Monday, October 12, 2015

I Have Climbed on the Art of Claes Oldenburg, and He's Probably Okay with That

Swedish-American artist Claes Oldenburg is world-famous, with a long and acclaimed career than has already spanned over 60 years. His work has been featured in world-class museums such as the Whitney, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery.

Although he has produced everything from soft sculpture to performance art, he is best-known for his whimsical large-scale public sculptures of commonplace items such as typewriter erasers, lipstick tubes, and rubber stamps. There is a giant clothespin near City Hall in Philadelphia that I used to pass frequently as a college student at Moore, and as an art student, I knew that was an Oldenburg. It was in my art history books, and hey, there it was, right there!

But there is another Claes Oldenburg piece in Philadelphia that was a little less notable and a little less public. On the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, there is another over-sized common object, a sculpture entitled Split Button, pictured at the top. One night, I clambered about on it, as it seemed to be designed for just such a thing. I suspect I have not been the only clamberer, but I will say that if I had known that was an actual Oldenburg, it might have given me pause at the time.

That said, Mr. Oldenburg clearly has a sense of humor, and I doubt he would mind. After all, I'm pretty sure he wants his work to be enjoyed, and it was fun, after all! 

This giant three-way plug in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is particularly awesome.

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