The Newport Harbor Art Museum's 1988 exhibition season is "95% to 100% certain" to have as its two highlights a 20-year retrospective of works by artist Chris Burden and a show devoted to American figurative artists of the 1950s, the museum's director said Wednesday.
The Burden show would run in the early winter, the second in the summer, according to museum director Kevin E. Consey, who said the museum has been working on the exhibits for about a year.
"I think it is fair to say that these will be our most important and extensive shows for the year," Consey said. "We are committing time and money to these exhibitions, and we don't do that if we don't anticipate a show will make it."
The figurative show, tentatively titled "The Figurative '50s," would include works by artists Alex Katz, Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers and Fairfield Porter.
Burden, an eclectic conceptual and performance artist, will create two new sculptures--to be titled "Spinning Dervish" and "Medusa's Head"--for the occasion, Consey said.
Burden is primarily known for putting himself in violent and threatening situations. According to a reference work entitled American Artists, he once had himself "crucified" on the hood of a Volkswagen and had himself shot in the arm with a rifle during a performance. In Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art he lay under an angled sheet of glass for 45 hours, in a conceptual piece he called "Doomed," and got arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department for another of his works.
Consey added that he was going to Washington today to talk to officials at the National Endowment for the Arts about support for the two shows. Consey will then stop in Philadelphia, where, he said, he hopes to finalize an agreement with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which has expressed interest in also exhibiting the figurative show and sharing in its costs.
Consey described the figurative show as a kind of sequel to the museum's recent exhibition, "The Interpretive Link," a critically well-received examination of themes shared by abstract Expressionists and abstract surrealists between 1938 and 1948. "In similar fashion, scholars have not yet explored in detail the relationship of figurative painters in the 1950s to abstract Expressionism and to the broader art world," Consey explained.
The Burden show, which Consey termed "a fairly important mid-career retrospective of a major California artist," is likely to be mounted by the Newport museum on its own. Total project costs for each of the two shows is likely to range between $200,000 and $250,000, Consey said. Extensive catalogues also are planned. The museum's most expensive show is its upcoming exhibition of modern Flemish art, budgeted at $320,000.
Other shows the Newport plans for 1988 include a series of exhibitions of up-and-coming California artists and the Third Newport Biennial, which will also focus on new artists from around the state, Consey said.