Lot 229: Chris Burden
Merry Christmas from Chris Burden
Image/sheet (irreg.): 12" x 9";
Frame: 17.25" x 15.25"
Literature: Burden, Chris, Anne Ayers, and Paul Schimmel. Chris Burden: A Twenty-Year Survey. Exhibition Catalogue. Newport Beach: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1998. pp 24, 79; Hoffman, Fred. Chris Burden. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007. pp 69, 373.
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In the late 1970s during the first phase of his career, the Los Angeles-based visual artist and sculptor Chris Burden (b. 1946) executed a group of projects that examined notions of transparency, openness, and identity.
Burden had employed numerous personae in documented performance pieces prior to executing his celebrated project Merry Christmas from Chris Burden (1976) and his installation Full Financial Disclosure (1976-77), critics noted: that of a daredevil sensation-seeker in Shoot (1971), when he arranged to have himself shot in the arm with a .22 caliber rifle; that of a servant in Garçon! (1976), where he acted as a waiter, fetching coffee for visitors to an art gallery. With Merry Christmas from Chris Burden, critic Anne M. Wagner wrote in Artforum, he became a "budding Mæcenas." Burden sent 100 specially printed envelopes containing a holiday greeting and a fresh $10 bill to fellow artists and acquaintances. "Was this a big gesture or a small one? The answer, like so much in economic relations, depends on where you stand," Wagner noted. "It is easy to imagine Burden's offering being quite carefully parsed by its beneficiaries, though whether gratefully or skeptically is harder to decide."
The following year Burden realized Full Financial Disclosure (1976-77), a slyly earnest endeavor that emerged in the context of the cynicism and mistrust engendered by Vietnam, Watergate, and a host of congressional sex, bribery, and fraud scandals. Burden executed Full Financial Disclosure in multiple media: a television commercial that ran 30 times in late-night slots on local L.A. stations in the autumn of 1977, concurrent with an exhibition at the Jan Baum-Iris Silverman Gallery. In the commercial, Burden soberly intoned: "In keeping with the Bicentennial Spirit, the post-Watergate mood, and the new atmosphere on Capitol Hill, I wish to be the first artist to publically make a full financial disclosure." TV graphics detailed his income and expenditures for 1976. The Jan Baum-Iris Silverman Gallery show consisted of Burden's cancelled checks and IRS filings for that year. Burden also produced a documentary booklet that offered a month-by-month accounting of his credits and debits. (Lot 228), a check to Burden's dealer at the time, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts for expenses incurred for the 1977 show C.B.T.V. [Chris Burden Television], was used as the cover image of the Full Financial Disclosure booklet.
Burden, Chris. Full Financial Disclosure. Jan Baum-Iris Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles 1977. Print.
Wagner, Anne M. "Then and There." Artforum International (2011): n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.