new-york

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

Whitney Museum of American Art

The Whitney owns ninety-two of Claes Oldenburg's drawings (the largest such collection anywhere) and all were on exhibition this summer at the museum, displayed in two groups—those from 1959 to 1977, and those the artist made with his second wife, Coosje van Bruggen, from 1992 to 1998. One is tempted to ask what the difference is between these two periods and an answer is suggested by Oldenburg's definition of drawing as “the accidental ability to coordinate your fantasy with your hand.” The later work seems less fantastic and accidental and looks predetermined, as if the drawings were documenting sculptures that were already commissioned, whereas the earlier drawings appear spontaneous and experimental—each one the “impulsive” rendering of an “idea,” to use Oldenburg's language again. The loss of intimacy makes it seem as though going public had become more important to the

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