Chris Burden whose early work was characterised by the idea that the truly important, viable art of the future would not be with objects, has died in California age 69. The artist challenged our perception that art was not simply things that you could sell and hang on your wall. Instead his art became ephemeral and address political, social, environmental and technological change.
Burden’s shockingly simple, unforgettable, “here and now” performances shook the conventional art world and took this new art form to its extreme. The images of Burden that continue to resonate in public mind are of a young man who had himself shot (Shoot, 1971), locked up (Five Day Locker Piece, 1971), electrocuted, (Doorway to Heaven, 1973), cut (Through the Night Softly, 1973), crucified (Trans-fixed, 1974), and advertised on television (4 TV Ads, 1937–77).
His work subsequently shifted, focusing on monumental sculptures and large scale installations, such as B-Car (1975), The Big Wheel (1979), A Tale of Two Cities, (1981), Beam Drop (1984, 2008), Samson (1985), Medusa’s Head (1990), L.A.P.D. Uniforms(1993), and Metropolis II (2010). These works often reflect the social environments, make observations about cultural institutions, and examine the boundaries of science and technology.
Chris Burden was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1946. He received his BFA from Pomona College in Claremont, California and his MFA from the University of California at Irvine. Burden has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including “Chris Burden: A Twenty Year Survey” Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA (1988); “When Robots Rule: The Two Minute Airplane Factory” Tate Gallery, London (1999); “Tower of Power,” Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (2002); “Chris Burden,” Baltic Center of Contemporary Art, New Castle, UK (2002); “14 Magnolia Doubles,” South London Gallery, London (2006); “Extreme Measures” New Museum, New York (2013–14); and “Chris Burden: The Master Builder” The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2014).
His permanent outdoor installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) entitled Urban Light was unveiled in 2008, comprising of 202 restored antiques streetlights. Later the same year, What My Dad Gave Me, a 65-foot skyscraper made entirely of Erector Set parts was installed at Rockefeller Center in New York City. His work has been featured in prominent museum collections such as the LACMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Middelheim Museum, Antwerp, Belgium; the Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporanea, Brazil; the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among others.