Works on Paper


Proposed Chapel in the Form of a Swedish Extension Plug, 1967
Claes Oldenburg (United States, Sweden born 1929)
Crayon, wash
22 x 30 inches
Art Acquisition Fund 1968-4-1

Claes Oldenburg was one of the first artists associated with the American pop art movement in the mid-1960s, and has been at its forefront ever since. Like Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, Oldenburg used anti-aesthetic strategies to convey an ambivalent fascination with consumer culture. These artists rejected the dominant abstract expressionist mode in which art served as a vehicle for personal and mystical expression. Pop artists also kept their distance from the popular reform movements of the 1960s that sought social political change through direct action. Pop artists questioned many of the same institutions and social patterns, but did so through parody, as in Oldenburg's Proposed Chapel in the Form of a Swedish Extension Plug.

In Proposed Chapel, a powerful perspectival effect and carefully weighted contour lines create an imposing architectural form, however loosely sketched. Oldenburg's nonchalant mastery of graphic technique complements the wit of his visual puns. Proposed Chapel also illustrates Oldenburg's variation on the surrealists' techniques of juxtaposition and their use of object-art. He synthesizes two unrelated everyday objects by noting their purely visual similarities, and expands the resulting hybrid to a disconcerting scale. The fusion of religious architecture and mass-produced household convenience undermines the customary separation of sacred and middle-class domestic spaces. This visual and conceptual sleight-of-hand raises questions about the function of religion in a modern leisure society. Over the years, Oldenburg has erected dozens of highly implausible monumental works. Still, the early date of Proposed Chapel and its architectural conception identify the concept as more rhetorical device than genuine aspiration.

Text by Michael Wetzel, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

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