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"Claes Oldenburg: Drawings, 1959-1977 and Claes Oldenburg with Coosje van Bruggen: Drawings, 1992-1998, in the Whitney Museum of American Art"
2004-05-22 until 2004-08-08
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
Malibu, CA, USA United States of America

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University is proud to present Claes Oldenburg: Drawings, 1959-1977 and Claes Oldenburg with Coosje van Bruggen: Drawings, 1992-1998, in the Whitney Museum of American Art from May 22 through August 8, 2004. This exhibition of over 75 drawings follows the career of one of the most successful sculptors and influential Pop artists of the twentieth century. It surveys his life as an artist, beginning with his first Pop Art works in the 1960s, followed by his marriage and artistic collaboration with Coosje van Bruggen in the late 1970s, and ending with their recent public projects in the late 1990s.

Oldenburg gained international fame for his Pop Art sculptures that transform common objects into whimsical constructions, using surprising and unexpected materials. His drawings reveal the creative process behind his public pieces. Oldenburg uses drawing to capture ideas and to plan fantastic projects, many of which are too large and complicated to be built. A consummate more, draftsman, he employs a startling variety of materials—pencil, ink, crayon, watercolor, pastel—to produce engaging images of ordinary things seen in extraordinary ways. Many of these works on paper are designs for the artist’s two best-known series: soft sculptures and monumental projects. Like other artists of the Pop Art movement, he was fascinated by the banal products of our consumer culture. He was particularly intrigued by everyday things with close human associations, such as bathtubs, typewriters, light switches, and electric fans. By recreating them in soft, pliant vinyl or as gigantic, imposing structures, he gave these objects a new dimension, often with alarming or humorous overtones. His drawings reveal these sculptures as he originally imagined them, as seen in a monumental teddy bear towering over New York’s Central Park.

Claes Oldenburg was born on January 28, 1929, in Stockholm, Sweden, but spent most of his childhood in the United States. After studies at Yale University and the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved to New York City in 1956. He established his reputation in the early 1960s with a series of installations and performances influenced by his surroundings on the Lower East Side.

Oldenburg’s early interest in creating whole environments such as The Street (1960), The Store (1961), and Bedroom Ensemble (1963) soon evolved into a concentration on single sculptures. Using ordinary, everyday objects as his form of expression, he went on to develop soft sculpture and fantastic proposals for civic monuments. In 1969 he created his first monumental work, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, which became a controversial focus for student protest when it was installed at Yale University. Other landmark public projects include a 45-feet-high Clothespin installed in downtown Philadelphia in 1976.

Since 1976 he has worked in partnership with artist and art historian Coosje van Bruggen. Together they have executed over 40 large-scale projects, which have been inserted into various urban surroundings in Europe, Asia, and the United States. One of their most recent works is the 144-feet-long, 64-feet-high Cupid’s Span for Rincon Park on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

This collection of Oldenburg’s works on paper was assembled when the Whitney Museum began quietly acquiring the artist’s drawings in the late 1990s. Today its holdings constitute the largest single collection of Oldenburg’s drawings in the world. The Whitney held an exhibition of the entire group in New York in 2002, and the presentation at Pepperdine is the first time this important collection has been seen on the West Coast.

Oldenburg has had long-standing relationships with artists, architects and collectors in Los Angeles. Frederick R. Weisman, founder of the Weisman Museum at Pepperdine, more, commissioned the artist in 1988 to create a major outdoor work, Spoonbridge and Cherry, in Weisman’s home town of Minneapolis as a tribute to his parents. Oldenburg and van Bruggen worked with architect Frank Gehry on the Main Street Project (1975-84) in Venice, CA, and Camp Good Times (1984-85) in the Santa Monica Mountains. In 1986 he created Knife Slicing Through Wall at the Margo Leavin Gallery in West Hollywood. In 1991 they designed a binocular-shaped sculpture as part of Gehry’s Chiat/Day Building in Venice. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles hosted a traveling Oldenburg retrospective, organized by the Guggenheim Museum, in 1996.

This exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalog. This 224-page book features an introduction by Janie C. Lee and an interview with the artist, as well as 99 illustrations, with 92 in color.

This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. This project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services by an Act of Congress. The presentation in Los Angeles is generously sponsored by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Blueberry Pie a la Mode, Sliding down a Hill, 1996
charcoal and pastel on paper,
39 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches,
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 
Gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., 
Leonard A. Lauder, President

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