Five American Artists


Prologue by David Neuman, Director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
Five American Sculptors, essay by Carter Ratcliff, American Art Critic and Writer

Exhibition catalogue no 1
No of pages:
42, color, illustrated
soft cover

Language: Swedish and English
Year: 1987
Publisher: Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall

Available for purchase in our museum entrance for 300 SEK (approx. 30 EUR)


Five American Sculptors by Carter Ratcliff

In 1957, when he was thirty years old, John Chamberlain found the style he would elaborate for the next three decades as a second-generation member of the New York School. It is a paradoxical style, at once brusque and dandified, the product looking hard at the aggrandized Cubism of such first-generation New York School painters as Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning. Ten years later, Lynda Benglis looked to the anti-Cubism of Jackson Pollock. She was twenty-eight years old. Within the next few seasons, Benglis had made her first mature works by pouring pigmented latex on the floor of a New York gallery. Joel Fisher, Mel Kendrick and Robert Therrien belong to yet another generation, one that is just now coming into focus. Born in the years 1947-49, they belong to no clearly delineated art movement. One could argue that there is no such movement to which they could belong.

Like Chamberlain and Benglis before them, these younger artists have found individuality as sculptors by engaging deeply with painting. The five have something else in common: they are not Minimalists. This may seem too obvious to require comment, yet in the quarter-century since artists like Robert Morris and Sol LeWitt presented the chaste geometries that came to be known as Minimalist, every American sculptor has had to come to terms with the style. This was so even for Chamberlain, who had become a fixture on the New York scene well before Minimalism appeared.

In 1963 he made some small paintings whose sparse imagery might, if one insisted, count as Minimalist. Works like these appeared for a few more years but never disrupted his main line of development, which originated in the heat of Abstract Expressionism and simply bypassed Minimalist coolness. Benglis and the other three could not take that route, for they began working after Minimalism had established itself. Each confronted the style and sooner or later (quite a bit later, in Mel Kendrick’s case) fought free of its authority.

To produce his crumpled metal forms, John Chamberlain invites the energies of the factory and the junk yard into his art. His refinement evolved – and continues to evolve – from a sense of the sturdy Cubist scaffolding beneath the agitated surface of so much New York School painting, especially Kline’s and de Kooning’s. Chamberlain’s mixture of delicacy and force gives his art a double memory, one that reaches back to the neglected landscape of the scrap heap’s time out of time and also to the time between the world wars, when stylistic differences signaled disagreements about the best way for art to transform the world. (…)