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Claes Oldenburg


Alias: Claes Oldenburg

Sculptor, Painter, Illustrator

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(born 28 January 1929 Stockholm, Sweden) American artist. Son of a diplomat, Claes Thure Oldenburg moved to various places as a child before his family finally settled in Chicago in 1936. He attended Yale University from 1946 to 1950 and went on to study art at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1950 to 1954. He opened a studio in 1953 and became a United States citizen that same year. In 1956 he moved to New York City where he met other artists including George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, and George Segal. Oldenburg had his first one-man exhibit in 1959 at the Judson Gallery and at Cooper Union. At the time he was working on drawings, collages, and sculptures made out of papier-mâché. In 1961 Oldenburg started creating some of his most well known works out of plaster and enamel, including Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything. The same year he opened The Store in his studio, in which he created exaggerated models of common store items. This commentary on America’s consumer culture helped label him as a pop artist by 1962. At the same time Oldenburg started participating in performance art, most notably the Happenings with other artists such as Jim Dine, Red Grooms, and Robert Whitman. An active year for Oldenburg, in 1962 he also began recreating commonplace objects such as a toilet or light switch but altered its size and texture, thus turning convention on its head and presenting the everyday in a whole new perspective. In 1967 he created his first public monument, the short-lived performance piece Placid Civil Monument, in Central Park. Oldenburg continues to create public monuments in the form of permanent large-scale projects, including Clothespin (1976) and Knife Ship (1985) alongside fellow artist and wife Coosje van Bruggen, whom he married in 1977. He had a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1969 and in 1995 the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Guggenheim Museum in New York held a retrospective of his work. He lives in New York.

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