John Chamberlain: Artist Portrait

John Chamberlain

Born 1927. Died 2011.
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John Chamberlain Biography

Considered one of the most important American Post-War sculptors, John Chamberlain is best known for his large-scale scrap metal works. Made from readily available industrial materials, his vibrant sculptures embody the energy and dynamism of Abstract Expressionism, with nods to the readymades of Dada and the prefab elements of Pop Art. Chamberlain’s distinctively whimsical and arresting style is also on display in his work with other media, including film, large-format photography, prints, painting, reliefs, masks and more.

John Chamberlain was born in 1927 in Rochester, Indiana. After serving in the US Navy, Chamberlain attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the famed Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He moved to New York in 1956, where he began experimenting with abandoned automobile parts, creating his iconic SHORTSTOP (1957), a pitch black assemblage of antique Ford fenders. Chamberlain had his first major solo show in 1960 at the Martha Jackson Gallery, and in 1961, he was included in the definitive group exhibition THE ART OF ASSEMBLAGE at the Museum of Modern Art. By the late 60s, Chamberlain had evolved his use of materials to include urethane foam, galvanized steel, mineral-coated Plexiglas and aluminum foil. In the mid-70s, he rededicated his practice to automobile parts, and in 1980, moved to a massive studio in Sarasota, Florida, which allowed him to greatly expand the scale of his work. Chamberlain’s towering aluminum foil sculptures, created in the last phase of his career, were displayed in 2012 outside of the Seagram Building in New York. Chamberlain died in 2011 at the age of 84.

Major retrospectives of Chamberlain’s work have been held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1971, 2012) and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986). He is the recipient of numerous honors including the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture from the International Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C. (1993) and a Distinction in Sculpture Honor from the Sculpture Center, New York (1999). Today, Chamberlain’s work can be found in permanent collections around the world, including those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; The Menil Collection, Houston; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland.

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