Chris Burden, sculptor and performance artist, dies aged 69 at home in California

‘He was every inch an artist, as tough and uncompromising as any I have ever met,’ art dealer Larry Gagosian says

Chris Burden, the American sculptor and pioneering performance artist, has died from cancer at the age of 69, his art dealer, Larry Gagosian, has confirmed.

Burden died in the early hours of Sunday morning at his home in Topanga Canyon, California, the LA Times reported. His friend, the art curator Paul Schimmel, said Burden had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma 18 months ago but had only told a few close family members and friends.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, whose plaza is filled with the 202 steel lamps of Burden’s 2008 sculpture Urban Light, tweeted its sadness at the news. His impact on art and on the city had been “profound”, the museum said.

Born in Boston in 1946, Burden moved to the west coast to study fine art and architecture, first as an undergraduate at Pomona College and later at the University of California Irvine, where he was taught by Robert Irwin, among others.

It was at UC Urvine that he became known for his challenging performance artworks, such as Five Day Locker Piece, his 1971 master’s thesis in which he locked himself inside a high-school locker that measured just 2ft by 2ft by 3ft.

Later that year Burden arranged to be filmed being shot in the arm by a friend with a .22 rifle. The subsequent grainy Super 8 footage, Shoot, gained him notoriety in the art world. He later became the first artist to be represented by Gagosian.

After making some 50 performance pieces throughout the 70s, Burden turned his hand to large-scale sculpture, influenced in part by his architectural training. In 2008 What My Dad Gave Me, a 65-foot skyscraper made from Erector set parts, was installed at New York’s Rockefeller Centre.

Gagosian, who has worked with Burden since 1978, told the Wall Street Journal: “I am sure that over time his singular vision will only become more resonant and grow in importance. He was every inch an artist, as tough and uncompromising as any I have ever met.”

Burden’s final sculpture will go on show at Lacma on 18 May. The museum tweeted on Sunday night that it was leaving the lamps of Urban Light on in his honour.

Chris, we're leaving the lights on in your honor. RIP 💔

— LACMA (@LACMA) May 10, 2015


Nancy Groves

The GuardianTramp

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