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John Chamberlain


John Chamberlain, 2007 © Didier Gicquel

Almost all of John Chamberlain’s (1927-2011) sculptures are made out of steel used in the automobile industry. His primary interest was in the interaction between volume, form and colour. By wrinkling, rolling, crushing, compressing and stretching the steel parts he diversified the material’s surface and at the same time deconstructed it into its varied components. The gestural character of his works and rich variety of bright colours on the one hand and his use of everyday materials on the other mean that Chamberlain’s sculptures oscillate between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
His studies in the mid 1950s at Black Mountain College introduced him to Abstract Expressionism. He preferred experimenting with used items from everyday life before finding his ideal material in steel, which he discovered in the form of a bent fender from an old Ford in 1957. In 1977 he began to experiment with photography. John Chamberlain used a wide-lense camera to capture an extreme wide angle of 150 to 360 degrees. During the exposure, Chamberlain moved and turned the camera without even looking through the viewfinder. His sculptures and photographs are the result of self-controlled and instinctive improvisation.
Since the very beginning of the 1960s John Chamberlain’s works have been included in numerous important collections. In 1961 he took part in the São Paolo Biennale and 1964 he was represented at the Venice Biennale. Several retrospectives followed: especially significant are those at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1976) and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986), followed by important exhibitions at the Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden (1991) and at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996). John Chamberlain passed away in New York in 2011.

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