John Chamberlain, 1927 – 2011

The First Dance of Trees

Painted and chromium-plated steel
213 x 274 x 152 cm
Formerly collection of Magasin III

In 1957 Chamberlain produced his first sculpture of crumpled car parts and quickly gained international recognition. Though he would continue to explore other media including painting, film, printmaking and other materials for his sculptures, including foam, Plexiglas and aluminum foil, car parts quickly became his signum.

Chamberlain appropriated the symbol of American consumerism and used fenders, bumpers, and the chassis to develop a unique and expressive style of sculpture. Before modelling the parts together, he applied new paint, sandblasted and scratched the metal surfaces. The sculptures invite viewers to move around them in order to take in the shifting shapes and angles.

Though at times he is associated with Pop Art because of his close relation to an object, the gestural nature of his assembled automobile parts has gained him a reputation as a three-dimensional Abstract Expressionist. The titles are often poetic words and phrases he collected, some from literature and film, others from the everyday. The sound or look of words held as much importance to him as the sound of the metal parts coming together. The dramatically draped metal creates movement and associations that reach far beyond the automobile as a vehicle.

Tessa Praun, Curator, September 2012