September 25, 2014

'Cradle,' Foam Sculpture By John Chamberlain


This is extraordinary, and something of a mystery, at least to me.

John Chamberlain was best known for his abstract sculptures made from contorted car parts, but in the late 60s-1970, he also made an amazing series of foam sculptures. Most are wrapped and squished into shape, and held with cord; they look like improvisational gestures, whipped up in an instant like a rope-tied calf. They're also extremely fragile, and they degrade with sun and age. The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas had a big show of Chamberlain's foam sculptures a few years ago.

The artist also used the same technique, plus giant flensing knives used to cut whale blubber, to carve foam blocks into loungy sofas, which he'd cover with army surplus silk parachutes. Here's a 22-min. video by Anton Perich of Chamberlain making a sofa in an apartment at the Dakota in 1970.


But I thought the foam furniture never went past the early 70s, and that it didn't go beyond sofas, either. So the existence of a piece called Cradle, dated from 1985, is hard for me to place. But there it is, looking like a giant dinner roll waiting to engulf some collector's small child. It also has a cover, which any baby, and any conservator, would appreciate. Of course, if I were to actually put a kid in there, I'd want that thing cut out a little deeper, but then I'd have a heart-attack-stricken conservator on my hands, so #decisions.

Oct. 12, 2014 Lot 324: John Chamberlain, Cradle, 1985, est. $10-20,000 [lamodern]
">Check out the catalogue of John Chamberlain: The Foam Sculptures at Amazon [amazon]

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