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“Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties”—The Perfect Knees-up

“Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties”—The Perfect Knees-up

I’m convinced art teachers in England use Claes Oldenburg as a student pacifier. GIANT PAINTED PLATES OF FOOD … HOT DOGS THE SIZE OF CARS … and so on. I saw the fun in his work but wasn’t a huge fan until I saw a little exhibition at the York City Art Gallery of his work in 1960s London. The standout for me was London Knees (above and below), a sculptural homage to the Britain’s swinging capital. Setting out to produce memorials of “objects from contemporary life that seemed to sum up and concentrate the ingredients of a specific time and place … enlarged and inserted into a site in the city” (#) Oldenburg mixed cultural observation and a foresight for iconic symbolism with wry humor to create adventurous proposals for environmental art. He also made sure to reference “the architectural and fetishistic functions of knees” through the work which, frankly, is a refreshing change from feet.

Some other favorites … Lipsticks in Piccadilly Circus, London, 1966 …

… and Pizza Pie, 1964.

And because my 1960s were the 1990s, here’s Oldenburg’s Shuttlecock, from 1994, on view at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties is out now, published by Prestel USA and edited by Achim Hochdorfer. Buy it here.

The flap says … “This comprehensive monograph explores the conceptual complexity and diversity of Claes Oldenburg’s early work to reveal this influential artist’s extraordinary inventiveness. Accompanying an exhibition of Oldenburg’s seminal early work, this publication examines the breadth of his artistic career from the late 1950s to 1970. It features works including the landmark installations The Street and The Store and their accompanying performances; the highly influential spectacular sculptures of everyday objects as well as drawings and preparatory collages for public projects from the 1960s.”

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