new-york

Chris Burden

Christine Burgin Gallery

Chris Burden’s self-destructive performances of the early ’70s left themselves open to virtually any interpretation, or to none. Unwilling to do anything more complex than play out his preoccupation with violence, he inadvertently freed his work to become a form of apocalyptic poetry for a generation that felt little affinity for art, and none at all for the gallery system. Performed seminude in private and recorded for video consumption, pieces like Shoot, 1971—in which Burden took a .22 caliber bullet in the arm—and Through the Night Softly, 1973—in which he crawled through broken glass in his underwear—met the esthetic needs of then-emerging punks, and helped to spur on similarly extreme and casual performances by younger West Coast artists like Mark Pauline, Monte Cazazza, and Johanna Went.

In the late ’70s, Burden tired of his notoriety and began producing low-key political statements

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