When the Swedish born artist Claes Oldenburg moved to New York from Chicago in 1956, it was with the idea that he would pursue a career as a painter. But by 1960 he had all but given up the painting idea in lieu of making sculpture - a revolutionary kind of sculpture that had never been seen before and reflected both his New York experience and the nascent pop art culture of the time.
In an exhibition co-curated with the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, is currently presenting an unprecedented selection of Oldenburg's earliest works.
At the end of the year, Oldenburg rented a storefront on East Second Street that would act as both a studio and a showroom. Here he created a commercial fantasyland of everyday objects made of brightly painted paper maché. These sculptures were primitive, lumpy and out of scale representations of items like shoes, cakes, soda bottles, cigarettes and hamburgers and they were available for sale to the public from Friday to Sunday from one to six o'clock.
The MoMA exhibition continues downstairs in the Marron Atrium with two large scale installation pieces rarely put on display. "Mouse Museum" and "Ray Gun Wing" were completed in the 1970s and represents Oldenburg's own selection of hundreds of his sculptures and ready-made objects in his "museum of popular art, nyc". One can clearly see the influence of Marcel Duchamp but these are unique works that reflect the artist's own dialogs regarding collecting and creating and the distinction between ordinary items and museum treasures.
Claes Oldenburg was revolutionary in his time and continues to play a major role in Contemporary Art. This exhibition is a fascinating look at how Oldenburg bounded onto the art scene and why he remains influential to this day. It will remain on view at MoMA until August 5th.