Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store
Claes Oldenburg: Mouse Museum/Ray Gun Wing
14th April – 5th August, 2013
Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
14th April – 5th August, 2013
Christie’s Sculpture Garden
New York City, USA
Claes Oldenburg’s early work, The Street (1960) – an installation that conjures the gritty and chaotic atmosphere of downtown New York City – and The Store (1961-64) – a large group of handmade, brightly painted sculptures depicting a myriad of commercial products and foodstuffs – redefined the concept of sculpture, putting him on the road to establishing himself as one of the 20th century’s most important artists. Both pieces, along with Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing, created in the 1970s as self-contained ‘museums’ to house careful arrangements of the artist’s personal archives of American popular culture, and tests and experiments from his studio, are being put on view, simultaneously, at the Museum of Modern Art.
Born in 1929, in Stockholm, Sweden, the infant Oldenburg was shuttled back and forth between Scandinavia and the US until his parents finally settled in Chicago in 1936. After studying literature at Yale he took art courses in Chicago. In 1953 he became a US citizen and moved to New York City three years later. He soon came into contact with Jim Dine and Tom Wesselman and found himself part of a new group of artists, who were challenging the might of abstract expressionism. The pop artists, as they were later christened, produced figurative and representational images, and used found objects, to create art that was a visual commentary on consumerism.
Produced in 1960, Oldenburg’s The Street is an installation made of bits of newspaper, scraps of sacking, cardboard objects and papier-mâché, cut, torn, crumpled then assembled to create a fragmented panorama of the contemporary metropolis, inspired by New York’s Lower East Side of the 1950s.
Shifting focus the following year, Oldenburg began creating The Store, an environment first presented in a group show at New York’s Martha Jackson Gallery, and afterwards in a real rented storefront on East Second Street, which was filled with sculptures – objects made from plaster soaked canvas painted in layers of enamel paint – representing the products on sale in shops throughout the neighborhood.
He continued to develop The Store up until 1964, creating further versions of it and producing a large selection of Store sculptures and drawing, many of which have been brought together for the Museum of Modern Art show. However, during 1962-63 – a time of experimentation for Oldenburg – he became interested in reinterpreting commonplace objects like light switches, hamburgers, lipsticks and typewriters. He transformed hard things to soft (and vice versa), radically changed scale, and played around with erotic analogies to body parts.
Following on from this, Oldenburg started his fantastic monument projects in 1965. Coinciding with MoMA’s exhibition, Christie’s Private Sales is exhibiting and offering Typewriter Eraser – the once-ubiquitous US office accessory wittily transformed into a large monumental sculpture – executed in 1976 in painted aluminum, stainless steel, ferroconcrete and bronze. In 2009 the same item was sold at Christie’s New York for the world auction record price of £1,460,000/$2,210,500.
Claes Oldenburg sculptures from top
Enamel on plaster-soaked cloth on wire.
140.7 x 99.7 x 14cm (55 3/8 x 39 1/4 x 5 1/2ins)
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution
Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase & Bequest Funds, 1994
©Claes Oldenburg, 1961
Photo Lee Stalsworth
Floor Cone, 1962
Photographed in front of Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, 1963
Oldenburg van Bruggen Studio
Floor Burger, 1962
Canvas filled with foam rubber and cardboard boxes,
painted with acrylic paint
132.1 x 213.4 x 213.4 cm (52 x 84 x 84ins)
Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Purchase, 1967
©Claes Oldenburg, 1962
Photo Sean Weaver
Pastry Case, I, 1961-62
Painted plaster sculptures on ceramic plates, metal platter and
cups in glass and metal case
52.7 x 76.5 x 37.3 cm (20 3/4 x 30 1/8 x 14 3/4ins)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection
©Claes Oldenburg, 1961-62
Photo MoMA Imaging Services
Typewriter Eraser, 1976
Painted aluminum, stainless steel, ferroconcrete and bronze
227.3 x 203.2 x 177.8 cm (89 1/2 x 80 x 70 ins)
Number three from an edition of three
Photo Christie’s Image 2013
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