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  • Provenance

    PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, PaceWildenstein Gallery, John Chamberlain: Recent Sculpture, 12 May - 10 June 2000, pp. 24-25 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Marrying the gestural spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism, the colour and appropriation of Pop Art, with the manufactured materials of Minimalism, Chamberlain’s visual language does not fit neatly into any art historical movement. Alongside these artistic movements, Chamberlain developed a singular vernacular that positioned him as one of the foremost sculptors of the twentieth century. His signature style of working with wrecked car parts dates from 1957, when he first coaxed automotive detritus into spectacular united form. A departure from the work he had been making in Chicago, which was largely influenced by the open, planar sculpture of David Smith, Chamberlain began his experimentation with salvaged car parts upon his move to New York the year before. The success of his foray into the new medium was ensured by his preternatural command of ‘fit,’ a word he used frequently to describe the resulting whole formed from disparate parts; he explained ‘You have to fit them together. So you have a fit, and you have a form, and you have a colour. And so all of these three parts are… they’re having a good time together, if you put them together well... So you really need to know something about how things go together’ (John Chamberlain, quoted in 'John Chamberlain in conversation with Klaus Kertess', Chinati Foundation Newsletter, vol. 11, October 2006, p.17).

    The present work, L’Eau Frais Voodoo, 1999, was included in Chamberlain’s 2000 exhibition of recent sculpture at PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York. Marking an evolution of his use of medium, Chamberlain premiered ribbon-like forms that eschewed a wreck-like appearance for a polished hand-made aesthetic. Instead of retaining the original patina of found car parts and their palette of Detroit automakers, Chamberlain sand blasted the old paint off the metal and reapplied bold-hued enamel by hand, leaving the unpainted material polished to a shiny chrome. Working the candy-coloured strips of steel into forms that pulsate with energy and rhythm, Chamberlain demonstrated anew his unique ability to make poetry of form. Klaus Kertess remarked ‘the cut and diversely shaped pieces of metal that so often constitute Chamberlain’s palette are engaged in intimate play by his hands in a kind of trial and error mating dance continuing until two shapes are compatibly joined… Seldom has sculpture so physically embodied the free associativeness and combinative play so crucial to creative thinking visually and verbally’ (Klaus Kertess, Chamberlain of Beauty, New York, 2003).

    The boldly coloured ribbons of L’Eau Frais Voodoo dance through space, reaching and contorting with an unbridled energy like live wires. The saturated yellows, reds, pinks, blues and greens weave in and out of each other with a lyricism that seems happenstance, belying a highly developed order - a testament to Chamberlain’s mastery of his medium. In her review of the PaceWildenstein exhibition, Roberta Smith aptly described the harmony of space and colour embodied in the intertwined ribbons: ‘flamboyantly ''abstract'' works blur the distinctions between solid and void, found and formal, accident and plan. A hallmark of Chamberlain’s work, the title, L’Eau Frais Voodoo, evokes the whimsy of the piece itself, and is an endearing linguistic wink that embodies the joy encapsulated in his sculpture’ (Roberta Smith, 'ART IN REVIEW; John Chamberlain,' New York Times, 14 July 2000).


L’Eau Frais Voodoo

painted and chrome-plated steel
122.3 x 177 x 100.5 cm (48 1/8 x 69 5/8 x 39 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1999.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £297,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2018