John Chamberlain Pop Artist Car Crusher Dies Aged 84


John Chamberlain, the sculptor best known for his iconic work fashioned out of crushed, often brightly coloured automobiles has died age 84. Born in Rochester, Indiana, Chamberlain spent much of his youth in Chicago. After serving in the navy during World War Two, from 1943 to 1946.

He attended the Art Institute of Chicago (1951–52) and Black Mountain College (1955–56). His work brought the Abstract Expressionist style of painting into a three dimensional area. In his first exhibition at the New York, Martha Jackson Gallery in 1956, he presented sculptures that were strongly influenced by the sculptor David Smith.Mr. Chamberlain’s work was included in a number of group shows at the prominent Leo Castelli Gallery, on East 77th Street, and he had his first one-person show there in 1962. This led to his connection with the emerging Pop Art Movement. He lived and worked in Shelter Island, New York.  Since the 1950s, Chamberlain worked with crushed steel and other such materials to create his sculptures. His work has been exhibited around the world and have been included in the São Paulo Art Biennial (1961, 1994), the Venice Biennale (1964), the Whitney Biennial (1973, 1987) and Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1982)

In his career he  had over 100 solo shows, traveling exhibitions, and retrospectives. Chamberlain was represented by Gagosian Gallery since 2011 having previously been represented by The Pace Gallery from 1987-2005.

His work was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1961 group exhibition, “Art of Assemblage,” an important international survey of artists working with collage in two and three dimensions, and during that same year he participated in the São Paulo Bienal. He was included in the Venice Biennale in 1964.

Since the mid-1950s, Chamberlain has been known for his use of automobile parts in powerful, large-scale sculptures. He has worked with other mediums and materials, including two-dimensional paintings made with automobile paint, tied urethane foam sculptures (both in the 1960s), and crushed metal and melted Plexiglass sculptures (in the 1970s). Since the mid-1990s, the artist has experimented considerably with large-format photography.
Chamberlain had his first retrospective in 1971, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. A second retrospective was organized in 1986 by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. His numerous honors include the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (1993), the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture by the International Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C. (1993), The National Arts Club Award, New York (1997), the Distinction in Sculpture Honor from the Sculpture Center, New York (1999), and a Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit (2010).

He had been ill for a number of years. An immediate cause of death was not available. He said of his use of scrap metal as his chosen medium; “It was like, God, I finally found an art supply, and it was so cheap it just made you laugh.”

Photo: Courtesy Hauser & Wirth


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