Drawings On Site: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Claes Oldbenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Trombone Bridge, 2005
Pencil, colored pencil, and pastel on paper 38 x 50 inches
Collection of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
© 2009 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen Photo: Ellen Page Wilson, New York
May 9 - October 11, 2009
Showcasing drawings for public monuments proposed over the past thirty years by American artists Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) and Coosje van Bruggen (1942-2009), Drawings On Site: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen includes more than a dozen drawings from the artists’ private collection. As an innovator of American Pop Art in the mid 1960s,
Oldenburg first proposed public landmarks in the form of monumental sculptures of familiar objects. These early works envisioned (among other things) a teddy bear, a peeled banana, and a Good Humor bar. Each was to be made in an appropriately “monumental” material, and placed at an important public location in New York City. As critiques of the excessive solemnity and inert character of much public sculpture, these objects were categorized by the artist as Proposals for Colossal Monuments. These drawings expressed not just a challenge to traditional monumental sculpture but, as importantly, proposed a realignment of drawing modes as pictorial means.
In 1976 van Bruggen joined Oldenburg as his partner. Oldenburg's drawing skills became the means of exploring and developing their sculptural ideas and realizing the once-imaginary objects as actual large-scale sculptures. Each project began with a conversation – an exchange of words and pictures – between the two artists, with Oldenburg sketching.
Once they decided on an object, with Oldenburg using the convention of drawing as a "spontaneous" first thought in notebook pages, other modes of drawing were called upon to serve as the link with clients and then fabricators. Small-scale models are also part of the process.
As the partners develop the various stages of the Large-Scale Sculptures Oldenburg does a number of drawings conforming to re-interpretations of various conventions of drawing. These include "Presentation" drawings as proposals for the client in compliance with van Bruggen's notion of using the stylization of "Architectural"drawings. These visualize the object in its surroundings, depicted in various situations and from different viewpoints that underscore its large scale. "Technical" drawings are developed for the fabricator. "Baroque," that is to say romantic – floridly expressive and volumetric, after-the-fact drawings, often for posters announce the project. Since both artists are intimately engaged in this process, although only Oldenburg's hand touches the page, both sign the drawings.
The works in this exhibition are primarily presentation drawings, visualizations of both feasible and unfeasible large-scale sculptures, as they appear in situ in various parts of the world. Among them are Trombone Bridge, a proposal for a railroad bridge straddling a river in the New Jersey flats, and the colossal Golfbag Ruin, a romantic vision of verticality in an uninhabited flat landscape. The transformation of the mane and head of the lion-sphinx into badminton shuttlecocks quotes a previous project, sculptures of Shuttlecock, for Kansas City. Oldenburg and van Bruggen realized nearly fifty public projects in the United States, Europe, and Asia. All have been conceived in the singular drawing practice that stands as not simply as a creative generator of large-scale sculptures, but as a remarkable testament to both the "Idea" of drawing and to the body of drawing as work in its own right.