Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1992

Claes Oldenburg: In public sites, our sculptures reflect both the surroundings and their context, but through our imagination and selective perception – which is what makes them also personal. We feel free to use all the approaches that come naturally to our non-monumental works: variations in scale, similes, transformations, a wide range of materials, and, of course, our use of familiar objects. We want to communicate with the public but on our own terms, even if the images are stereotypical. Our dialogue, which leads to the definition of a project, may take place anywhere, but we usually make decisions in our studio where we are surrounded by objects, models, notes, and drawings from the recent past and present, stimulated, whenever possible, by recollected observations of a site. We work our way through one image after another in words and sketches, testing them in models that can serve as the starting point of fabrication in large scale. (1)

Coosje van Bruggen: The predilection for deliberate, improvisatory primitiveness, the recovery of the inherent nature of materials or of the magic of a previous life present in a bundle of ancient burlap, for example, turn the studio into a state of flux, a place that is a source of images changing into other, equivalent ones. Italo Calvino talks about "a field of analogies, symmetries, confrontations." That’s our particular landscape, the one in which we function. Working together supposes an almost complete understanding of the other, an impossibility in any case, so instead we choose a unity of opposites, a convergence of our different dynamics, of symmetry and asymmetry, of acceleration or implied speed and stillness, of a polychrome and monochrome palette, gravity and lightness -- all interrelating and interchangeable elements to be used by either one of us. Juxtaposed or superimposed, the components are put together into an image through a dialogue between us that proceeds like a game of Ping-Pong, to and fro, toward its ultimate crystallization, first into a sketch and then into a three-dimensional study or a model, a process of using the senses rather than analysis, in sharp contrast to the rational fabrication phase that follows. (1)

The artistic team of Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg has to date executed more than forty large-scale projects, which have been sited in various urban surroundings in Europe, Asia, and the United States:

Trowel I (1971-76), Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, the Netherlands

Trowel II (1971-76), Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo, Purchase, New York

Batcolumn (1977), Harold Washington Social Security Center, 600 West Madison Street, Chicago, Illinois

Pool Balls (1977), Aaseeterrassen, Munster, Germany

Crusoe Umbrella (1979), Nollen Plaza, Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, Des Moines, Iowa

Flashlight (1981), University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Split Button (1981), Levy Park, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Hat in Three Stages of Landing (1982), Sherwood Park, Salinas, California

Spitzhacke (Pickaxe) (1982), Kassel, Germany

Gartenschlauch (Garden Hose) (1983), Stühlinger Park, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Screwarch (1983), Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Cross Section of a Toothbrush with Paste, in a Cup, on a Sink: Portrait of Coosje's Thinking (1983), Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany

Stake Hitch (1984), Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

Balancing Tools (1984), Vitra International AG, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Knife Ship I (1985), Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain

Knife Slicing Through Wall (1986), installed at Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, California

Toppling Ladder with Spilling Paint (1986), Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, California

Spoonbridge and Cherry (1988), Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels (1990), Metro-Dade Open Space Park, Miami, Florida

Bicyclette Ensevelie (Buried Bicycle) (1990), Parc de la Villette, Paris

Monument to the Last Horse (1991), The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas

Binoculars, Chiat/Day Building (1991), central component of a building designed by Frank O. Gehry and Associates, 340 Main Street, Venice, California

Free Stamp (1991), Willard Park, Cleveland, Ohio

Mistos (Match Cover) (1992), Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona

Bottle of Notes (1993), Central Gardens, Middlesbrough, England

Inverted Collar and Tie (1994), Mainzer Landstrasse, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

Shuttlecocks (1994), The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

Soft Shuttlecock (1995), Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Houseball (1995), Bethlehemkirch-Platz, Mauerstrasse, Berlin

Saw, Sawing (1996), Tokyo International Exhibition Center, Big Sight, Tokyo

Torn Notebook (1996), Madden Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska

Lion's Tail (1999), Musei Civici Veneziani, Venice, Italy

Ago, Filo e Nodo (Needle, Thread, and Knot) (2000), Piazzale Cadorna, Milan, Italy

Flying Pins (2000), Intersection of John F. Kennedylaan and Fellenoord Avenues, Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Dropped Cone (2001), Neumarkt Galerie, Cologne, Germany

Cupid's Span (2002), Rincon Park, San Francisco, California

Big Sweep (2006), Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado

Spring (2006), Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul, South Korea


Recent awards of the team include Distinction in Sculpture, Sculpture Center, New York (1994); Nathaniel S. Saltonstall Award, ICA, Boston (1996); Partners in Education Award, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2002); and Medal Award, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2004).

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen have together received honorary degrees from California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California, in 1996; University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, England, in 1999; Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2005; and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, in 2005.

1. Taken from an interview with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen by Ida Gianelli: 'Solitude for Two, Shared: A Walk with Ida Gianelli', as printed in Claes Oldenburg Coosje van Bruggen: Sculpture By the Way. Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino, 2006. Exhibition catalogue.





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