Jacob Lewis Gallery is pleased to present Chamberlain, an exhibition of iconic works by the late sculptor John Chamberlain. The exhibition will be on view September 16–October 22, 2016, with an opening reception September 15, 6-8pm.
In 1957, John Chamberlain became one of the first artists to render the tenets of the Abstract Expressionist movement in three dimensions. On a legendary summer day in Southampton, New York, the artist ran over the fenders of Larry Rivers’ dilapidated 1929 Ford, bending and welding the pieces to found poles, recontextualizing it as art object. This breakthrough became the crux of Chamberlain’s artistic practice, which is defined by his use of highly-curated auto body material—warped, crimped, collaged and welded into large-scale totems and colorful mounds.
The works in the exhibition take their titles from a bank of lyrical words and phrases the artist collected over his lifetime, responding to the poetry of his contemporaries at Black Mountain College. Created in the aughts, the sculptures are loose and ribbonesque—painted, crushed, and then painted again—airy and playful in comparison to their mid-century counterparts. As the viewer moves through the space, the works reflect and refract, giving an impression that is both imposing and unexpectedly organic.
Poet Charles Olson’s influence on Chamberlain’s methodology can be intuited in Olson’s 1950 essay Projective Verse, where he asserts “…the poem itself must, at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge." A frenzy of color in varying luminosity, the sculptures emblematize the balance between a rugged, industrial verve and the discerning, meditative precision of collage. The works evade classification and maintain, even after the artist’s death, an utterly contemporary spirit.
John Chamberlain was born in 1927 in Rochester, Indiana. From 1951 to 1952, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, IL, and from 1955 to 1956, he attended the storied Black Mountain College, NC. Exhibited internationally, Chamberlain’s work has been the subject of several major exhibitions and retrospectives including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany; and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany. Awards include two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships, Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (1993), and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture from the International Sculpture Center (1993). Recent solo exhibitions include Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland (2015); the Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York (2012); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2011); The Menil Collection, Houston (2000, 2009); The Center for Public Sculpture, New York (2000); Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2005); Chinati Foundation, Texas (2005); Dan Flavin Art Institute, Dia Center for the Arts, New York (2007, 2013). The artist spent his final years living and working in Shelter Island, N.Y. and died in 2011.