Oldenburg’s Clothespin from 1974 is a quintessential embodiment of the artist’s lifelong interest in the reappropriation of ordinary materials. By removing everyday household objects from their normal contexts and enlarging them to larger-than-life scales, Oldenburg’s chosen products become a vehicle through which he questions standardization and urges viewers to reexamine otherwise banal consumer objects through a new lens. This idea of displacing and thus defamiliarizing an object was fundamental to the Surrealists, who similarly believed that once an object was removed, its meaning was critically transformed. While conceptually aligned with the Surrealists, Oldenburg most importantly endures as a pivotal Pop artist, whose work centers on the commodities of American life. In his early career, Oldenburg gained critical notoriety for his oversized soft sculptures of quotidian items such as hamburgers, fans, light switches, and toilets. Following his soft sculptures, Oldenburg transitioned toward an increasingly industrial aesthetic based on mechanical production and hard materials as witnessed by the pristine construction and striking bronze patina of the present work. An iconic symbol of this second phase of Oldenburg’s practice, Clothespin reveals the artist’s absolute finesse in industrial design and flawless mastery over the sculptural medium.
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