Claes Oldenburg died last week at the age of 93. I haven’t talked about this much here, but I studied art in college and Oldenburg was one of the artists I looked up to during those years and since.
I knew his work, growing up in the Twin Cities I drove past the Spoonbridge and Cherry more times than I can count. But it was on a spring break trip with a friend to Washington, D.C. while in college where I saw a retrospective show that I really saw the full breadth of his work. Even as a college student without a lot of money I bought the massive catalogue from the show and it’s traveled with me ever since.
It wasn’t the large sculptures that hit me like a ton of bricks in that show, it was the soft sculptures. Mason Currey talked about them in a newsletter this week and I think he says it well:
I think Oldenburg’s soft sculptures are a good example of this. It’s easy to imagine them coming across as silly or gimmicky or just ho-hum. A big floppy ice-cream cone on the gallery floor? Sure, I guess. Instead, they are utterly delightful and weirdly poignant.
That describes it perfectly and images of them don’t do them justice, you need to see them in person to fully understand how great they are; if you ever have the chance, grab it. RIP Oldenburg and thank you for all the art that you made and shared throughout your life.