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'Urban Light' Artist Chris Burden Dies

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Chris Burden's 'Urban Light' Installation at LACMA. (Photo by RV Sun via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr.)
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Chris Burden, the artist behind one of the most iconic and photographed pieces of art in Los Angeles, has died after a long illness reports the L.A. Times. He was 69.Burden was born on April 11, 1946 and spent his youth in Massachusetts and Europe, but came to Southern California for college—getting his B.A. at Pomona College and his M.F.A. at UC Irvine—before becoming one of the most notable artists of his generation.

Burden first gained notoriety for his dangerous performance art pieces. Trans-Fixed involved the artist himself being crucified to the front of a Volkswagen Beetle, while in White Light/White Heat he remained on a platform in a gallery out of sight from visitors for 22 days without eating. The most famous was 1971's Shoot, where Burden was shot in the arm with a .22-caliber rifle by an assistant:

In 2005 he resigned from his position as a professor in UCLA's art department over what he felt was a mishandling of an incident that was inspired by Shoot.

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Many of Burden's later works are large-scale sculptures and installations, two of which are among the most popular in LACMA's collection. Metropolis II is a scaled-down model of a city where 1,200 model cars ride around on the tracks.

Chris Burden talks about Metropolis II

Of course his most enduring work is Urban Light, where 202 lampposts from the streets Los Angeles are arranged in the shape of a temple and welcome visitors to the museum. Ever since it was installed in 2008, it has become a popular spot for visitors to walk among the lights, pose, and take pictures.

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Burden died Sunday morning in his Topanga Canyon home. He had been battling malignant melanoma for the last 18 months, but told only close friends and family the news.