John Chamberlain, master of creative reuse, dies at 84

Detail of "Dorkdorf" (1988) by John Chaberlain. Painted and chromium-plated steel. Lent by Elliot Wolk, courtesy of Armand Bartos Fine Art, exhibited Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

“I think of my art materials not as junk but as garbage. Manure, actually; it goes from being the waste material of one being to the life-source of another.”

-John Chamberlain, 1927-2011

John Chamberlain was an artist whose practice meshed with the mission of MFTA; we hope our recipients can find inspiration in his life and work as they continue to incorporate found materials in their arts programs for New York City. Chamberlain, who died yesterday in Manhattan, worked well into his later years, exhibiting new work at Gagosian’s West 24 Street gallery earlier this year.

Installation view of Chamberlain's work at The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. Image courtesy Flickr user ydhsu, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 license

He was best known for his sculptures, dynamic amalgams of salvaged cars, which are held in many public collections in our area: MoMA included his work in its 1961 show, The Art of Assemblage and the Guggenheim organized his 1971 retrospective, and will present another exhibition in February of next year. Farther from town, there is a long-term installation of Chamberlain’s work at Dia:Beacon, and even farther away–in Texas–the artist’s work is installed at Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation.

The New York Times produced an excellent slideshow of Chamberlain overseeing the installation of his work at Gagosian and the gallery’s website has a great video of the artist and his work as well. While we sadly note the passing of this key figure, we are heartened that is work on view throughout the city, with more extensive presentations scheduled for the near future.

Metals to mangle at MFTA

We hope Chamberlain’s work will inspire our recipients to use found metal in their art. Although I felt the warehouse would be filled with mangled metal, there was little to be found, so hopeful artists and educators will have to head to the scrap yard.

Metal rods from a coat rack

A paint-splattered easel evokes Chamberlain's work

I dipped into the archive for this mangled metal--no longer available--which is more like plastic wrap

Chinati Foundation image, courtesy Flickr user ydhsu, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 license

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One Response to John Chamberlain, master of creative reuse, dies at 84

  1. Pingback: WasteDiversions: Call me on the line | Materials for the Arts

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