Chris Burden's Metropolis II @ LACMA - FAD Magazine

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Chris Burden’s Metropolis II @ LACMA

Created by artist Chris Burden, Metropolis II (2010) is a complex, large-scale kinetic sculpture modeled after a fast-paced modern city. The armature of the piece is constructed of steel beams, forming an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of eighteen roadways, including a six-lane freeway, train tracks, and hundreds of buildings. 1,100 miniature toy cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour on the specially designed plastic roadways. Every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulates through the sculpture.

Situated in the center of the grid are three electrically powered conveyor belts, each studded with magnets at regular intervals. The magnets on the conveyor belt and those on the toy cars attract, enabling the cars to travel to the top of the sculpture without physical contact between the belt and cars. At the top, the cars are released one at a time and race down the roadways, weaving in and out of the structure, simulating rapid traffic and congestion.


Operator Alison Walker watches miniature cars move along the roads in Chris Burden’s latest kinetic sculpture, “Metropolis II,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles. The sculpture does more than just imitate life. The colorful display of roads, cars, trains and buildings is art imitating what the artist foresees life being like in five or 10 years. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong.

Metropolis II is on long-term loan to LACMA, thanks to the generosity of LACMA Trustee Nicolas Berggruen. Beginning Saturday January 14, 2012, the work will be on view on the first floor of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) and run on weekends during the scheduled times below.

Chris Burden is a leading international artist who works and lives in Los Angeles. Over the past forty years, Burden has produced a multitude of assemblages, installations, scientific models, and kinetic and static sculptures, including Urban Light at LACMA.

He has performed and exhibited his work internationally, at institutions including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; de Appel, Amsterdam; The Tate Museum, London; The Baltic Centre, Newcastle, England; The 48th Venice Biennale, Venice; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Institute of 3 Contemporary Art, Boston; and the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, New York.


Burden produced his first mature works during the early 1970s. His work was characterized by the idea that the truly important, viable art of the future would not be with objects; the things that you could simply sell and hang on your wall. Instead art would be ephemeral and address political, social, environmental, and technological change. Earth, performance, body, video, computer, narrative, and conceptual art became the new mediums. Burden, with his shockingly simple, unforgettable, “here and now” performances shook the conventional art world during this period and took this new art form to its extreme.

The images of Burden that continue to resonate in public mind is of a young man who had himself shot (Shoot, 1971), electrocuted (Doorway to Heaven, 1973), cut (Through the Night Softly, 1973), drowned (Velvet Water, 1974), and locked up (Five Day Locker Piece, 1971).

Chris Burden was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1946. He moved to California in 1965 and obtained a BFA at Pomona College, Claremont, California in 1969, and later a MFA at the University of California, Irvine in 1971. He is also the recipient of numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He taught at UCLA for twenty-six years and is currently a professor emeritus at UCLA.









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