521 W 21st Street
An exhibition of rarely exhibited early drawings by Claes Oldenburg will be on view at the Paula Cooper Gallery from 14 February through 16 March, 2002. Dating from 1959 to 1963, these exceptional drawings give a sense of Oldenburg’s creativity and versatility at the time he came to prominence as one of the major figures of Pop Art.
The selection of drawings on view will consist of early landscape studies and nude studies, street scenes, Store drawings and monoprints from the Ray Gun series. These drawings document Oldenburg’s prolific and stylistically varied output informed by his vision of American society in the beginning of the 1960s. The early landscapes and nude studies (1959), which retain a sense of perspective and depth, suggest an interest in idyllic, timeless representations of nature and give a sense of the artist’s experimentation with classical genres. On the other hand, the zany streetscapes populated with passersby and storefronts brimming with merchandise register the expansion of urban consumer culture the artist experienced at a direct level after moving to New York in 1956.
Oldenburg established himself in the beginning of the 1960s with a number of installations and performances such as The Street (1960) and The Store (1961). The Store drawings on view, which were shown at the Green Gallery, relate to the plaster sculptures that were made for that installation based on the environment of neighborhood shops. The monoprints from the Ray Gun series were studies for posters announcing the artist’s performances at the Judson and Reuben galleries, 1960 — 61.
Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1929, and grew up in Chicago. In 1956, he moved to New York City, where he played a key role in the emergence of Pop Art, using ordinary, everyday objects as his form of expression. During the 1960s he went on to develop “soft” sculpture and fantastic proposals for civic monuments. At the end of the decade, Oldenburg took up fabrication on a large scale with Lipstick (ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks (1969-74), culminating in Clothespin (1976). Since 1976, he has worked with his partner Coosje van Bruggen on the development of over 40 large-scale sculptures in urban sites in the U.S., Europe and Japan.