John Chamberlain - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Phillips

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    John Chamberlain 'Bullwinkle', 1961

    John Chamberlain's 'Bullwinkle', 1961 to be offered in our 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 8 November 2015 in New York.

  • Provenance

    The artist
    James Goodman Gallery, New York (1962)
    Allan Stone Gallery, New York (1967)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, The Atmosphere of Sixty-Four, April 17 - June 4, 1964
    Southampton, The Parrish Art Museum, Forming, July 29 - September 23, 1984
    New York, Allan Stone Gallery, John Chamberlain: Early Works, October 23, 2003 - January 15, 2004
    New York, Gallery Valentine, Willem and John, August 16 - September 5, 2011
    New York, Allan Stone Projects, Chamberlain, de Kooning & Others, January 8 - March 21, 2014

  • Literature

    Forming, exh. cat., The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, 1984, p. (illustrated)
    J. Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954 - 1985, New York, 1986, p. 60, no. 69
    John Chamberlain: Early Works, exh. cat., Allan Stone Gallery, New York, 2003, no. 17 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “…One day something - some one thing - pops out at you, and you pick it up, and you take it over, and you put it somewhere else, and it fits. It's just the right thing at the right moment. You can do the same thing with words or with metal." John Chamberlain

    An icon of 20th century American sculpture, John Chamberlain has utterly radicalized the way in which form, modeling, and composition are arranged in the sculptural canon. His metal works, produced from castoff automobile components and other industrial rubble, are archetypal of the power of sculpture to preserve organic composition and the immense painterly shapes. Chamberlain’s admittance to the lionized exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961, aptly titled “The Art of Assemblage”, enabled his work to find context among heavy-hitters such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. The present lot was constructed the year of the show, and it is evident that 1961 was particularly significant to the formation of his oeuvre and the understanding of his materials. The genius of Bullwinkle lies not just in the sheer marvel of the metal, contorted and bound, almost weightlessly suspended, but in Chamberlain’s innate ability to transform an act of ruin into an act of creation.

    In the early 1960’s, Chamberlain frequented body shops and landfills, sometimes electing to work in junkyards, though more often than not he schlepped parts back to his studio to examine them closely. The criteria for chosen elements were fullness and color, as Klaus Kertess reflected of his exceptional capacity, “to make roundness into color and color into roundness.” Bullwinkle is quintessential of his talent for generating harmony from scrap, as the work’s dynamic interplay of rusted white cavorts with gold creases as red, yellow, and blue weave through the tangle. Paving the way for contemporary sculptors to elevate color to the same importance as form, Chamberlain treated each element of detritus that would become his sculptures with reverence and with comprehension, as he sought to uncover their potential for fit and compatibility. Elaborating on his deliberate choice of metal, he has stated, “I wasn't interested in car parts per se, I was interested in either the color or the shape or the amount... Just the sheet metal. It already had a coat of paint on it. And some of it was formed.... I believe that common materials are the best materials.” (Annette Grant, “In the Studio: John Chamberlain,” Art + Auction, no. 11, 2008, p. 43)

    Bound to a wall, the present lot commands the room in which it is installed, exerting equal if not greater power as Chamberlain’s sculptures in the round. The wall pieces formed a hefty portion of the artist’s output in the early 1960s; as he began to understand the specifics of welding and experiment with the engineering of form, the physical framework to mount objects to a wall provided him the freedom to explore more bulbous and daring compositions. Despite the challenges posed by welding, Chamberlain described, “…all I knew in 1960-61 was that this kind of metal fit together in a certain way that was interesting to me.” (Julie Sylvester, “Conversations with John Chamberlain,” John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, p. 23) The elegant structure born of detritus and chance, magnificently executed in Bullwinkle, reaffirmed the very basis of modernism’s working ideal that the purpose of art can be its own making.



painted and chromium-plated steel
48 x 43 x 32 in. (121.9 x 109.2 x 81.3 cm)
This work has been recorded in the archives of the John Chamberlain studio.

$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm