Chris Burden was a performance artist and sculptor. He was born in Boston, MA, and moved shortly thereafter to California, where he earned a BFA from Pomona College in 1969, and an MFA from the University of California in 1971. Burden began producing and performing works in the 1970s, and believed that art should engage audiences in sociological, political, and environmental issues. His performances, which often emphasized the present moment, initially shocked viewers and changed the nature of performance art. Burden infamously endured a variety of physical traumas in the name of art, such as a gunshot wound (Shoot, 1971) and near-electrocution (Doorway to Heaven, 1973). For a 1974 piece titled Trans-fixed, Burden had his hands nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen as he sprawled across it in a crucifixion-like pose.
Later in the 1970s and into the 1980s, Burden began creating massive sculptures involving hydraulics and machinery, inspired by his interest in engineering and technology. For a 2008 sculpture called Urban Light, Burden installed 202 antique cast-iron streetlamps outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. For Burden, the lamps represented urban sophistication and civilization.
In 2013, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York presented “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures”, an expansive presentation of Burden’s work that marked the first New York survey of the artist’s work and his first major exhibition in the United States in over twenty-five years. Burden has also had major retrospectives at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, California and the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. In 1999 Burden exhibited at the 48th Venice Biennale. His work can be seen in permanent collections around the work, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; the Whitney Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Middelheimmuseum, Antwerp, Belgium; the Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporanea, Brazil; and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan.