Gagosian is pleased to present four monumental sculptures by the late John Chamberlain, on view at the Park Avenue plaza outside the historic Seagram Building from August 10.
PINEAPPLESURPRISE (2010), MERMAIDSMISCHIEF (2009), ROBUSTFAGOTTO (2008), and FROSTYDICKFANTASY (2008) are among the later sculptures that Chamberlain produced during his sixty-year career. Up to fifteen feet in height, the works on view are constructed from silver, green, or copper-colored industrial aluminum, which has been looped and flexed into whimsical, biomorphic forms. From the mid–1970s, Chamberlain began fashioning miniature sculptures from household aluminum foil. In 2007, he began successfully transposing these miniatures into durable materials on a grand scale, but without sacrificing any of the lightness, directness, and spontaneity of the initial foils. Although he used materials other than his signature “art supply” of discarded metal car parts, these sculptures consistently reflect his lifelong concern with what he described as “fit.” The intricately tangled and woven parts ultimately resolve themselves in balanced, cohesive structures.
The titles of these sculptures are also amalgamations, consistent with Chamberlain’s longtime interest in language play. Capitalization, puns, nonsensical words, and sexual innuendoes proliferate throughout his naming structure, which deploys an offbeat sense of humor and abounds with personal references. As noted in the catalogue for the recent Guggenheim Museum retrospective, ROBUSTFAGOTTO could be a play on the Italian word “fagotto,” which was a Renaissance-era instrument predating the bassoon, while “robust” is commonly used to describe woodwind performances. Together, they might suggest Chamberlain’s reverence for music, especially jazz. Read another way, the word “bust” becomes evident, as does the imperative, “got to,” and the palindromic name “Otto.”
Given their reflective and textured surfaces and powerful torque, the sculptures appear to be in constant flux as one walks around them on the plaza; changes in atmosphere and weather also impact their overall appearance. The streamlined geometric modernism of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building (1954–58) further accentuates their playful, irreverent, and exuberant presence in the bustling urban landscape.
From the Quarterly
In Foil Adventures: John Chamberlain’s Late Works in Aluminum, Corinna Thierolf discusses how, starting in the mid-1960s, the artist investigated and perfected working with this material.
Patrick Seguin: Chamberlain and Prouvé
Two twentieth-century heavyweights collide in a show of works by John Chamberlain and Jean Prouvé in New York. Derek Blasberg talks to Patrick Seguin about Prouvé and design on the occasion of the exhibition.
Extended through June 1, 2018
April 17–June 1, 2018
Davies Street, London
September 19–October 28, 2017
980 Madison Avenue, New York
September 7–November 3, 2016
May 20–June 18, 2011
Britannia Street, London