A Performative Trigger: Radicals of Irvine

Richard Newton, Keep Out film still, 1972 Super 8mm, B&W and color, sound, 2:48 min. The Irvine Company, Bank of America, and the Republicans come to the neighborhood and put up the unwelcome sign.

The University Art Gallery (UAG) at UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts will unveil A Performative Trigger: Radicals of Irvine. The group exhibition focuses on luminary artists Chris Burden, Nancy Buchanan, Richard Newton, Alexis Smith, Barbara T. Smith, Bradley Smith, and Paula Sweet when they were making radical art as students at UCI. 


In 1971, as a part UCI’s first graduating MFA class, Chris Burden became internationally famous for his physically intense, often-dangerous performances of endurance. The quintessential work of this period was Shoot, a performance in which Burden had himself shot in the arm at the student-run F-Space Gallery in Santa Ana.  A second performance of the same legendary vein entitled Five Day Locker Piece featured Burden who inhabited a two-foot-by-two-foot locker for five days without food, after which he rode a bicycle in the art gallery, looping it for two weeks on end. This begs the following question – what was it about Irvine, a bastion of Nixonian conservatism in the seventies, which produced such radical acts? A Performative Trigger: Radicals of Irvine considers this moment in time; both Burden’s provocations and his student cohort’s equally contentious performance art in the context of the larger aesthetic landscape of the Southern California art world, one that was comparatively conservative at the time. In so doing, A Performative Trigger ponders what might constitute a resistant, radical act of art; a critical aesthetic within contemporary art production today.


This show is co-curated by UAG Artistic Director Juli Carson and guest curator Marilyn Nix.  It will be a constellation of documentation and ephemera from the 1970s consisting of original drawings, installations, videos, photographs, mailers, and other historic materials from this period. Video footage of Chris Burden's TV Commercials (1973-1977) are also featured.

Chris Burden, Nancy Buchanan, Richard Newton, Alexis Smith, Barbara T. Smith, Bradley Smith, Paula Sweet, and Robert Wilhite
Curated by Juli Carson and Marilyn Nix
University Art Gallery
Exhibition Dates: 
Oct 03, 2015 to Dec 12, 2015
Saturday, October 3, 2015 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm