Chris Burden’s “Ode to Santos Dumont” at LACMA
Chris Burden, the prolific artist who died unexpectedly last week of melanoma, has one last wonder to show us. Although his early work was dominated by confrontation and violence – he’s been shot point-blank onstage (intentionally), took a TV host hostage at knifepoint, and was once kicked down two flights of stairs to commemorate Art Basel ’74 – his later years found him building awesome, wonderful (use both words literally) structures designed to momentarily transport viewers to different, more imaginative realms. If you’ve been to LACMA in the last eight or so years, you’re already familiar with his world-famous sculpture “Urban Light”, a.k.a. the lampposts in your profile picture, and you may also know his erector-set miniature freeway system “Metropolis II”.
His last sculptural piece, “Ode to Santos Dumont”, continues that thread of big designs and big ideas. A loving tribute to human ingenuity and intelligence in the guise of a functional airship, it was designed after “the father of French aviation” Alberto Santos-Dumont’s dirigible that won international attention after a 1901 flight over Paris. It took Burden and his collaborators over a decade to conceive and build the piece, which boasts a 40-foot helium balloon attached to a steel and plexiglass gondola whose clear panels allow views of the meticulously recreated turn-of-the-century engine powering the sculpture’s flight. Mondays through Thursdays at select times, “Ode” charts a 15-minute voyage through LACMA’s warehouse-like Resnick Pavilion with views of the gorgeous “Levitated Mass” behind it.
See some photos below (via Curbed) and check out the sculpture in action now through June 21. Exhibit entrance is included in LACMA’s general admission.