Indepth Arts News: |
"Oldenburg and van Bruggen on the Roof
2002-05-01 until 2002-10-31
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will mount an open-air display of
outstanding large-scale sculptures by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van
Bruggen in the 2002 installation of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof
Garden, opening May 1. Oldenburg and van Bruggen on the Roof will
feature four sculptures – created since 1999 – that have never before been
exhibited in New York. These works are based on stereotypical objects of
daily life that the artists have transformed, giving them fresh identities and
new functions. They will be installed in the 10,000-square-foot outdoor
space offering spectacular views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.
On view will be three very large, intensely colored works, on which the
husband and wife sculptors have collaborated in recent years: Architect’s
Handkerchief, 1999, fiber-reinforced plastic painted with polyester
gelcoat, 12-1/2 feet high; Corridor Pin, Blue, 1999, stainless steel and
aluminum painted with polyurethane enamel, more than 21 feet high; and
Plantoir (the French word means dibble or trowel), 2001, stainless steel,
aluminum, and fiber-reinforced plastic, painted with polyurethane enamel,
nearly 24 feet high. In addition, in the south corners of the Roof Garden,
there will be a two-part sculpture, Shuttlecock/Blueberry Pies I and II,
1999, cast aluminum painted with acrylic urethane, each four feet high.
Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm in 1929 and grew up in Chicago. He
attended Yale University, where he concentrated on English and art. He
worked in Chicago as a police reporter for the City News Bureau in the early
1950s before studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a U.S.
citizen in 1953. In 1956 Oldenburg settled in New York's then-gritty Lower
East Side; there, he created the object-filled environments The Street
(1960) and The Store (1961) as well as performances based on his
surroundings that led to his being hailed an inventor of Pop Art.
Oldenburg went on to make giant soft sculptures, including a 15-foot-long
ice-cream cone and a bed-size hamburger, and re-created manufactured
objects, such as a light switch or a toilet, in two versions: one hard (made of
cardboard or wood) and one soft (made of kapok-filled vinyl or canvas). In
the mid-1960s he embarked on what he calls Proposed Colossal Monuments,
renderings of startling modifications of familiar locations exquisitely drawn
in crayon and watercolor. In Proposed Colossal Monument for Park Avenue,
New York: Good Humor Bar (1965), for example, a melting ice-cream bar
is substituted for the MetLife Building. A bite out of the bar allows traffic to
From drawings of fantastic monuments Oldenburg moved on to actual or
"feasible" monuments. The first, The Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar
Tracks (1969, restored 1974), was a 24-foot-tall steel, aluminum, and
resin lipstick mounted on a platform on tank treads. It was commissioned by
students at the Yale School of Architecture. Intended as a podium for speeches
on issues of the day, it was installed in Yale's Beinecke Plaza in front of a
Neoclassical building inscribed with the names of World War I battle sites.
In 1976 the 45-foot-tall Clothespin was placed in central Philadelphia.
Later that year Oldenburg joined forces with Coosje van Bruggen on the
reconstruction and re-siting of the 41-foot-tall Trowel I (1971-76) on
the grounds of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. Thus began their
collaboration on what van Bruggen was to call Large-Scale Projects,
commissioned works permanently placed and emblematic of their site. To
date, 40 such projects have been realized in the United States, Europe, and
Japan, among them Batcolumn (1977) for Chicago, Spoonbridge and
Cherry (1988) for Minneapolis, Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle)
(1990) for Paris, Saw, Sawing (1996) for Tokyo, and Ago, Filo e Nodo
(Needle, Thread and Knot) (2000) for Milan.
Coosje van Bruggen was born in Groningen, the Netherlands, in 1942.
Trained in her youth as a ballet dancer, she received a master's degree in art
history with a minor in French literature from the University of Groningen.
After working as an assistant curator in the Painting and Sculpture
Department at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1967-71), she became
an independent curator. She married Oldenburg in 1977 and moved to the
United States the following year. In 1982 she served on the selection
committee for Documenta 7 in Kassel. Van Bruggen has been senior critic in
the Department of Sculpture at the Yale University School of Art and,
together with the curator Mildred Friedman and the architect Billie Tsien,
taught a class at the Harvard Design School.
Van Bruggen has written about Oldenburg's early work as well as on the
artists Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, John Baldessari, and Hanne
Darboven and the architect Frank O. Gehry. In 1985 she created the
characters for II Corso del Coltello (The Course of the Knife), a legendary
outdoor performance in Venice, Italy, done with Oldenburg and Gehry.
Van Bruggen became an American citizen in 1993. She and Oldenburg live and
work in lower Manhattan, in California, and on a centuries-old estate in the
Loire Valley, where the presence of nature and another culture (the region
was home to such literary figures as Rabelais, Balzac, de Tocqueville, George
Sand, and Proust) has affected their recent work – for example, the park and
garden sculptures placed on the roof.
The team develops ideas through discussions and drawings. They then build
models that are enlarged through factory procedures under their close
supervision. Unlike most large outdoor sculpture, the works are
polychromatic, made using colors formulated by van Bruggen.
The artistic team has to date executed more than 40 sculptures in
architectural scale, which have been inserted into various urban
surroundings in Europe, Asia, and the United States. These include:
Batcolumn, 1977, Harold Washington Social Security Center, 600 West
Madison Street, Chicago; Flashlight, 1981, University of Nevada, Las Vegas;
Stake Hitch, 1984, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Spoonbridge and
Cherry, 1988, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center,
Minneapolis; Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle), 1990, Parc de la
Villette, Paris; Binoculars (with Frank O. Gehry), 1991, 340 Main Street,
Venice, California; Free Stamp, 1991, Willard Park, Cleveland, Ohio;
Mistos (Match Cover), 1992, Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona; Inverted Collar
and Tie, 1994, Mainzer Landstrasse, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Saw,
Sawing, 1996, Tokyo International Exhibition Center, Big Sight, Tokyo;
Ago, Filo e Nodo (Needle, Thread and Knot), 2000, Piazzale Cadorna, Milan;
Flying Pins, 2000, Eindhoven, the Netherlands; and Dropped Cone, 2001,
Neumarkt Galerie, Köln, Germany. Oldenburg and van Bruggen are currently
creating large-scale projects for San Francisco (Cupid’s Span) and Denver,
Colorado (The Big Sweep).