Artist and icon Chris Burden passed away on May 10. It was a shock to the art world; since his early days as a hardcore body and performance artist, Burden has been an indestructible force and a pathbreaker in the field. His last completed work, Ode to Santos Dumont, is a poetic paean to the first aeronaut, Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont, who piloted a helium-filled dirigible around the Eiffel Tower in 1901. Like Santos Dumont, Burden had been obsessed with aeronautics for many years, and built elaborate Erector Set airplanes and motor-controlled sculptures. Ode is itself an ode to the late artist, who began his practice in the 1970s by testing his bodily limits, and spent the last decade of his life testing his patience and creative ingenuity. At LACMA, where the zeppelin flies in graceful circles for fifteen minute intervals four times a day, the light pouring in through the Resnick Pavilion’s floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the craft’s lozenge-shape body, giving it a phantasmic and transcendental glow. One feels, for a moment, that it is the light of Chris hovering over.

Chris Burden: Ode to Santos Dumont from LACMA on Vimeo.

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