See Chris Burden’s Gravity Defying Final Artwork at LACMA

Chris Burden passed away a week before the opening.

Chris Burden, model of <i>Ode to Santos Dumont </i> (2015) <br> Photo: © Chris Burden via Artfix Daily

Chris Burden, model of Ode to Santos Dumont (2015)
Photo: © Chris Burden via Artfix Daily

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is presenting a new work by Chris Burden completed shortly before his untimely death, on May 10, of melanoma (see Performance Art Legend Chris Burden Is Dead at 69).

The performance sculpture Ode to Santos Dumont will be on view for four weeks only, starting May 18.

Burden and LACMA had planned to exhibit the monumental sculpture already last month. LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg director Michael Govan previewed the kinetic airship performance with Burden and his machinist-collaborator, John Biggs, at Camarillo Airport.

The arrangements for the exhibition were finalized, but Burden passed away one week before the public opening.

Burden’s performance sculpture was conceived by the artist as an ode to innovation, optimism, and persistence in the face of failure.

The sculpture’s refined mechanism—which took a decade of experimentation to complete—is modeled on aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont’s airship that circled the Eiffel Tower in 1901. The famous flight of Santos-Dumont’s engine–powered, lighter-than-air dirigible was a momentous event in the history of human air travel.

During his five-decade spanning career, Burden—himself an ingenious thinker—pushed the boundaries of performance art, and sculpture, embracing challenges that tested endurance and technical complexity.

The new piece combines several recurrent themes in Burden’s oeuvre, such as vehicles, motion and action, and gravity and weight.

“Few artists can claim a body of work as rich, varied, and influential as Chris Burden—from his early, definitive and provocative performances to his large-scale installations and sculptures,” said Govan. “Personally, it has been a privilege and pleasure to work with Chris on the installation of two monumental works at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Urban Light and Metropolis II, two artworks that have become destinations for visitors of all backgrounds” he added.

The performance sculpture Ode to Santos Dumont will aviate indoors for 15-minute intervals several times a day.

“Chris Burden: Ode to Santos Dumont” will be on view at the LACMA from May 18, 2015–June 21, 2015.


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