John Chamberlain at the Guggenheim – a revelation in 3-dimensional color

Last week we went to NYC for a Nyla event at Trinity. Along the way we went to the Guggenheim largely to see the Francesca Woodman show. We had to walk up the ramp quite a way to get to that show and I found myself enthralled by the sculpture of John Chamberlain.

Untitled - 1962 from John Chamberlain Choices - exhibition catalog Guggenheim 2012

Untitled - 1962 (8 x 7 x 8 inches) from John Chamberlain Choices - exhibition catalog Guggenheim 2012

Miss Remember Ford -1964 (25 x 36 1/2 x 30 1/2 inches) by John Chamberlain-web

Miss Remember Ford -1964 (25 x 36 1/2 x 30 1/2 inches) by John Chamberlain - exhibition catalog Guggenheim 2012

Kiss #12-1979 (30 x 31 x 27 inches) by John Chamberlain-from Guggenheim show catalog

Kiss #12-1979 (30 x 31 x 27 inches) by John Chamberlain-from Guggenheim show catalog

Though he is apparently usually noted for his wide use of car parts in his sculpture, he noted, in an audio clip, how annoying this is to him, “Do you ask a painter what brand of  paint do you use?” Any connections to Pop Art or other commentaries passing as art was clearly not his intent or desire. The car parts were just material to him.

As I moved up the ramp it dawned on me that his use of painted/colored metals introduced, for me, color as a major element of sculpture. Although there is obviously color present in every sculpture, for the most part, I have been most focused on the 3-dimensional form not its color or even surface textures. Looking at Chamberlain’s work I started to see the color not as a surface element but in an entirely new dimension.

As I moved around the sculptures, the fields of color shifted into new juxtapositions of color. Because my mind does not process 2-dimensional forms with much interest I have always been left mostly uninterested in abstract expressionism and other non-figurative 2-dimensional art. Chamberlain’s work has given me new access to these forms of abstraction.

As we were leaving the Guggenheim I purchased the catalog. A bit later I opened it to a few of the photos of works that I had liked the most. I was immediately struck by how unsatisfactory these photos turned out to be. Though the photos were of high quality and the reproduction on the pages very good. They lay flat. It was not possible to get any of the experience of moving around the sculpture.

This reminded me that for years I have taken multiple images of sculpture with the intent of providing a weak simulation of this experience. With this in mind I went back to my photo collection and created a little slide show of a work Karen and I saw earlier in the winter on a walk through the field sof Omi International Arts Center in Ghent NY.

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