Thursday, April 11, 2013

Claes Oldenburg at the Moma


For me it was always Oldenburg who inspired me to make art. For me he was the one who made art look like fun, that art could be anything, could be made of anything and could be personal. For me he bridged the gap between abstract expressionism and Pop Art, and made me realize that I too could be an artist. For me Oldenburg said just be yourself, tell your story, it may not be accepted or liked but at least it will be all yours to tell. When I moved to New York City from Brooklyn in 1967 when I was 19 and just about ready to turn 20, Green, innocent and not knowing much about contemporary art, I had several roommates sharing our 6th floor walkup in Chelsea. My favorite was John who was an assistant to Kusama and one night he took me to a wild party at her loft where I stood open mouthed and eyes wide open. John a hippie, gay, flamboyant and way ahead of his time would encourage me to make art, would offer his smart opinions about what I was doing and what I should be doing and told me about Warhol, Johns, Rauschenberg  and above all Oldenburg. I’ve always loved Oldenburg’s art and this work of his that inspired me is now the subject of a beautiful and big (in more ways than one) 2 part exhibition now on view at The Museum Of Modern Art. It’s like a wonderful open faced sandwich with french fries on the side. The main show (there is also a 2nd exhibition, a gathering in that awful atrium of his Mouse Museum and Ray Gun pieces), covers his seminal early 60’s work, the work of the street and the store, the raw and free cardboard, papier-mâché and plaster of paris sculptures of everyday objects and things, food, clothes and toys that are so ephemeral looking that its amazing that they survived. But of course they did, because they were bought and saved by collectors and museums all over the world and the artist himself. They look fresh new and beautiful. The show opens with his imposing large  “abstract” corrugated cardboard Art Brut Dubuffet inspired sculptures of street chicks, dolls and big heads along with a large hanging phallic “Empire (‘Papa’) Ray Gun” that looks like something from a sci fi movie.  These works  are threatening and scary but at the same time amusing and of course original. Reaching into his childhood and indeed ours, in 1961 he opens a store on the lower eastside and sells his brightly painted and splattered papier-mâché and plaster of paris objects many for just a song and a dance. Who of us didn’t play store when kids. At the same time he did performances and “happenings” and made fast Dubuffet inspired drawings and posters. The exhibit includes some of his oversize and soft sculptures that would soon become what he is most known and famous for, soft and large toilets folding into themselves, giant soft hamburgers and ice cream cones, soft and huge and all beautifully crafted and made. His work would eventually become monumental and off-putting to me all shiny and clean, new and improved, untouched by his hands, but that would come much later and for now we have this marvelous show of his street urchins and lower eastside chicks in their cheap plaster of paris dresses blowing in the wind, his scrappy and yes crappy looking pieces of food and signs, candy and toys colorful, splashy and rude and all are back for a much appreciated visit. Ah Claes. 


Blogger scott davidson said...

Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,

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