Mnuchin Gallery is proud to present its third exhibition dedicated to one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, John Chamberlain. John Chamberlain: Five Decades + will feature sculptures made between 1960 and 2011, providing an in-depth look at the artist’s oeuvre. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored by Dr. Pepe Karmel, with statements by Jim Jacobs and Robert Mnuchin.
Chamberlain first gained recognition for his abstract sculptures made entirely from crushed automotive steel in the early 1960s. Constructed from vibrantly lacquered sheet metal and reflective chrome bumpers, these sculptures possessed a unique dynamism and distinct architectural formula for form and color. Chamberlain would famously muse, “it's all in the fit,” referring to the intuitive and improvisational manner with which he would arrange each piece, until the composition was just right. Still, the sculptor was careful not to undercut the significance of artistic intentionality: “some seem to think that I work with found pieces, but I don’t. They’re chosen, you see. The idea is that there has been a lot of magic implied in the choice.” Embodying this dualistic perspective, his sculptures are at once excitedly spontaneous and unpredictable, while also carefully constructed and precisely balanced.
Bursting with action, gesture, and vitality, Chamberlain was known for bringing the energy of Abstract Expressionism into three dimensions. However, between the years of 1966-1972, he briefly ceased metalworking to investigate the sculptural potential of foam, paper, acrylic, and resin. When he returned to metal in 1973, he adopted a new approach: his work was playfully restrained, with a harmonious color palette and a greater emphasis on the medium’s physical properties, like weight and mass. In the 1980s and 1990s, his sculptures grew more voluminous and organic, embracing the circularity of curves and spheres, often in bold and unexpected color combinations; while in the 2000s, he returned to a more geometric style, focusing on monumental, singular structures that emphasized the elegance and kinetic flair of steel and aluminum. While he never ceased experimenting, Chamberlain consistently maintained an unparalleled mastery of color, boldly pushing the boundaries of scale and form to create captivating and whimsically titled sculptures, that are nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Showcasing sculptures created over a fifty-year period, John Chamberlain: Five Decades + aims to illuminate the themes and techniques that remained central to the artist’s lifelong practice. Drawn from prominent private collections and museums, the iconic sculptures featured in John Chamberlain: Five Decades + are not organized chronologically. Rather, by interweaving works from various periods, the exhibition celebrates the unwavering commitment to innovation and experimentation that defines Chamberlain’s enduring legacy in the canon of American sculpture.
1 Quoted in Susan Davidson et al., John Chamberlain: Choices (Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, 2012), p. 18.