Kenyon College

Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden 1929)


American artist Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm and immigrated to Chicago as a child. He studied at Yale and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1956 he moved to New York City and became close with a group of artists including Jim Dine, Red Grooms and Allan Kaprow that were interested in art that challenged Abstract Expressionism. He began experimenting with his signature soft sculptures in 1957. Associated with the Pop art movement, he was also a seminal figure in the performance art scene of 1960s NYC. He created his own productions, under the nomenclature “Ray Gun Theater” which incorporated his soft sculptures in happenings featuring key New York artists, dealers and critics such as Lucas Samaras, Tom Wesselman, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Rose and Annina Nosei. In 1963 he moved to New York and in 1965 began making his large outdoor sculpture featuring common household objects on a monumental scale. Oldenburg became interested in the idea of “poetry of scale” as he received numerous public commissions for sculpture parks, museums and college campuses, defying the concept that monuments need to depict iconic events or historical figures. While most recognized for his sculptures, Oldenberg is also celebrated for his drawings, prints, performances and writing. He received the National Medal of the Arts in 2000. In addition to winning numerous awards, he has honorary degrees from Oberlin College, the Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, the California College of the Arts, the University of Teesside, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the College for Creative Studies, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal College of Art. He has had solo shows and retrospective exhibitions at institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Hayward, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Photo: © Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen



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