Chamberlain / De Kooning
Mnuchin Gallery, New York November 2nd, 2016
Chamberlain’s sculpture famously translates the energy, gesture, and action-based processes of Abstract Expressionism into three-dimensional forms. Chamberlain was deeply influenced by the Abstract Expressionist painters, particularly de Kooning. He recalled discovering a group of de Kooning’s new paintings as early as 1950 while a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, and would go on to follow de Kooning’s work throughout his career, spending time with the artist at the Cedar Tavern during the late 1950s and attending his openings at the Fourcade Gallery through the 1980s. When viewed side by side in this exhibition, the deep affinities between the two artists’ works become truly apparent.
The exhibition brings together twelve sculptures by Chamberlain representing two distinct moments in his career. Works spanning from 1958 to 1964 illustrate the classic moment during which the artist inaugurates and masters the use of his signature medium of welded steel, including Nutcracker (1958), one of his very first examples in this medium. The later group of works hails from the mid-1970s, marking Chamberlain’s return to his use of automobile parts after a ten-year hiatus exploring other materials.
The seven de Kooning paintings in the exhibition similarly represent two iconic bodies of de Kooning’s late work. On view will be four major examples of de Kooning’s abstract landscape paintings from the 1970s, including Screams of Children Come from Seagulls (1975), in which the artist’s vibrating strokes of bright blues and flesh pinks evoke the sea, sand, and coastal light of East Hampton. Also on view will be a group of paintings from the 1980s, the final chapter of de Kooning’s career in which his richly impastoed canvases of the preceding decade are transformed into spare, luminous compositions in which ribbons of color ripple and curve across pale, ethereal backdrops. When seen alongside one another, the crevices contained in Chamberlain’s crumpled sheets of painted enamel evoke the layered folds of color in de Kooning’s canvases of the ’70s, while the gleaming, rounded curves of the sculptor’s bent fenders echo the smoothly arcing lines of the painter’s ’80s works. This exhibition celebrates the resounding resonance of color and energy between these sculptural and painterly forms.