John Chamberlain – Choices

The Guggenheim Museum in NYC is hosting an amazing retrospective of John Chamberlain. The exhibition runs through the middle of May so there is plenty of time to get in a cab, board a bus or whatever it takes to get there. The artist was involved in planning the display up until his passing on December 21, 2011 at the age of 84.

John Chamberlain - Choices - Installation View - 2012
John Chamberlain, Choices, installation view, 2012.

The exhibition is aptly titled, “Choices” because of the way that the man worked. He would move from one decision to the next with the bravado of a bullfighter. When he saw the right move, he would make it and rarely look back. His momentous results now carry the tag of legendary.

John Chamberlain - HAWKFLIESAGAIN - 2010
John Chamberlain, HAWKFLIESAGAIN, Painted, chromium-plated, and stainless steel, 2012.

It is always exciting to come across one of the large crushed automobile sculptures in gallery and museum hunts. The work carries with it a tremendous impact when viewed in person. The entire spiral of the Guggenheim is filled with these pillars of steel. Navigating through the niches of the building and around each piece requires considerable physical and mental efforts on the part of the viewer.

John Chamberlain - Untitled - 1960
John Chamberlain, Untitled, Paper, metal, painted and printed tin-plated steel, printed paper, 1960.

The selections have been grouped roughly by decade and the chronology is appreciated in regard to understanding the decision making that Chamberlain employed while defining his singular movement. He was interested in the way that pieces relied on other pieces for support in shape, light, space and color. His attraction to art began with the abstract painters but his own early works like the untitled piece above literally spilled from the frame.

John Chamberlain - Penthouse #50 - 1969
John Chamberlain, Penthouse #50, Watercolor and resin on paper, 1969.

A very delicate sensibility was evident in the small pieces that were peppered through the exhibition. The weight and size of the huge pieces make it easy to forget that a man was behind their production but the smaller works bring us back to the hands of the sculptor.

John Chamberlain - Whirled Peas - 1991
John Chamberlain, Whirled Peas, Painted, chromium-plated, and stainless steel, 1991.

John Chamberlain is credited with bringing Abstract Expressionism to the third dimension. He did believe that all art, his and others, came out of connecting various abstract expressions. He really existed outside of movements. Passion drove his being through the ability to establish beauty in the twisted metal of a wreck.

John Chamberlain in his studio - 2011
John Chamberlain in his studio, 2011.

I was surprised by my personal immediate reaction to his death. Yelling, “Ah, shit!” is outside my normal behavior when facing a solemn situation. He was like that and I think, deep down I was responding in kind. I was looking forward to this exhibit as a living memorial but now accept it as a fittingly glorious sendoff.

John Chamberlain - C’ESTZESTY - 2011
John Chamberlain, C’ESTZESTY, Painted and stainless steel, 2011.

John Chamberlain
24 February – 13 May 2012
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Images courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

Filed under:   Magazine

About Scott Lickstein, Look Into My Owl

Scott Lickstein is a visual artist and was the founder / primary writer for the art news source, until January 2013 when it merged with NOWhere Limited’s Magazine.

1 Response to John Chamberlain – Choices

  1. evan says:

    thanks for the peek Scott!

Comments are closed.

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