an obituary by Roberta Smith.
Jan 1, 1990.
Scott Burton, an American sculptor whose work balanced stubbornly and elegantly between art and furniture while evolving into a new kind of public sculpture,
died of AIDS on Friday at Cabrini Medical Center in New York City.
He was 50 years old and lived in Manhattan.
By the end of his life, Mr. Burton's simple yet eye-catching benches, stools and chairs, cut from smooth and sometimes jagged pieces of granite, could often be found with people sitting on them in several North American cities, including Seattle, Cincinnati, New York City, Portland, Ore., and Toronto.
Mr. Burton, a small, wiry man known for his erudition, verbal precision and explosive laugh, worked as a critic and an editor for Art News and Art in America before becoming a full-time artist. He emerged in the late 1960's and early 70's as part of an artistic generation that came of age in the shadow of Minimalism.
Uncertain that his passion for furniture and design could ever lead to an artistic career, he turned to literature, obtaining an B.A. from Columbia in 1962 and an M.A. from New York University in 1963. By the mid-60's he was working regularly as a freelance critic for Art News, then under the editorship of Thomas B. Hess.
Elizabeth C. Baker, the editor of Art in America and formerly the editor of Art News, worked with Mr. Burton at both publications. ''As a critic his enthusiasms were passionate, his dislikes were categorical,'' she said. ''He wrote as he would later cut granite, with high style, great clarity of form and a very sharp edge.''
At the end of his life, Mr. Burton's interests in dissolving the boundary between art and design took him into the curatorial realm. Last spring, at the invitation of Kirk Varnedoe, the director of the department of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, he organized an exhibition of Brancusi's works at the museum.
In it, some of Brancusi's bases were exhibited on their own, as sculptures in their own right, a treatment that outraged some critics, while impressing others.
The art historian Robert Rosenblum said of him yesterday: ''Scott was as singular and unique as a person as he was as an artist. His fiercely laconic work destroyed the boundaries between furniture and sculpture, between private delectation and public use and radically altered the way we see many 20th-century masters, including Gerrit Rietveld and Brancusi.''