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Chris Burden rolling through shattered glass in ‘Through the Night Softly’, 1973via

Extreme art provocateur Chris Burden passes away aged 69

The conceptual artist had himself shot, starved and crucified in the name of his craft

Pioneering performance artist and sculptor Chris Burden has passed away on Sunday from cancer at his home in Topanga, California. He was 69 years old. The critically acclaimed and sometimes controversial artist was a trailblazer of body art, often torturing or physically hurting himself in the pursuit of his craft.

Over the course of his career, he rolled around in broken glass, nailed himself in a Christ-like fashion to a car, electrocuted himself with live wires and allowed himself to be kicked down the stairs at Art Basel. One of his most famous performances pieces, "Shoot" (1971), involved him standing motionless while getting shot in the arm at point blank range with a .22 rifle. 

He was also a master of manipulating commercial mediums to his own advantage – in the early 70s, he paid local television stations for advertising space in order to air clips of his own work to a confounded public audience. 

Burden later moved out of body art, telling the Washington Post, "You can’t keep doing the same work over and over, otherwise it’s an act." HIs later work took himself out of the equation by moving into public art, though his setpieces became no less spectacular. He created a 65-foot replica of a skyscraper made entirely of Erector set pieces and built a sailboat on the outside of the New Museum in New York. 

But his most famous work of art yet must be Urban Light, an installation of 202 cast iron streetlamps neatly arranged outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The cluster of beacons has now become a beloved part of LA and illuminates a stretch of the city every night; a counterpoint of light to Burden's darker early work of self-inflicted suffering.

On Sunday, LACMA expressed its sadness over Burden's death, noting that it would keep the lights on for him.