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Chris Burden Retrospective at Newport

April 17, 1988|ZAN DUBIN

From an armada of miniature submarines and thousands of toy soldiers to a 100-ton tool of destruction mounted on a turnstile, a retrospective exhibition opening today at the Newport Harbor Art Museum will to illuminate the career of California artist Chris Burden.

Burden, 42, the artist many remember for having had himself shot in the arm while standing in a gallery in 1971, investigates "what it means to be an individual within a highly complex society ruled by technological, financial and political power," says the museum's chief curator, Paul Schimmel. He co-curated the exhibit.

"Chris Burden: A Twenty-Year Survey," through June 12, should make this point eminently clear.

Among the works that speak of warfare and politics: "A Tale of Two Cites," an 1,800-square-foot installation with 5,000 toy soldiers, ships, tanks and airplanes poised in battle; "The Reason for the Neutron Bomb," a floor grid of 50,000 nickels representing every Soviet tank positioned on Europe's East-West border; "All the Submarines of the United States of America," with 625 miniature submarines suspended from the ceiling.

Representing his interest in science and technology: "The Scale Model of the Solar System" and "The Big Wheel," a 3-ton flywheel set in motion by a motorcycle.

Symbolizing finances as well as politics: "Full Financial Disclosure," a complete list of Burden's expenses for 1977, parodying the disclosures of political candidates.

Also on display are other works on paper, assemblages and "relics" from Burden's notorious performance art events, including the two nails with which he affixed himself for five days to the roof of a Volkswagen in 1974.

"This exhibition places Burden within a context of artists who were associated with conceptual performance art in late '60s and early '70s," Schimmel said recently. "His work within that tradition is unique for a very strong stance on social, political, economic and moral issues."

RUSSIAN ART: Joanna Stingray, the Los Angeles-based rocksinger/songwriter who organized a local exhibit of "unofficial" Soviet contemporary art in January, plans to do the same in New York next month.

The Keith Green Gallery will present the Russian artworks (from May 1 through June 1), made by seven New Painters, Stingray said recently.

These young, experimental artists living in Leningrad work in many media, including poetry and film making, double as rock musicians and are classified by the Soviet government as "unofficial" because they are not allowed to earn money from their art. Their paintings and drawings, made on everything from shower curtains to T-shirts, have a primitive, renegade quality and range in theme from the political to the erotic.

Stingray, 27, has been transporting the artworks here since 1984, during which time she also smuggled into the U.S. contraband tapes and cut an LP of these artists' rock music, and married Yuri Kasparyan, a 24-year-old New Painter. Her mission has been to dispel stereotypic perceptions of the Russians as culturally backward warmongers and promote East-West understanding. She still hopes to show the Russian art in London.

The New York exhibit will consist of fewer works than shown in Los Angeles, but it will include a larger proportion of drawings and works Stingray acquired in the U.S.S.R. since January. The opening-night reception will be a benefit, as it was locally, for Greenpeace, the international environmental organization.

Stingray said that "a lot of people were interested" in purchasing the artworks after seeing them here. But so far, the only person to put money down is Frederick R. Weisman of Los Angeles, whose multimillion-dollar collection of modern and contemporary art now contains five works by the New Painters.

SEND IT IN: The Los Angeles Printmaking Society is sponsoring its 10th biannual national print competition and exhibition open to printmakers residing in the U.S. and Canada. Claire Falkenstein will be juror of the event. About 22 artists will be selected to participate and a total of $4,000 in purchase awards will be disbursed.

The exhibition will run from Oct. 27 to Dec. 1 at the Associated Students, Incorporated/University Union Gallery, Cal State Polytechnic University in Pomona. All print media, except traditional photography, will be accepted. Artists must submit 10 slides by July 1. An entry fee of $15 will be charged. For a prospectus, write: Tenth National Exhibition, Los Angeles Printmaking Society, c/o Gail Jacobs, P.O. Box 26765, Los Angeles, CA, 90026. For further information: (213) 668-0558.

ART HOLIDAY: The Woman's Building is sponsoring a tour to the art centers of Spain and France from June 3 to June 19. Betty Ann Brown and Joan Hugo will lead the trip, arranged to cover ancient to contemporary art. Stops on the tour will include museums and galleries, as well as major monuments, landmarks and historical sites in Madrid, Barcelona, Nimes and Paris, with some side trips. Information: (213) 221-6161.

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