Theses Doctoral

From Minimalism to Performance Art: Chris Burden, 1967–1971

Teti, Matthew

This dissertation was conceived as an addendum to two self-published catalogs that American artist Chris Burden released, covering the years 1971–1977. It looks in-depth at the formative work the artist produced in college and graduate school, including minimalist sculpture, interactive environments, and performance art. Burden’s work is herewith examined in four chapters, each of which treats one or more related works, dividing the artist’s early career into developmental stages. In light of a wealth of new information about Burden and the atmosphere in which he was working in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this dissertation examines the artist’s work in relation to West Coast Minimalism, the Light and Space Movement, Environments, and Institutional Critique, above and beyond his well-known contribution to performance art, which is also covered herein. The dissertation also analyzes the social contexts in which Burden worked as having informed his practice, from the beaches of Southern California, to rock festivals and student protest on campus, and eventually out to the countercultural communes. The studies contained in the individual chapters demonstrate that close readings of Burden’s work can open up to formal and art-historical trends, as well as social issues that can deepen our understanding of these and later works. Benefitting from access to the artist’s estate, as well as archives collected at various institutions in Southern California, this dissertation is the first authoritative coverage of Chris Burden’s early career.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Joseph, Branden W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 1, 2018