LAMA BLOG

Chris Burden: Imminent Danger

March 1, 2017

One of Southern California’s most provocative artists, Chris Burden (1946–2015) first exploded into the mainstream consciousness with his performance Shoot(1971). Burden was studying for his MFA at UC Irvine under Robert Irwin, when he invited a friend to shoot him with a .22 rifle from a distance of just 15 feet. In Trans-Fixed (1974), a similarly dramatic performance, Burden was crucified against a Volkswagen Beetle on Speedway Avenue in Venice, California. Such absolute commitment characterized Burden’s practice and he continued to make radical, often controversial, performances, sculptures, and installations throughout his five–decade career.

Los Angeles Modern Auction (LAMA)

Chris Burden, 747Bed Piece, and Prelude to 220 or 110(4) (detail), 1971-1973
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

These four gelatin silver print photographs: 747Bed Piece, and Prelude to 220 or 110(4) date from 1971–1973, a notable phase in Burden’s career when he created some of his most seminal work. Bed Piece documents a memorable performance in which the artist lay in a bed in an otherwise empty gallery for 22 days. Initially experienced as a tortuous confinement, Burden came to enjoy the performance after a few days. For visitors, the palpable tension created by the still body, on the verge of an ecstasy seemingly akin to death, had an enormously powerful psychological effect.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Chris Burden, 747Bed Piece, and Prelude to 220 or 110(4) (detail), 1971-1973
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

In 747, the artist can be seen shooting at an aircraft in the midst of takeoff, while in Prelude to 220 or 110, he lay bolted to a gallery floor with copper bonds whilst buckets of water containing 110 volt lines were arranged around him. The slightest disturbance by a viewer could have led to fatal injury. These performances share an interest in the psychological power of imminent danger, a principle driving much of Burden’s dramatic work, which remains as compelling today as when it was first created.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Chris Burden, 747Bed Piece, and Prelude to 220 or 110(4) (detail), 1971-1973
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 12
Chris Burden
747, Bed Piece, and Prelude to 220 or 110 (4)
1971-1973
Gelatin silver print
Each: #4 of 5
Each signed and dated with edition in felt-tip marker lower right sheet
Images/sheets each: 10.5″ x 13.5″ (or alternate orientation)
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Literature:  Chris Burden: A Twenty-Year Survey. P. Schimmel. 1988. 50, 55, 59.; Chris Burden: Beyond the Limits. D. Kuspit. 1996. 201, 205.
Estimate: $50,000 – $70,000

Cottom, Daniel. Unhuman Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2006. 1. Print.
Schröder, Johannes Luther. “Science, Heat and Time.” Chris Burden: Beyond the Limits. Ed. Peter Noever. Ostfildern: Österreichisches Museum Für Angewandte Kunst, 1996. 193-209. Print.
Carr, Craig. On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1993. 16. Print.

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