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Nutcracker
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Nutcracker
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Nutcracker

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About the item

Twisted, torqued and endlessly engaging, John Chamberlains Nutcracker from 1958 brings to life the spontaneous gesture that defined Abstract Expressionism in energetic, gravity-defying whirls of steel. Nutcracker is among Chamberlains earliest sculptures created from discarded car parts and has resided in only two private collections since its inception, including the distinguished collection of Allan Stone, one of Chamberlains greatest champions and supporters. The present work also bears an impressive exhibition history, having been included in significant shows at Martha Jackson Gallery, Allan Stone Gallery, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Ackland Art Museum at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as both of the artists retrospectives at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York. Among the very first sculptures created from discarded car parts, Nutcracker is an elegant, complexly composed, and boldly multicolored example of Chamberlains artistic prowess. Nutcracker twists upward in a complex configuration of distorted car parts, bent and curved in a tensile vortex of robins egg blue, cream, black and brick red. An old fender contorted into a deep V shape fences in the core of the work: shiny black crags cleaving a central ivory blade. A dark red swath cascades gently down, echoing the sharp acute angles of the sculptures circumscribing exoskeleton. The juxtaposition of curves and hard edges, solid metal facets and negative space, bold color and worn surface coalesce in a single dynamic gestalt. These concavities and crevices reveal the very signature of Chamberlains artistic process, indicative of the creative ingenuity behind this innovative approach to mark making. Chamberlains manipulation of an industrial and non-traditional material into an active and kinetic force characterizes the very best of the artists output, including the present work. Although initially perceived as haphazard and even violent, Nutcracker possesses a clear harmony and sensuality in the organic forms of the metal. In interviews with Julie Sylvester, Chamberlain commented: I dont know why people think that my work is about violence. [Claes Oldenburg] got it and they didnt. He understood that there is a softness in the steel material, especially in the steel that covers a car. (The artist, quoted in Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York, 1986, p. 15)\nChamberlain was born in 1927 in Rochester, Indiana. In 1951, he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; although Chamberlain would leave a year later, it was here that he first encountered a work by David Smith, an artist whose tendency toward abstract sculpture would open Chamberlains eyes to the possibilities of the medium. His enrollment at the avant-garde Black Mountain College, North Carolina in 1955 catalyzed his creative sculptural practice. Of this formative period in the artists career, Julie Sylvester writes: Encouraged by [Charles] Olsons emphasis on direct procedures, and fully sympathetic to his antipathy to the interference of the conceptual, Chamberlain began to make spontaneously calligraphic pen-and-ink drawings and abbreviated word-collages of nonsense emphasizing the junction and disjunction of sounds more than Freudian word association. The poetics of structure were becoming sensate. Chamberlains drawn and written word-play is at least as significant as the [David] Smith-influenced sculptures he continued to construct at Black Mountain. The word collages presage the melodious non sequiturs that he often still uses in the titles of his sculptures to create verbal parallels to his images. (Ibid., p. 28) Chamberlain moved to New York in 1957, the year before he created Nutcracker, which brilliantly exemplifies the poetic word-play in which he engaged at Black Mountain. Indeed, the lyrical title of the present work pops onomatopoetically, the crack of Nutcracker aurally echoing the fissures, ridges and creases inherent in the work.\nIn addition to his training at Black Mountain College, Chamberlain was heavily influenced by his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries. Nutcracker not only brings to the three-dimensional plane the gesture and action of his peers working with two dimensions, it also liberates sculpture from its traditional mold of carved stone or cast metal. Chamberlains initial use of color-coated steel was fortuitous, born out of his shortage of traditional material. Chamberlain noted: I wasnt interested in the car parts per se, I was interested in either the color or the shape or the amount. I didnt want engine parts, I didnt want wheels, upholstery, glass, oil, tires, rubber, lining, what somebodyd left in the car when they dumped it, dashboards, steering wheels, shafts, rear ends, muffler systems, transmissions, fly wheels, none of that. Just the sheet metal. It already had a coat of paint on it, and some of it was formed. You choose the material at a time when thats the material you want to use, and then you develop your processes so that when you put things together it gives you a sense of satisfaction. It never occurred to me that sculptures shouldnt be colored. (Ibid., p. 15) Chamberlain manipulated different parts of cars and other machines in an additive process that resulted in a final thrust that is striking in its bold colors and jagged edges, elegant in its curvilinear form, and bears no resemblance to the original machine from which it came. Nutcracker is among Chamberlains initial pieces constructed from the metal as he found it and is characterized by its more muted color palette. For its velvety surface, swollen curves and ever-changing visual experience, Nutcrackers stands as paradigm of Chamberlains early work and epitomizes the artists singular focus on form and composition.
US
NY, US
US

medium

Painted and chromium-plated steel

creator

Chamberlain, John

condition

This sculpture is in very good condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at +1 (212) 606-7254 for the report prepared by Jackie Wilson of Wilson Conservation, LLC. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

45 1/2 by 43 1/2 by 32 in. 115.6 by 110.5 by 81.3 cm.

exhibition

New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, New Forms - New Media I, June 1960 New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, New Forms - New Media II, September - October 1960, n.p., illustrated (installed in Martha Jackson Gallery, 1960), no. 14, illustrated New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Mallary, Chamberlain, Cesar, Anderson, October 1963 Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Sculpture by John Chamberlain, January 1967 New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition, December 1971 - February 1972, p. 25, no. 6, illustrated New York, Allan Stone Gallery, John Chamberlain: Early Works, October - December 2003, pp. 2-3, illustrated (in installation at Allan Stone Gallery, New York, 1963), pp. 40-41, no. 20, illustrated in color, and illustrated in color on the cover (detail) Chapel Hill, Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Circa 1958: Breaking Ground in American Art, September 2008 - January 2009, p. 31, illustrated in color New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, John Chamberlain: Choices, February 2012 - September 2013, p. 196, illustrated (in installation at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, 1960) New York, Mnuchin Gallery, Chamberlain/De Kooning, November 2016 - January 2017, p. 47, illustrated in color, and p. 60, no. 10, illustrated in color 

literature

John D. Morse, "He Returns to Dada," Art in America, vol. 48, no. 3, October 1960, p. 76, illustrated Emily Genauer, "Art and the Artist," New York Post, January 8, 1972, illustrated Irving Sandler, The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties, New York, 1978, p. 155, no. 114, illustrated (detail) Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York, 1986, p. 47, no. 21, illustrated

provenance

The artist Martha Jackson Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1960) Allan Stone, New York (acquired by exchange with the above in 1963) Sotheby's, New York, May 9, 2011, Lot 9 (consigned by the above) Acquired by the present owner from the above

artist_range_end

2011

artist_range_start

1927

creator_nationality_dates

1927 - 2011


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

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