Claes Oldenburg.
The Sixties

June 23 - Septem­ber 30, 2012

Claes Ol­d­en­burg is one of the chief ex­po­nents of Amer­i­can Pop Art. He be­longs to a gen­er­a­tion of artists who, be­gin­n­ing in the 1960s, want­ed art to be less eli­tist, aim­ing at mak­ing it rad­i­cal­ly pop­u­lar and true-to-life. Thanks to his cre­a­tive pa­nache, he pro­p­a­gat­ed a new type of art that “drips, is heavy and dull and as sweet and sil­ly as life it­self.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig of­fers the most com­pre­hen­sive overview of the artist’s oeu­vre to date, cov­er­ing his artis­tic de­vel­op­ment from the late 1950s to the mid-70s. Nu­mer­ous works and ensem­bles, gathered in a rare­ly seen den­si­ty, il­lu­mi­nate how his artis­tic vo­cab­u­lary emerged. The first is the his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­ni­f­i­cant in­s­tal­la­tion “The Street,” a group of fig­ures made from card­board, bur­lap, and news­pa­per as well as other used ma­te­rials. It takes its in­spi­ra­tion from graf­fi­ti de­pict­ing Man­hat­tan’s dark­er sides. “The Store” is an in­s­tal­la­tion from 1961 and is tak­en from his New York store/stu­dio, where he pre­sent­ed re­pro­duc­tions of ev­ery­day ob­jects, most­ly cloth­es and ed­i­bles with such ti­tles as “White Shirt,” “Brown Jack­et,” and “Pas­try Case.”

In 1963 Ol­d­en­burg be­gan his se­ries, “The Home,” con­sist­ing of re­pli­cat­ed house­hold ob­jects in dif­fer­ent sizes and made of di­verse ma­te­rials which he ren­dered in soft, hard, giant, and ghost ver­sions. At the time, Ol­d­en­burg dis­cov­ered vinyl as sub­s­tance and be­gan to de­sign ob­jects with metic­u­lous sur­faces that do, how­ev­er, lack re­silience and that the laws of grav­i­ty pull to the floor. Among the ob­jects are a fan whose flab­by wings hang down, a toi­let bowl that col­laps­es on­to it­self, and a huge sag­gy mix­er sus­pend­ed from the ceil­ing. All of a sud­den, th­ese ev­ery­day ob­jects seem strange and ir­ri­tat­ing. De­void of their usu­al func­tion, our gaze is drawn to their form.

A high­light of the ex­hi­bi­tion is the “Mouse Mu­se­um,” orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed for doc­u­men­ta 5 (1972) and pre­sent­ing 385 cu­ri­ous ob­jects and stu­dio mod­els that Claes Ol­d­en­burg col­lect­ed over the years, among them a pen in the shape of a wo­m­an’s leg, an over­sized tooth­brush, and a piece of cake made of plas­tic. Such ob­jects form a walk-in clos­et of Ol­d­en­burg’s sources.

Other as­pects of the show in­clude large­ly un­known archi­val ma­te­rials such as mag­azine clip­pings; many of the mo­tifs are reen­coun­tered in his sculp­tu­ral oeu­vre. There will al­so be Su­per-8 films that Ol­d­en­burg shot him­self as well as doc­u­men­taries about his hap­pen­ings. Achim Hochdör­fer from Vien­na’s mumok cu­rat­ed the ex­hi­bi­tion. A fur­ther Eu­ro­pean venue will be the Gug­gen­heim Mu­se­um Bil­bao. Af­ter­wards, the show will trav­el to the Mu­se­um of Mod­ern Art in New York and to the Walk­er Art Cen­ter in Min­neapo­lis.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is sup­port­ed by the Peter und Irene Lud­wig Stif­tung, the Com­merzbank-Stif­tung, the Ter­ra Foun­da­tion for Amer­i­can Art and Ströer Deutsche Städte Me­di­en GmbH as Me­di­a­part­n­er.

Ex­hi­bi­tion Cu­ra­tor: Dr. Stephan Died­erich