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Jack Burnham

Jack Wesley Burnham Jr. (born New York, New York, 1931) is an American writer on art and technology, who taught art history at Northwestern University and the University of Maryland. He is one of the main forces behind the emergence of systems art in the 1960s.



Burnham received a BFA from the Yale School of Art in 1959 and a MFA in 1961.

From 1955 until 1965 he worked as a sculptor, often created sculptures that included light. In the 1960s he started teaching art history at Northwestern University, and became chairman of their art department. He was a Fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 1968 to 1969. In the 1980s he moved to the University of Maryland and again chaired the art and art history departments.

Since the 1990s he is retired, and lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, immersed in Kabbalah.[1]


Jack Burnham worked as a writer, and in the 1960s and 1970s made important contributions as an art theorist, critic and curator in the field of systems art.[2] In systems art the concept and ideas of process related systems and systems theory are involved in the work to take precedence over traditional aesthetic object related and material concerns. Burnham named Systems art in the 1968 Artforum article "System Esthetics": "He had investigated the effects of science and technology on the sculpture of this century, and saw a dramatic contrast between the handling of the place-oriented object sculpture and the extreme mobility of Systems sculpture".[3]


Burnham wrote two books and dozens of articles in magazines like: Art and Artists magazine, Arts and Society, Artforum magazine, Arts magazine. His books:

  • 1968, Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of This Century, New York: George Braziller; London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press.
  • 1969, Art in the Marcusean Analysis, vol 6 of the "Penn State Papers in Art Education", edited by Paul Edmonston (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University, 1969).
  • 1973, The Structure of Art, Revised Edition, Brazillera, ISBN 0-8076-0595-6.
  • 1974, Great Western Salt Works: Essays on the Meaning of Post-Formalist Art, New York: George Braziller. 0-8076-0740-1.
  • 2015, Dissolve into Comprehension: Writings and Interviews, 1964-2004, edited by Melissa Ragain (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2015), ISBN 9780262029278.[4]

About Jack BurnhamEdit


  1. ^ Robert Horvitz (2000-09) "A node for jack burnham". Online website about Jack Burnham. Accessed March 20, 2008.
  2. ^ Charlie Gere, Art, Time and Technology: Histories of the Disappearing Body (2005) Berg, pp. 124-138
  3. ^ Jack Burnham (1968), Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of This Century, G. Braziller, p.32.
  4. ^

External linksEdit