Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 174 - 19 October 2019

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 571

John Chamberlain (United States / 1927 - 2011)
Potatopoultry (2008)


€ 280 000 - 380 000

It's all in the fit

It's all in the fit. This seems a rather bold statement when looking upon "Potatopoultry" (2008), Chamberlain's chaotic and brutal sculpture. Weathered paint, violently twisted metal, rough edges. The artist doesn't seem to care about what would be considered a harmonious, appealing aesthetic ideal. The incomprehensible title of this work doesn't offer any relief either.

The flamboyant car wreck is nevertheless a careful collage of selected materials and colors. Chamberlain is inspired by the plastic and chromatic qualities of the unusual medium, without any romanticizing hints at all to the car sector or the American dream. The raw metal was simply abundant in America in the 60s, and the artist saw this as an excellent and inexpensive material to realize his art. The scrap yard was an endless treasure chest of resources. The artist himself is rather skeptical: "Michelangelo had a lot of marble in his backyard, so to speak; I had a lot of this stuff."

Chamberlain dissects and deforms car parts into ribbon-shaped pieces of metal he covers in cheerful pastel colored paint. As a whole they unfold like banners into an elegant, airy assembly that makes you forget the actual weight: "You have to fit them together. So you have a fit, and you have a form, and you have a color. And so all of these three parts are ... they're having a good time together, if you put them together well ... So you really need to know something about how things go together."

The colorful banners of "Potatopoultry" are like a materialized abstraction of brush strokes. This use of paint but also the spontaneous action of the artist are reminiscent of Jackson Pollock's Abstract Expressionism. On the other hand, the draped ribbons evoke a baroque drama. Torn and twisted they create the illusion of movement. Dark cavities and open voids, fictional and real volumes create a playful clair-obscur. The ordinary car wreck, looked down on and discarded by others, is - literally - placed by Chamberlain on a pedestal and elevated to a new aesthetic entity. Parallel to the way in which Chamberlain composes the material, he selects and arranges words and sounds into poetic titles as a finishing touch to the sculpture.

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