New York

Claes Oldenburg

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

Many of the Museum of Modern Art’s neighbors these days belong to the family. To the east stands Park Avenue’s famous “glass canyon,” to the west Sixth Avenue’s. Built a generation and more before, the Museum was an early champion of the International Style’s celebrated purities. In such an area, in such a setting, the work of Claes Oldenburg, however officially welcomed, simply cannot feel at home.

Oldenburg’s soft sculptures show an empathy and gentleness profoundly at odds with the International Style’s immaculate visual rationalism. His empathy consists of granting his sculptures the full respect due another “I.” “Do what you most want to do,” Oldenburg seems to have suggested to a great range of manufactured objects from scissors, cars, and drums to calendars. And all, freed from their common human use by the seriousness and gentleness of his urging, have done so. They have relaxed.

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