John Chamberlain

Feb 29, 2012

New York City

Chamberlain (1927-2011) moved to New York in 1956 and within a few years hit upon the decision to utilize car metal as art material. His sculptures hewn from automobiles inevitably attracted the wrong interpretation; where Chamberlain employed creative re-use, others saw simply car crashes. He spent the rest of his life outrunning that association. His primary concern was and continued to be three-dimensional abstraction. More sensitive observers noted a kinship between his works and the dramatic modeling and contrapposto of Baroque art and sculptural drapery studies.

As also shown in his retrospective Choices that is currently running at Guggenheim New York, Chamberlein’s sculptures range from the size of a fist to the girth of a generous hug to the height of a young, and eventually not so young, tree. Swelling and shrinking, in coats of multicolor, monochrome, or black-and-white paint, the survey of Chamberlain’s career displays the integrity of the artist’s gesture in diverse manifestations.

Chamberlain brazenly defied the taboo of color in sculpture, a holdover from the rhetoric of medium specificity surrounding Abstract Expressionism (materials should be true to themselves, therefore color is the business of painting), which was still influential in the 1960s and considered one of the foremost problems in sculpture at the time. He originally circumvented the controversy by pleading that his color was found straight off of the assembly lines and highways of America.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York

February 24th – May 13th, 2012
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128
USA

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