddha’s Fingers (2014–15) is a dense cluster of thirty-two antique cast-iron vernacular street lamps, electrified with cool, bright LED bulbs and standing almost twelve feet tall. The work is related to Urban Light (2008), Burden’s celebrated permanent installation of 202 lamp posts, which stands at the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2000, Burden began collecting the street lamps that used to line residential streets in Los Angeles during the 1920s and 1930s, repurposing them as sculptural installations. In Buddha’s Fingers, the hexagonal lamp bases are set in a tight honeycomb formation. The whimsical title refers to the fingered citrus fruit “buddha’s hand,” a recurrent still-life motif and subject in classical Asian art, and a religious symbol of happiness, longevity, and good fortune.
The story behind Chris Burden’s Buddha’s Fingers (2014–15) and its connection to all of his streetlamp installations. Text by Sydney Stutterheim.
Gagosian Quarterly Films
Chris Burden: Big Wrench
From January 23 to February 21, 2019, Gagosian Quarterly presented a special online screening of Chris Burden’s 1980 video Big Wrench.
Sydney Stutterheim looks at the brief but feverish obsession behind this 1980 video by Chris Burden.
Deluxe Photo Book
Sydney Stutterheim discusses Chris Burden’s Deluxe Photo Book 1971–73 on the occasion of its inclusion in About Photography at Gagosian San Francisco.
Urban Light: A Ten Year Anniversary
Ten years ago LACMA premiered Chris Burden’s Urban Light, which has since become an iconic landmark for the city of Los Angeles. To celebrate the anniversary, we look back to 2008 with a conversation between Chris Burden and Michael Govan, director of LACMA.
Burden’s Airship Takes Flight
Sydney Stutterheim investigates Chris Burden’s Ode to Santos-Dumont (2015) as the work takes flight during Art Basel Unlimited 2017.