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Xavier Hufkens


John Chamberlain New Work

John Chamberlain New Work
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Xavier Hufkens has the pleasure to announce a first solo exhibition with the famous, American sculptor John Chamberlain (° 1927, Rochester, Indiana). The exhibition will include new sculptures only.

“For nearly half of a century now, John Chamberlain has served as one of Beauty’s most visually vocal attendants. In 1957, he began to urge crushed and crumpled scraps of junked steel into volumes of subjective splendours whose brazen beauty called to the paintings of his forebear, Willem de Kooning. In the 1960’s, at the time when the erotics and auto erotics of sculpture were being suppressed with objective restraints and bound to the glacial neutrality of household appliances, Chamberlain continued to pursue, as he does today, the restless ambiguities and unmeasurable pleasures of beauty. He twisted and bent the unbendable hands-off manufacture of Minimalism with his reintroduction of the lapsed techniques of casting and modelling. However, his casting and the seemingly subjective vagaries of his modelling were hands-off as well: cast steel parts of used cars crushed (modelled) into swollen concavities and convexities that simulated the casting of the hand’s manipulation of a more malleable medium such as clay. And his found materials arrived cloaked in a vivid panoply of hues that Chamberlain combined in radiantly drunk assemblies of emotion – as opposed to the coloristic abstinence practiced by most sculptors of the 1960’s. He could even claim truth to the materials…

The cut and diversely shaped pieces of painted metal that so often constitute Chamberlain’s palette are engaged in intimate play by his hands in a kind of trial-and-error mating dance continuing until two shapes are compatibly joined – and then another is coaxed to participate, and another and another until (and this might go on for days) all have been precariously joined in the freestanding erection of a palpitating volume,… – a kind of agitated visual orgy. Indeed, Chamberlain has long spoken of the “sexual and intuitive thinking” that drives his ad hoc engineering. The word “fit” is prominently sprinkled in his speech. Seldom has sculpture so physically embodied the free associativeness and combinative play so crucial to creative thinking visually and verbally…

Initially, the colour of the painted parts was that found in their salvaged state, most often, the palette of Detroit automakers. By the mid-1970’s, Chamberlain added paint splatters or spray painted streaks to the existent colour of some of the steel in its pre-cut and pre-crushed state; subsequently sprayed graffiti doodles and a giraffe skin pattern of corrosion joined the cacophony in a kind of visual rapping. Of late, Chamberlain has had the steel painted, on both sides, mostly in simple positive and negative figures. They are then roughly cut into bands of varying widths…

The size and the shape of the pre-cast and modelled constituents prompt, to some degree, the shape, scale, configuration, and content of each of Chamberlain’s volumes – the extent of their denting; Whether rolled into wobbly cylinders or whether flatter, concave and/or convex oblong and wing-like shapes… Chamberlain has never wanted his art to be restrained by a preset goal or the enactment of a specified task. While his procedures are clear, they are excessive and impure. Like hybridized roses, whose petals have been vastly multiplied from the “natural” rose’s five petals, Chamberlain’s art seeks to embody beauty – with and without thorns.

Excerpts from Klaus KERTESS, Chamberlain of Beauty, New York, 2003.

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