John Chamberlain - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 18, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
    Private Collection, Islip, New York
    Christie's, New York, November 3, 1978, lot 30
    Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
    Christie's, New York, November 11, 2009, lot 135
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Ann Arbor, Artrain, Michigan Collections, 1980
    Bloomfield Hills, Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection, September 20 - November 1, 1981, no. 58

  • Literature

    Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture 1954 - 1985, New York, 1986, no. 166 p. 77 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Chance and casual freedom seem to exceed the order within the work. Reality seems more capricious than any order it holds. This disparity between reality and its order is the most radical and important aspect of Chamberlain’s sculpture.” Donald Judd, 1964

    Rendered in various shades of hi-fi blue, Untitled from 1963, stands as a stunning example of John Chamberlain’s signature process of crunching and torqueing discarded automobile parts into elegant and harmoniously balanced sculptures. Improvisation was essential to Chamberlain's implementation of automobile parts as his preferred sculptural medium. In 1957, while visiting his artist friend Larry Rivers, Chamberlain ran out of art supplies, so he spontaneously removed the fenders from Rivers' old Ford and ran over them with his car, reshaping the debris into sculptural elements. Chamberlain described himself as “basically a collagist. I put one thing together with another thing. I sort of invented my own art supplies.” (John Chamberlain quoted in Susan Davidson,John Chamberlain: Choices, New York, 2012, p. 27)

    The crumpled, scraped and rusted steel of salvaged auto parts often came readymade in the most bold and vibrant colors. Even Chamberlain’s friend, sculptor Donald Judd, sought out the luminosity found in metallic car parts when he utilized Harley Davidson hi-fi blue to paint some of his earliest progression sculptures. The present lot, Untitled documents the blue variations available in 1960s American cars, accented with pre-cut holes from the original assembly and patches of textured rust. Judd praised Chamberlain in the 1960’s for his use and selection of color, saying "Chamberlain is the only sculptor really using color, the full range, not just metallic shades; his color is as particular, complex and structural as any good painter's." (Donald Judd, "In the Gallery," Arts Magazine, March 1962) Chamberlain’s use of color was never meant to allude to or reference the automobile materials that comprised his sculpture; his interest lay in the active transformation of everyday materials and the diverse ways in which he could force the materials into twisted and contorted arrangements divorced from their stylish automotive origins. Chamberlain recalled watching someone squeeze a sponge in their hand while washing dishes, when one end of the sponge popped out of one side of his fist it looked like a sculpture to the artist. “Its daily life,” he explained, “That’s where I get the idea that everybody makes sculpture every day, whether in the way they throw the towel over the rack or the way they wad up the toilet paper. That’s all very personal and very exact, and in some sense very skillful on their part…those little things, like blowing up a paper bag and hitting it so it pops --- take it one little step further and do it in slow motion and explore what the resistance of the air in the bag is, and you make something. To me that is very interesting, if there is a body of work demonstrating all these things that come together, that’s useful in art history, as a record of accumulation and development of knowledge in this occupation.” (John Chamberlain quoted in Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York, 1986, p. 12)

    The everyday compression of physical matter and the human manipulation of discarded bits of metal associated with speed and movement inform Chamberlin’s innovative sculptural practice. Accessing the traditions of Futurist and Pop art, he reconfigures the very distinctions between painting and sculpture. Untitled relishes a range of pulsating blues and energetic angular bends that bare traces of the violent impact the sculpture has endured. For Chamberlain, each sculpture represents an endless possibility of forceful, creative exertion over found materials coated in the most vibrant of hues.



painted and chromium-plated steel
21 1/2 x 19 x 23 in. (54.6 x 48.3 x 58.4 cm.)
Executed circa 1963.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $730,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2017