32

Details & Cataloguing

Design: Living in a Material World

|
London

John Chamberlain
UNIQUE 'TABLE OF TIDES' AND 'POT-POURRI', TWO WORKS
painted stainless and chromium-plated steel with glass top and painted steel shards and medallions respectively 
88.3 x 243.2 x 121.3 cm (34  3/4  x 95  3/4  x 47  3/4  in.) and 15.2 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm (6 x 6  1/2  x 6  1/2  in.) respectively
executed in 1993 and in 1981-1990 respectively
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Turbulence, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1993

Exhibited

New York, Turbulence, Art and Application, February - March, 1993

Literature

Turbulence, Art and Application, exh. cat., New York, 1993, pp. 34-35

Catalogue Note

John Chamberlain’s unique and playful Table of Tides and the accompanying Pot-Pourri were featured in the historic Art and Application exhibition held at Turbulence in New York from February 10 - March 20, 1993. Alongside prominent artists such as Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, and Albert Paley, sculpture artist John Chamberlain responded to the exhibition’s call to investigate the role of furniture as a burgeoning artistic medium, and calls into question what distinguishes fine art from design. By reacting to questions such as “Are these works furniture as art or art as furniture?," “Furniture about art or art about furniture?,” and “Does application make art superfluous or relevant?,” these artists challenged the hierarchal standards attached to long-standing historical and cultural prejudices that separate fine art from functional art. Turbulence curator Christine Ollier, in collaboration with curator Rick Kaufmann of Art et Industrie, invited 25 American artists to explore this controversial relationship by each creating two works for the installation: one piece of fine art and one functional piece, each left unspecified for observers to classify for themselves. After attending both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Black Mountain College, Chamberlain began employing both the methods and stylistic approaches of his faculty mentors such as Franz Kline. However, unlike his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries, such as Willem de Kooning and David Smith, Chamberlain unwittingly began exploring the social implications of art by manufacturing sculptures made from everyday materials. Although similar to Duchamp’s readymades, Chamberlain pioneered the use of “chosen” materials, or materials he happened to stumble upon that naturally piqued his aesthetic instincts. As such, Chamberlain’s early sculptures were combinations of incompatible and unlikely materials, predominately discarded and used car parts left as waste by others. Keeping with his Abstract Expressionist background, he purposefully renders his sculptures as disjointed so as to reveal the actions he took in their creation and allow the various material parts to be fully exposed to the viewer. In this way, Chamberlain had already instigated a dialogue between high and low art. Table of Tides and Pot-Pourri are made from parts of old automobiles in Chamberlain’s signature style, yet is perhaps one of his only works that bridges both fine and functional art. The body of his table retains the found material’s original colors, juxtaposed against one another, so as to accentuate their once “functional” origin. By re-imagining these fragments as art, Chamberlain repurposes and vindicates his chosen “trash” to the exclusionary bourgeois avant-garde. This class-provocation is further emphasized by pairing what could be perceived as a socially ambiguous table with an aristocratic association such as pot-pourri, made from shards and medallions. In doing so, Chamberlain uses his work to interrogate social class and questions what truly makes a work of fine art.

Design: Living in a Material World

|
London