NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art
presents Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store, from April 14 to August 5, 2013. Claes Oldenburgs humorous and profound depictions of everyday objects have earned him a reputation as one of the most important artists of his generation. This exhibition explores the beginnings of Oldenburgs extraordinary career with an extensive and in-depth look at his artistic production from the first half of the 1960s. Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store is organized by Achim Hochdörfer, Curator, the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien; and The Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition at MoMA is organized by Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator, and Paulina Pobocha, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture.
The exhibition focuses on two major bodies of work that redefined the concept of sculpture: The Street, an installation that conjures the gritty and chaotic atmosphere of downtown New York City, originally shown at the Judson Gallery of the Judson Memorial Church in 1960, and The Store, a large group of handmade, brightly painted sculptures depicting a cornucopia of commercial commodities and comestibles, presented in various iterations between 1961 and 1964.
Rarely exhibited, The Street is a seminal body of work that was inspired by the dilapidated environs of the Lower East Side in the late 1950s. The installation consists of an accumulation of objects made of cardboard, papier-mâché, scraps of newspaper, and burlap. Oldenburg cut, tore, and crumpled his materials to create a panorama of the contemporary city, complete with cars, barking dogs, street signs and passersby. Letters and scraps of words, hearts, exclamation points, and crudely rendered figures recall the graffiti that flows through city streets while the sculptures torn and frayed forms speak to a fragmented field of vision and evoke the bustle of life in an urban metropolis.
In 1961 Oldenburg turned his gaze from the street to the store. Notably, in December of that year he rented a small storefront on East Second Street in New York and filled it with sculptures that recalled the products available for purchase in stores throughout the neighborhood. Girls dresses, cigarettes, a wristwatch, a womans blouse, cakes, pies, and loaves of bread were available for sale in Oldenburgs Store. Beginning with an armature of chicken wire, Oldenburg constructed these objects from plaster soaked canvas and then painted them in successive layers of enamel paint, loosely applied straight from the can. The finished works are lumpy, occasionally crude, and generally unruly. Despite their stated subject matter, they refuse to approximate the look of manufactured goods. In the years following, Oldenburg created several versions of The Store, and for this exhibition a large selection of Store sculptures and drawings are brought together to demonstrate the breadth and complexity of Oldenburgs vision as well as the daring inventiveness of his execution at this remarkable moment in his career.
In addition to The Street and The Store, Oldenburgs Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing, self-contained museums created in the 1970s that house careful arrangements of the artists personal archives of American popular cultural and various tests and experiments from this studio, will be installed in MoMAs Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium.