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Claes Oldenburg (American, Swedish)
Born 1929, Stockholm, Sweden
Lives and works in New York, California, and Loire Valley, France.
Perhaps the best-loved artist of the Pop Art movement, Claes Oldenburg is known for his playfully surreal sculptures that find new meaning in the everyday objects by expanding them to a gargantuan scale or deflating them into floppy, funny shells. A onetime journalist and illustrator in Chicago, Oldenburg fell in with Pop— a vernacular approach to art that mocked the somber bravado of Abstract Expressionism—after moving to New York in 1956.
Unlike fellow Pop artists Warhol and Lichtenstein, who took popular media as their inspiration, Oldenburg found his muse in everyday objects such as hamburgers, electric fans, bagels, and other familiar comforts. In 1961, Oldenburg opened The Store, an environmental installation populated with painted plaster objects that recreated the interior of an average New York City shop. Dripping, deliberately crude renditions of cash registers, dresses, men's hats, etc., broke down the distinction between commodities and artworks.
Oldenburg's environments sometimes doubled as the sites of Happenings, irreverent non-narrative theater pieces that defined the era's ad-hoc approach to art making and exerted a powerful influence on later performance art. A key figure in the Happenings, Oldenburg often sewed large canvas props for these performances.
In the 1970s, Oldenburg began collaborating on large-scale public sculptures with the art historian Coosje van Bruggen, whom he married in 1977. Together, Oldenburg and van Bruggen created such iconic public artworks as Minneapolis's Spoonbridge and Cherry, a giant sculpture of a spoon balancing a ripe cherry; the monumental badminton Shuttlecocks landed on the grounds on both sides of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City; and Cologne's Dropped Cone, a vanilla ice cream cone seemingly smooshed onto the corner of a shopping mall building. By manipulating the scale and context of ordinary objects, these mischievous public artworks transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary.
A pillar of postwar art, Oldenburg has been collected by major museums around the world. His earlier drawings, prints and objects are highly collectable. Public scaled sculpture projects by him and Coosje van Bruggen continue to be realized.
Alphabet in the Form of a Good Humor Bar
Offset lithograph on paper, Ed. of 250, 29 x 20 inches. 1970.
Offset Lithograph, Signed, Edition of 250, 29" x 20"