Scott Burton (American, Greensboro, Alabama 1939 - 1989 New York)
Bronze Chair, 1979
Inscribed and stamped 1
Solid cast bronze
Overall: 44 1/8 x 21 1/2 x 22 1/2 in. (112.2 x 54.5 x 57.3 cm)
Gift of Philip Droll, at the direction of Donald Droll, in honor of Richard E. Spear, Director (1972-83), 1983
Like many artists during the 1960s and after, Scott Burton aimed to break down the boundaries between art and real life. Bronze Chair is one of Burton's sculpted furniture pieces, which merge the eternal, hallowed presence of the art work--it is a sculpture cast in bronze--with references to daily life, real uses of things, and the often eclectic styles of everyday objects.
The Oberlin Bronze Chair is a replica of Burton's Bronze Chair of 1972/75, the artist's first sculptural furniture piece.2 This sculpture began its life as a found object, a worn, wooden chair that had been left behind by the previous tenant of Burton's New York apartment. The chair's derivative style, which the artist called "Grand Rapids Queen Anne," appealed to his interest in ecclectic, vernacular forms. He was also drawn to the chair as a sign of the absent owner, whose weight and seated posture had slightly bent the frame. Burton decided to cast the wooden chair in bronze in around 1972, and applied a patina of metallic bronze; it was finally cast in a bronze foundry in New York in 1975. 3 In 1979, Burton had a replica made as a gift to Donald Droll, who was his friend and dealer; the piece was cast partly from the original model (since destroyed) in a bronze foundry in Queens. Droll's sculpture, Oberlin's Bronze Chair, is the only replica.
Burton first exhibited the Bronze Chair on the Wooster street sidewalk across from Artist's Space gallery in 1975. 4 It later found its way into a wide range of museum installations, either interacting with other furniture pieces or alone. Oberlin's Bronze Chair is often installed in the King Sculpture Court of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, and is sometimes mistaken for a "real" chair by visitors who sit in it (which would have pleased the artist).
Work reproduced with permission of Max Protetch, New York
Scott Burton was born in Greensboro, Alabama, in 1939. He received a B.A. degree from Columbia Univerity in 1962, and an M.A. from New York University in 1963. He began to use furniture in his art in the early 1970s, creating what he called "behavior tableaux," with silent, interacting performers and found objects of furniture. The first furniture piece he made was the Bronze Chair of 1972/1975. Burton constructed his subsequent furniture pieces from a wide range of natural and fabricated materials, and designed them in forms that invoke, exaggerate, and animate various historical and vernacular styles. His work was frequently featured in solo and group exhibitions and performances, including a performance at the 1973 Festival of Contemporary Arts at Oberlin College. Burton died of HIV-related illness in New York in 1989.
Pincus-Witten, Robert. "Scott Burton: Conceptual Performance as Sculpture." Arts Magazine 51 (September 1976) pp. 112-18.
Stuckey, Charles. Scott Burton Chairs. Exh. cat., The Fort Worth Art Museum, 1983.
Gift of the artist to Donald Droll (1979)
Gift of Philip Droll (at the direction of Donald Droll) to the museum in 1983
Pincus-Witten, Robert. "Scott Burton: Conceptual Performance as Sculpture." Arts Magazine 51 (September 1976) p. 117.
Image & Object in Contemporary Sculpture. Exh. cat., The Detroit Institute of
Arts, 1979, not paginated.
Stuckey, Charles. Scott Burton Chairs. Exh. cat., The Fort Worth Art Museum, 1983, pp. 11, 27 (mentions Oberlin's replica on p. 27).
Onorato, Ronald J. Faux Arts: Surface Illusions and Simulated Materials in Recent Art. Exh cat., La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 1987, p. 6.
The work is cast in copper alloy in several sections, with the seat spot-welded in place. The center back stile and two front stiles appear to be welded. The surface is finished in a black patina with a medium gloss. It appears to be coated with a pigmented wax, rather than lacquered. The piece is in good condition, despite the appearance of some green copper corrosion products at the base of the proper right rear leg.
1. Inscriptions and stamps are all below central seat ornament; stamped left: S.B; inscribed center: 1979 REPLICA/FOR DONALD DROLL; stamped right: MODERN ART FOUNDRY NEW YORK / N.Y.
2. The present location of the original bronze is unknown. It was in the artist's collection from its fabrication until at least 1987, when it was documented in Ronald J. Onorato, Faux Arts: Surface Illusions and Simulated Materials in Recent Art (exh. cat., La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 1987), p. 6. It is likely that the work remained with Burton until his death in 1989.
3. Charles Stuckey, Scott Burton Chairs (exh. cat., The Fort Worth Art Museum, 1983), p. 11. Stuckey's essay provides the essential account of Burton's chair pieces.
4. Charles Stuckey, Scott Burton Chairs (exh. cat., The Fort Worth Art Museum, 1983), ill. p. 27.