Museum  October 9, 2018  Megan D Robinson

An Artful Collaboration: Oldenburg and van Bruggen at the DAM

© Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Soft Shuttlecocks, Falling, Number Two, 1995. Graphite pencil, pastel, and charcoal on paper. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: purchase, with funds from The Lauder Foundation, Evelyn and Leonard Lauder Fund 99.51.© 2018 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

A survey documenting a decades-long collaborative relationship, Claes Oldenburg with Coosje van Bruggen: Drawings, presented in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, is now on display at the Denver Art Museum (DAM). The exhibition spans the artists’ careers, from 1961 through 2001, including 39 drawings and one sculpture. Known for their iconic, imaginative large-scale sculpture, this exhibition offers a glimpse into Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s creative process. The works on paper reveal a skillful use of line and form. Oldenburg once said, “If you’re true to the art process, it’s by nature metamorphic. Line especially can do anything, can be anything.”

© 2018 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Study for a Sculpture in the Form of a Broom and Pan with Sweepings, 1998. Pencil and colored pencil on paper. Collection Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Oldenburg and van Bruggen playfully re-examined everyday objects, creating giant clothespins and enormous shuttlecocks whose exaggerated scale evokes childlike wonder. The exhibition begins with studies for their monumental 1950s soft sculptures and concludes with their large-scale hard sculptures of the late 1990s and early 2000s. It includes an exclusive presentation of eight drawings of one of Denver’s most beloved outdoor sculptures, the monumental Big Sweep sculpture located outside the DAM.

“The drawings in this show demonstrate Oldenburg’s agility and wit with his loaded line,” curator Julie Augur says. “Whether a seemingly loose, relaxed drawing, or a tight mechanical line drawing, his creations never fail to amuse and challenge one’s perception of a space well filled.”

Claes Oldenburg, Clothespin - 4 Foot Version A.P lV, 1974
© 2018 Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg, Clothespin - 4 Foot Version A.P lV, 1974. Bronze and stainless steel on acrylic base. Denver Art Museum: Funds from Alliance For Contemporary Art, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Madden, Kenneth M. Good, 1981.11.

Claes Oldenburg, Two Fagends Together, ll, 1968
© 2018 Claes Oldenburg. Digital Image © Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.

Claes Oldenburg, Two Fagends Together, ll, 1968. Crayon and watercolor on paper. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: Gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A Lauder, President, 2002.58.

Claes Oldenburg, Proposal for a Skyscraper in the Form of a Chicago Fireplug, 1968
© 2018 Claes Oldenburg. Digital Image © Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.

Claes Oldenburg, Proposal for a Skyscraper in the Form of a Chicago Fireplug, 1968. Crayon and watercolor on paper. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President 2002.50.

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Soft Shuttlecock, Raised, 1994
© 2018 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Digital Image © Whitn ey Museum of American Art, N.Y

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Soft Shuttlecock, Raised, 1994. Graphite and pastel on paper. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: purchase, with funds from The Lauder Foundation, Evelyn and Leonard Lauder Fund 99.52.

Claes Oldenburg, Proposal for a Cathedral in the Form of a Colossal Faucet, Lake Union, Seattle, 1972.
© 2018 Claes Oldenburg. Digital Image © Whitney Museum of Ame rican Art, N.Y.

Claes Oldenburg, Proposal for a Cathedral in the Form of a Colossal Faucet, Lake Union, Seattle, 1972. Graphite pencil, colored pencil, wax crayon, and watercolor on paper. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Knoll International, Inc. 80.35.

Born in Sweden in 1929, Oldenburg grew up in Chicago, the son of a Swedish diplomat. A lifelong artist, Oldenburg studied at Yale and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Moving to New York, he became a U.S. citizen in 1953, and began making his mark on the Pop art movement. He met van Bruggen, a Dutch art historian and curator, in 1970. They began collaborating artistically in 1976, and married in 1977. Van Bruggen died of breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 66. Oldenburg, 89, lives and works in New York.

Claes Oldenburg with Coosje van Bruggen: Drawings is on view at the Denver Art Museum through January 6, 2019.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.