Los Angeles

John Chamberlain

Dilexi Gallery

Although it is from the scrap-pile of old automobiles that John Chamberlain gets most of the sculptural material for his assemblages, it is an exquisite junk yard, full of color and contrasting elements. The found object, worked to produce new images, retains at the same time its original meaning of fender, bumper and engine fragment, and even the connotation of the impact of a ruinous collision. Yet the carefree fitting together of these remains gives to them a new existence of a crass material nature that in itself is overpowering. The impact of accident, the essential ingredient of action painting, is thus given multiple meaning in what has been referred to aptly here as action sculpture. Still a third dimension of satire is implied although more by title than by actual form: “Sweet William,” “Ginger,” “Miss Lucy Pink” and the like. It is not social satire and not bitter at all. In fact, Chamberlain seems to have consciously avoided such easy applications of his art form. In some of the smaller pieces, “Ma Perkins” for example, and in the untitled reliefs, the artist employs other scrap components: tin cans, toys, paper, cloth—whatever catches his fancy. The temptation is always present for the assembly-maker to become so involved with the object that any resemblance of formal order, traditional or otherwise, is lost. Sometimes Chamberlain comes close to this pitfall, but on the whole keeps his material in check, more often than not holding to a closed form that has real sculptural quality. At the same time his ingenuity remains refreshingly strong although there is a question of how long it can sustain itself. After all, there is a limitation in depending so heavily on the reality of the material only.

Constance Perkins