Foam sculptures (1966–1979); Photographs (1989–2004)
A special exhibition of foam sculptures and photographs by John Chamberlain was on view at Chinati in 2005–06. A large installation of Chamberlain’s signature works made from crushed, colored, and chromium-plated steel has been a cornerstone of Chinati’s permanent collection since the museum’s inception. The foam pieces, which are largely unknown, date from 1966 through 1970 and are made from commercially available polyurethane foam, which Chamberlain cut, folded, and tied to make a kind of instant sculpture-direct, graceful, and immediate. The work presents another aspect, complementary to the steel sculptures, of Chamberlain’s unique exploration of form and materiality. There were approximately thirty pieces in the exhibition, which was the first comprehensive survey of this work since 1966. A catalogue documenting the exhibition is published by Chinati. In addition to the foam sculptures, Chinati also showed a wide selection of panoramic photographs by Chamberlain taken over the last twenty years. The images are shot with a moving camera and are descriptive of places and people, while remaining colorfully abstract. Chamberlain calls them “self-portraits of my nervous system”—fragments of what could be considered the artist’s cinematic stream of consciousness.
John Chamberlain was born in 1927 in Rochester, Indiana. He lives and works on Shelter Island, New York. Solo museum exhibitions include Papier Paradisio. Drawings, Collages, Reliefs, Paintings 1965–2005, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2005); John Chamberlain: Current Work and Fond Memories. Sculptures and Photographs 1967–1995, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996); John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1971–72); John Chamberlain: Sculpture 1954–1985, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1986).