Scott Burton. Pair of Rock Chairs. 1980-81
Director, Glenn Lowry: In 1988, Scott Burton, who made these Rock Chairs, talked about the Museum's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.
Scott Burton: In addition to being a place to look at works of art, it's a place to take a break from looking at works of art.
Curator, Anne Umland: Throughout his career, Burton was interested in making art that was both aesthetically pleasing and that had a function or a use. And in fact these Rock Chairs are the only works in the Garden that you can sit down upon, very literally taking a break from looking.
Burton began as a performance artist. He used furniture on stage as props, and then over time developed a body of work that comes out of furniture. And he always spoke of chairs as being at the core of his work, because, of all the categories of furniture, the chair was the most psychologically charged. If you think of a table, a shelf, its something you just put objects upon. A chair you literally experience it physically.
Burton went to a good deal of trouble to find the perfect rocks to work with. Quarried stone usually is finished. Burton didn't want a finished stone, he wanted something that looked like a part of the landscape. And eventually found these particular rocks in Maryland, very carefully selected for their forms and patterning as objects of contemplation. And then created chairs out of them with really three incredibly simple gestures, three cuts. One to create the base so the rocks would rest securely on the ground, another one to create the back—the vertical cutand yet one more to create the seat.
Burton went on throughout the eighties to work in increasingly public circumstances. Many of you may have sat unknowingly upon a Scott Burton sculpture. They are located in plazas in midtown and down by Battery Park City. In fact, Burton himself said:
Scott Burton: My work is often only activated at lunchtime. People don't inhabit a public space except maybe at lunch time. I feel like, you know, I'm a lunch artist.