Skip to main content

Chris Burden

The Atomic Alphabet
1980

Not on view

Date
1980

Classification
Prints

Medium
Photoetching

Dimensions
Sheet: 57 1/2 × 39in. (146.1 × 99.1 cm) Image: 54 × 36in. (137.2 × 91.4 cm)

Accession number
2003.110

Edition
AP | Ed. 20

Publication
Printed and published by Crown Point Press

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee

Rights and reproductions
© Chris Burden / Licensed by the Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1979, Chris Burden began a number of works that took as their subject the political circumstances and psychic resonances of the Cold War—focusing particularly on the neutron bomb, nuclear missiles and warheads, and the submarines that ferry them. The Atomic Alphabet, a print made using the techniques of hand-colored etching and photo-etching, alludes to these broader phenomena as well as to the specific atrocities of the recently-ended Vietnam War by incorporating Chinese characters and references to the jungle. Like a children’s chart that associates letters with words and corresponding pictures, The Atomic Alphabet runs down the page, lending each letter an assigned correlate: A for ATOMIC, B for BOMB, and so on. By using this childlike, didactic format, the print mocks the culture of information dissemination and the normalization of such fearsome terminology at the height of American Cold War paranoia and interventionism.




COVID-19 vaccination and face coverings are not required but strongly recommended. Book tickets in advance and review our visitor policies.

Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
Sara Ludy, Tumbleweeds

Learn more

Learn more at whitney.org/artport