John Chamberlain, Wickets, 1996, painted steel, dimension varies


John Chamberlain is known internationally for his long career of making vividly colored and vibrantly dynamic sculptures using discarded automobile parts that he twisted and welded into monumental shapes. He used the early modernist techniques of collage and assemblage at a magnified scale and he emphasized the brilliant colors of automotive paint. Chamberlain's sculptures appeared in New York at the same time as the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists; some were his mentors and they shared a similar critical reception.

In 1963, Chamberlain moved with his family to Embudo, New Mexico. There he began his first series of auto-lacquer and metal-flake paintings. In 1966, he followed his family to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he taught graduate students at the University of New Mexico. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship and made a series of fiberglass sculptures based on French-curve drawings.

Chamberlain’s works boldly contrast the everyday, industrial origin of materials with a cumulative formal beauty, often underscored by the given paint finish of the constituents. The process of construction has its roots in industrial fabrication, given that mechanical car crushers often imparted preliminary form to his raw materials. Visibly emphasizing the original seams as well as the physical trace of his actions, Chamberlain emphatically constructed assemblages that unite seemingly disparate mechanical elements. Crumpling, crushing, bending, twisting, painting, and welding the metals to form individual objects, which may be further sprayed, he combined them into aggregations, often on a monumental scale that is both imposing and thrilling.