Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Claes Oldenburg: Creating playful and monumental art out of everyday objects

Along San Francisco's Embarcadero / Cupid's Span (circa 2010)

The Swedish-born American sculptor Claes Oldenburg delights in creating large replicas of everyday objects. They are playful and monumental. Yes, they are gigantic and they grab your attention, too.

The 83-year-old Oldenburg's public art installations have included a diaper pin, badminton shuttlecocks, a spoon and cherry, a clothespin, an ice cream cone, even a old-fashioned typewriter eraser. These visual artworks and others just as playful and monumental created by Oldenburg dot the urban landscapes of many major U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Seattle.

Until I caught a glimpse of Corridor Pin, Blue last weekend during a visit to the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, it hadn't occurred to me that I have seen many of Oldenburg's public art installations during my U.S. travels this millennium. 

I've seen the Giant Shuttlecocks on the pristine front lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City; the Spoonbridge and Cherry that highlights the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at Walker Art Center; and the Typewriter Eraser, Scale X at the Olympic Sculpture Garden in Seattle.

Lo and behold, San Francisco is home to not only the giant diaper pin sculpture. It is also where Cupid's Span, a 60-foot-high painted fiberglass and stainless-steel sculpture created by Oldenburg and Coojse van Bruggen, his wife and collaborator of more than a quarter century, dropped anchor and took up residence along the Embarcadero waterfront in 2002. It certainly changed the look and landscape when it premiered.

I've walked by and admired Cupid's Span numerous times over the years and photographed it from many different angles. Each time, it seems, there's something different about it. Once, I was lucky enough to capture the bow and arrow while it was covered in fog.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on the occasion of the unveiling of Cupid's Span, Oldenberg said: "At first there's the man-in-the-street opinion, but then there's the more nuanced response. We don't copy the objects we use, we try to transform them and we hope they go on transforming as you look at them. The idea of endless public dialogue -- visual dialogue -- is very important to us."

Whether or not Oldenburg has a social agenda behind his public art installations doesn't matter to me. I find his Pop Art both visually colorful and admiring. And, as Oldenburg once explained to Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker: "Just the fact that you can put up something beautiful and complex in a city is a social statement in itself."

To learn more about Claes Oldenburg:

Photograph of Cupid's Span by Michael Dickens, copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment