Sculptor Chris Burden died Sunday at his home in Topanga Canyon, California. He was 69. He is best-known for his piece “Urban Light” -- an assemblage of street lamps at the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since the installation debuted in 2008, it has become one of the city’s most photographed spots.
Burden began his career as an avant-garde performance artist. In 1971’s “Five Day Locker,” he locked himself in a traditional school locker for five days. Later that same year, for “Shoot” -- also captured on film -- Burden had a friend shoot him in the arm. For “Trans-Fixed” in 1974, the artist evoked the crucifixion of Jesus when he lay on top of a Volkswagen Beetle and had nails driven into his hands.
Later, the artist would gain notoriety for his sculptures and installations. Among the most prominent of the latter are Burden's “A Tale of Two Cities,” an intricate, 1,100-square-foot futuristic vision of two feudal states on the verge of war in the 25th century, and “Hell Gate,” a 28-foot-long scale model of New York’s Hell Gate Bridge.
“When I stopped doing the performances, the pieces I was making became the performance -- they are almost all performative,” the artist told the New York Times in 2013. “I consider myself an amateur engineer and architect who uses those disciplines as materials for my art.”
In 2013, the New Museum in New York held a retrospective of Burden’s career. The artist’s work is featured in other prominent museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London.
The cause of death was malignant melanoma, according to a friend. Burden is survived by his wife Nancy Rubins, another prominent sculptor and installation artist.