Sculptor Claes Oldenburg: Everyday Objects, Big Reminders

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“I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.”
―Claes Oldenburg

While walking about your city or during your travels, you may have encountered an object, a recognizable one, too large not to notice. In Philadelphia, you’ll notice a lipstick made of Cor-Ten steel and aluminum. It stands upright, ready to be used, and served on a tray of caterpillar tracks:


Photograph by vige at Flickr

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In Washington, DC, a typewriter eraser made of steel and fiberglass, is frozen in acrobatics:


Photograph by hanneorla at Flickr

In the Parc de la Villette, Paris, a bicycle tire made of steel and aluminum peeks out of the lawn:


Photograph by hanneorla at Flickr

The commonality of these structures is their larger-than-human-scale appearance and the way they put into focus otherwise ordinary things.

The objects that Claes Oldenburg spotlights may feel trivial at first, but they’re not: lipstick, eraser, bicycle—these, and a great many others, are easily taken for granted. The XXL artworks by Oldenburg, born on Jan. 28, 1929, inject magical realism into the everyday. At the same time, they constitute a portfolio of reminders—of ordinary things achieving extraordinary reach in human activities.

Along with their comical relief, Oldenburg’s sculptures—made in collaboration with his his wife, Coosje van Bruggen—remind viewers of the necessity of objects, at all sizes, in people’s lives.

Nate Burgos is a designer who is ever-curious about design and designing at Design Feast.

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