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  • With its bursting verticality, forceful dynamism, and vibrantly dappled matrices of color, Los Ang Us, 1988, is emblematic of John Chamberlain’s celebrated mature work. Marked by its explosive use of color, this monumental work perfectly encapsulates how Chamberlain, having revolutionized the field of art making in the late 1950s by using wrecked automobile parts as his material, continued to develop his radical sculptural practice in the late 1980s. With its tongue-in-cheek title, Los Ang Us brilliantly evokes the sprawling, car-centric city of Los Angeles that held an important place in Chamberlain’s life and career. Indeed, the present sculpture was created just two years after Chamberlain was honored with a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and was notably acquired from the Margo Leavin Gallery by the noted Swedish collector Fredrik Roos.


    Warped and contorted as the artwork itself, this title Los Ang Us shows how Chamberlain manipulated language much as his found material when composing his titles from found words and expressions, often incorporating wordplay, nonsense, and innuendo. This poetic sensibility reflects the influence of Chamberlain’s time at Black Mountain College in the mid-1950s, where he became acquainted with poets Charles Olsen, Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan and was exposed to the disruptive lyricism and unapologetic playfulness of the poetic avant-garde.


    While Chamberlain’s titles are often meant to be deliberately open-ended, Los Ang Us does speak to the importance of Los Angeles in Chamberlain’s life and career. Chamberlain was itinerant by nature and frequently travelled between New York and Los Angeles in the early 1960s; it was in fact during a stay at art collector and gallerist Virginia Dwan’s Malibu Beach home in 1965 that he radically embarked upon his foam sculptures. He was later represented by Margo Leavin Gallery, one of the most prominent Angeleno art galleries that placed Chamberlain’s in many important collections.

    "…the nearest a late-20th-century sculptor can get to Stonehenge." —Vivien Raynor, The New York Times

    Executed in 1988, the present work was notably created in the aftermath of Chamberlain’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, which saw the publication of the seminal John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture, 1954-1985 that had been in production for five years. One of the two new pieces Chamberlain had made for the exhibition included Straits of Night, a five-part painted and chromium-plated sculpture now in the collection of AXA Winterthur Versicherungen Kunstsammlung in Switzerland, which clearly prefigures the present work. As The New York Times critic Vivien Raynor described the work, “Fragments of painted and chromium-plated steel that have been crimped, dented and wadded into submission, they may be the nearest a late-20th-century sculptor can get to Stonehenge.”i


    John Chamberlain, Straits of Night, 1986. Collection of AXA Winterthur Versicherungen Kunstsammlung, Artwork © 2020 John Chamberlain / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    John Chamberlain, Straits of Night, 1986. Collection of AXA Winterthur Versicherungen Kunstsammlung, Artwork © 2020 John Chamberlain / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    With Los Ang Us, Chamberlain continues to explore this towering format in the form of an individual, wall-leaning sculpture. Towering over the viewer at more than eight feet tall, this work actualizes the magnitude of Chamberlain’s ambitious aspirations enabled by his move to Sarasota, Florida in 1980. Like fellow New York transplants Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist, Chamberlain’s move to Florida and purchase of a large warehouse provided him with the freedom for more experimentation in the complexity and scale of his sculptures.


    Restricting his focus to the use of specific, larger-scale parts of the automobile, such as the fenders, bumpers, and chassis, and the twisting, warping, and bending the found material into a violently blooming bouquet of color and metal, Chamberlain creates an artwork that at once pulls into itself by an intrinsic gravitational force and breaks free from its own vertiginous contortion. In contrast to the ready identification with wrecked cars in his earlier works, this work articulates Chamberlain’s shift to creating more ambiguous sculptural forms from his scrapped source material, questioning what sculpture can be. Los Ang Us is alive and frozen in place, a soaring tangle of metal forms bursting out and into one another but locked in sculptural stasis in a manner that exudes an imposing sense of presence.


    i Vivien Raynor, “Art: Pure Sculpture by John Chamberlain”, The New York Times, May 22, 1987, Section C, p. 23

    • Provenance

      The Pace Gallery, New York
      Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in 1988)
      Fredrik Roos, Stockholm
      Sotheby's, New York, November 17, 1999, lot 52
      Private Collection, California (acquired at the above sale)
      Christie's, New York, November 16, 2006, lot 228
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Los Ang Us

painted and chromium-plated steel, wall leaning
96 x 47 x 33 in. (243.8 x 119.4 x 83.8 cm.)
Executed in 1988.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $365,400

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

[email protected]

20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York 8 December 2020