American sculptor and performance artist Scott Burton was born in Greensboro, Alabama in 1939. As an adolescent, he studied art with the painter Leon Berkowitz in Washington, D.C. and with Hans Hofmann in Massachusetts, before moving to New York in 1959 to complete his bachelor of arts degree (magna cum laude) at Columbia University in 1962. In 1963, he earned a master’s degree in English literature from New York University, and for the next decade he devoted himself to theater. In the early 1970s, he turned to performance and conceptual art, whereupon he began building his reputation as a provocative artist.
He became known for his series of Behavior Tableaux (1972), in which silent actors on a stage eighty feet from the audience moved slowly around abandoned pieces of furniture. His chair sculptures, the first of which was Bronze Chair (1972), emerged from his performance art. Inspired by Russian Constructivist principles and the works of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi, these pieces characterized his artistic practice for the rest of his career. Like his Behavior Tableaux, his furniture sculptures explored the relationships between people and objects and played with notions of performativity in public space. Burton died of complications from AIDS in 1989 at the age of 50.
Written by Giuliana Vaccarino Gearty, a student in Art History