Claes Oldenburg: Large-Scale Prints and Small-Scale Multiples, 1966-1976
Between 1968, when Claes Oldenburg first created an oversized screw sculpture as a kinetic object, and 1983, when the monumental Screwarch was installed between two pools outside the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the artists vision of the screw underwent numerous transformations in material, shape, situation and size. As Oldenburg has stated, the curved form thwarted its function completely but greatly increased its metaphoric capacity, all while keeping its recognizeable identity.
The series of 1976 lithographs on display at Barbara Krakow Gallery began as a grid of small graphite studies. These drawings took on a new life when Oldenburg started working at a large scale (approximately 70 x 45 inches / 180 x 120 cm) for the prints. The new scale was in keeping with his ideas for colossal Screw monuments and he was able, at that size, to use fluid, active and open marks to create the images. As for the images, themselves, they reflect both the artist’s surroundings along with their associated contexts. Key though, is to recognize how these actual places and experiences are filtered through Oldenburg’s imagination and selective perception which is what makes the works also personal. In the different pieces, the screw could be arched, curved, floating, erect or nestling within a waterfall, all variations that display Oldenburgs animation of the inanimate, the core activity of his art.
In juxtaposition to these large-scale prints (the largest that the printer had done up to that point), are a number of small-scale objects that present Oldenburgs constant exploration of the transformation of objects through media and scale. In Miniature Soft Drum Set, he reduces the scale and takes the solid form of a drum set and makes it soft through the use of printed fabric. In Wedding Souvenir, he takes a delicious, soft and edible substance (cake) and turns it hard and monochrome through the use of paint and plaster. With the Geometric Mouse – Scale C, he takes the soft, round and welcoming form of Mickey Mouse and turns it into a reductivist abstraction of solid planes of hardened aluminum.