From behind, these sculptures resemble nothing so much as half-buried boulders, or the tips of submerged outcrops of living rock. It is only from the front that they show the results of human artifice: two simple cuts, one horizontal, one vertical. In each stone the result is a flat and ample ledge with an upright back—an invitation to sit.
The opportunity extended by Pair of Rock Chairs is actually not only physical but social, for two seats will tempt two people to rest and talk. Burton had a deep interest in social exchange—in fact, his first artworks were performances in front of an audience. His sculpture developed out of the furniture he used as props in these performances, and always remains part furniture, undermining the common notion that art is somehow separate from everyday life. Burton admired the Russian Constructivist artists who, earlier in the century, had linked innovative forms to a concern with their practical social applications. The natural shapes of these chairs, and their beautiful surface—variously rough and smooth, and veined in gray and white—inject aesthetic pleasure into their obvious usefulness.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 316.