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Shooting convention and himself

August 19, 2007|Suzanne Muchnic

What to make of an artist who established himself with punishing performances -- including having himself shot in the arm -- then veered off into building miniature cities, fuel-efficient vehicles, crewless ships and scale models of bridges? That would be Chris Burden, an internationally renowned, Los Angeles-based artist who baffles most pigeon-holers. It probably doesn't help to mention that he is about to install more than 200 vintage streetlights at the new entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

"Chris Burden," a new book coordinated by Los Angeles-based art dealer Fred Hoffman in association with Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, offers lots of facts and answers questions about the artist. With illustrations of nearly every finished work and many unrealized projects, accompanied by Burden's explanatory texts, the book is a sort of catalogue raisonné. But there's also critical assessment. Hoffman weighs in with an essay. So do curators and academics: Lisa Le Feuvre, Paul Schimmel, Kristine Stiles and Robert Storr.

Still, this is no ordinary march-through-time monograph.

"As we went through all of the work, it became clear that a chronological approach was not very interesting, so we agreed to come up with an alternative," says Hoffman, who was asked to do the book by Locus+ Publishing Ltd., a British nonprofit organization that sponsors exhibitions, installations and publications. The result: Artworks are arranged in thematic categories: Communication, Shelter and Structures, Systems of Transportation, Individual vs. Collective, Confrontation and War, Energy and Physical Models of Abstraction.

"We wanted to find a way to show relationships between the works," Hoffman says. It was a labor-intensive project, but he's pleased with the outcome. "It was a unique opportunity to do something you believe in and have the right structure to do what you want to do."

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-- Suzanne Muchnic

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