John Chamberlain - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    PaceWildenstein, New York
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Probably the key activity in the occupation of art is to find out what you don’t know. To start someplace that’s curious to you and delve into it in a common way and come out with an uncommon satisfaction, an uncommon piece of knowledge.” – John Chamberlain

    Operating at the delicate intersection of the rigid mass-produced and a sumptuous effortlessness is the work of John Chamberlain, of which the present lot is idiosyncratic. Bordertown 81 Opus 76 entices the viewer to explore the multiplicity of patterns, forms and colors that evolve as our eye traverses its surfaces, illustrating the artist’s ability to infuse a palpable vibrancy to an inherently uncompromising medium. Chamberlain’s meticulous process of assembling his sculptures into configurations that defy expectation is perfectly encapsulated in what he describes as “fit” or “sexual fit”, in which he carefully welds piece with piece to find a unique, autonomous form. This technique enables him to draw the best of both intuition and chance, leading us to question what dichotomy exists, if any, between the organic and the readymade. Instead of focusing on the inflexible qualities of sheet metal, Chamberlain transformed sculpture not only by allowing color to regain some of its dominance but also by recasting the impulsiveness of the Abstract Expressionists into the three-dimensional.

    Bordertown 81 Opus 76 is demonstrative of the artist’s acute understanding of his medium, alive with fluidity and dynamism in its electric colors and silvery sinews. Through his exploitation of the natural relationships existing in various bits of scrap metal, Chamberlain has allowed jagged edges, colors, and shapes to direct the work’s final iteration. This idea of the pre-fabricated imposing its order upon process to create an exclusively visual phenomenon likens him to contemporaries Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, yet the present lot sees the amalgamation of rapturous spontaneity, possibility, and rebirth that also lends itself to the modernist position that art be solely about its own making.


Bordertown 81 Opus 76

painted, chromium-plated and stainless steel
6 3/4 x 7 3/4 x 12 1/2 in. (17.1 x 19.7 x 31.8 cm)

$70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for $143,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 10 May 2016