Opera Chocolates

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  • Provenance

    The Pace Gallery, New York
    Daniel Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco
    The Mark & Hilarie Moore Collection, Orange, CA

  • Exhibited

    San Francisco, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, John Chamberlain: Recent Sculpture,11 June– 16 July1994
    Culver City, CA, Mark Moore Gallery, Painting & Scupture - Asawa, Chamberlain, DiSuvero, Expositio, Morris, Reafsnyder, Root, Weatherford, 10 July – 21 August 2004
    New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, John Chamberlain: Choices, 24 February –13 May 2012

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I wasn’t interested in the car parts per se, I was interested in either the colour or the shape or the amount. I didn’t want engine parts, I didn’t want wheels, upholstery … Just the sheet metal.” JOHN CHAMBERLAIN

    John Chamberlain has not only revolutionized sculpture by bringing colour back to the table but also by turning the impulsiveness and unconscious gestures of the Abstract Expressionists into volume and three-dimensional form. Although briefly experimenting with a variety of media in the late 60s, Chamberlain is best known for his sculptures made of welded, twisted, crushed and bent metal sheets taken from automobile parts. These nonreferential, visually beautiful and formally stimulating works are created through a virtuous and intuitive process guided by Chamberlain’s main artistic principals of ‘choice and fit’, which he first encountered through a few poets he met at Black Mountain College in the mid-50s by picking words and turning them into new configurations. What Chamberlain calls the ‘process’ is started by selecting pre-existing individual metal pieces based on their colour, form and roundness. Often they were cut up, reshaped and painted before each individual part would return to the floor. From there he would take the pieces with their uneven edges and unrefined paint, mimicking the spontaneous, intuitive process of his Abstract Expressionist friends Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, and assemble them in a way to reach what he calls a ‘fit’ – an intrinsic connection between parts, which maximize both volume and colour. The notion of letting pre-fabricated parts dictate the form and the colour of the structure and turning them into a coherent, purely visual work also links him to artists like Donald Judd and Dan Flavin.

    Chamberlain’s work is charged with a spectacular spatial complexity and Opera Chocolates is a particularly good example of this. There is no frontor back, no favourite point of view but instead the complex assemblage is fully three-dimensional. The viewer’s eyes are invited to go on a journey over rough and smooth edges, open gaps, rippling surfaces and twisted forms, up and down over a topographical intriguing surface. The play between similarity vs. difference, subtle transitions vs. colour breaks as well as the attempt of identifying one crushed element from another, forces the viewer to engage with the work from all angles. It becomes clear that Chamberlain does not exert a hierarchy on any of the parts– they are assembled in such a way that no element is more central, more important or more dominant than another and also colour and form carry equal value. The exquisite colours of Opera Chocolates range from dark and deep hues of greens and blues, to blood red and pinks, to beautiful lighter violets, yellows and turquoises. This innate sensibility for colour catapults Chamberlain’s work into a category of its own, annihilating the boundaries between painting and sculpture.


Opera Chocolates

painted and chromium plated steel
122.9 x 134.6 x 105.4 cm (48 3/8 x 53 x 41 1/2 in)

£300,000 - 500,000 

sold for £421,250

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012