Lot 260
  • 260

John Chamberlain

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
1,055,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • John Chamberlain
  • Wandering Bliss Meets Fruit of the Loom (aka America on Parade)
  • painted and chromium-plated steel


Acquired directly from the artist in 1980


Sarasota, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, International Florida Artists Exhibition, February - April 1981


Julie Sylvester, ed., John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954 – 1985, New York, 1986, cat. no. 649, p. 176, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

John Chamberlain’s Wandering Bliss Meets Fruit of the Loom (aka America on Parade) is a magnificently articulated visual feast, an exuberantly colored amalgamation of gleaming metals that provides an excitingly visceral visual impact. Despite the jagged edges of the metal fragments, the various elements appear almost reminiscent of fabric in their angle of arrangement and the diverse vibrancy of hues, counteracting the ruggedness of the medium with the merest suggestion of pliability and suppleness. Impressive in scale and projecting a sense of immense physicality, the work stands at the pinnacle of the Chamberlain re-discovery of the potential of the automobile as raw material. The sculptor had created his first revolutionary works out of abandoned car parts in 1958 as a result of his quest to discover a new aesthetic language, one that could act as a sculptural counterpart to the powerfully gestural brushstrokes that characterised the painting of Abstract Expressionist artists such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. These astonishing installations aroused immediate critical interest, and prompted an admiring article from a young Donald Judd, another sculptor who was to develop his own radical style and recognised the profound importance of Chamberlain’s discoveries: “The paint is folded into the convolutions of the metal and is unquestionably integral to the work. Colored sculpture has been discussed and hesitantly attempted for some time, but not with such implications” (Donald Judd, in Susan Davidson, "A Sea of Foam, an Ocean of Metal" in: Exh. Cat., New York, Guggenheim Museum, John Chamberlain, Choices, 2012, p. 20) Although Chamberlain’s use of everyday material invited associations with the concept of the Surrealist ‘Found Object’ and Marcel Duchamp’s Ready-mades, the sculptor himself preferring to express the idea that the metal was chosen rather than found: “Some seem to think that I work with found pieces, but I don’t. They’re chosen, you see. The idea is that there has been a lot of magic implied in the choice” (cited in Ibid., p. 18).

Despite Chamberlain’s increasingly innovative use of automobile parts during the early part of his career, the sculptor also experimented with other media between 1965 and 1972, creating works in aluminium foil, Plexiglas, galvanised steel and urethane foam. However, Chamberlain acknowledged the overriding importance of car parts as a crucial element within his pieces, returning to using steel in 1974: “I resumed work with colored steel when my friend David Budd said I owned that material, and in a way I felt that I did. I was convinced that it was a very good idea for me to go back to it… Nobody else seemed to be using the material and it had been piling up again in all the body shops” (cited in an interview with Julie Sylvester in: Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York, 1986, p. 22). By the time the present work was created in 1980, Chamberlain had advanced his use of car parts to new technical and stylistic heights, working on an increasingly large scale that reflected not only the improvements within car manufacturing but also displayed his ever-increasing delight in the possibilities of the material. 1980 was an especially important year for Chamberlain’s creative development: following a move to Sarasota in Florida, where he established a new studio space whilst living on a boat in a nearby marina, color began to play an even more crucial role within the installations, a development joyfully reflected in Wandering Bliss Meets Fruit of the Loom (aka America on Parade). Chamberlain recalled the inspiration of extensive sunshine and bright light: “Sarasota influenced my colors, as though I invented a fourth primary color or something.” (cited in Op. Cit., p. 26)

Chamberlain was fascinated by the conjunction of unexpected words and sounds, combining disparate phrases together to form memorably distinctive titles for his sculptures: divorced of conventional meaning, these words correspondingly become vehicles for inherent symbolism. Wandering Bliss Meets Fruit of the Loom (aka America on Parade) perfectly exemplifies this trend, mixing three distinct but wholly unrelated phrases to form a wittily entertaining title that gleefully defies full interpretation. Although "Wandering Bliss" seems to be an entirely invented  axiom, "Fruit of the Loom" invites associations with the American clothing company, founded in 1851, of the same name, whilst "America on Parade" references a procession that took place at Florida’s Disneyworld between 1975 and 1977. The eclectic choice of words adds another dimension to the piece, encouraging the onlooker to reach their own personal interpretation of the work. Ultimately Wandering Bliss Meets Fruit of the Loom (a.k.a America on Parade) is a stunning example of Chamberlain’s utterly distinctive style: a true masterpiece by one of the most distinguished American sculptors of the twentieth century.