By Richard Zagrzecki
One of the more inconspicuous pieces of art on the University of Houston campus sits near the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design.
Flanking the south entrance are two granite benches created in 1985 by artist Scott Burton, simply titled “Benches.” They are formal in style, simple in form and share many of the classical lines of the building.
Burton, who died in 1989, created them at the recommendation of Phillip Johnson, the building’s architect. “Made from a single block of pink Laurentian granite and weighing two tons each, they sit very quietly and blend in so well, one might think Mr. Johnson designed them himself because of their sympathetic aesthetic,” said Mike Guidry, curator of the UH Public Art Collection.
Burton was born and raised in Alabama and moved with his mother to Washington D.C. when he was a teen. He studied art at the Washington Workshop of the Arts, the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and took classes at Harvard University.
He got involved in the New York art and theater community and befriended Edward Albee and Vito Acconci, who introduced him to the theater. He wrote for “Art News” for a time and began engaging in performance and conceptual art and writing and he pursued that through the 1970s. He began to design and include furniture and sculpture as part of his performances.
He was interested in blurring the boundaries of fine art and utilitarian design. His focus soon changed to the sole production of sculptural objects and was recognized almost immediately for his talents and progressive practice.