This is the largest exhibition to date to focus on the early work of one of Pop’s most widely admired artists. Bringing together nearly 300 pieces from collections around the world, Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties showcases a broad range of the artist’s sculptures—including prized works from the Walker Art Center’s collection such as Upside Down City (1962) and Shoestring Potatoes Spilling from a Bag (1966). The show also highlights Oldenburg’s key role in Happenings and other interdisciplinary performance art of the early 1960s.
The exhibition presents several major bodies of work from Oldenburg’s formative years. A section he designated The Street features a graffiti-inspired installation focused on the underbelly of urban life; works from The Store include his celebrated sculptures of food and everyday goods. Film footage from various Happenings, which combined performance with many of these sculptural objects, costumes, and props, brings audiences into the action of the moment. An area entitled The Home is devoted to sculptures of large-scale domestic objects created in “soft,” “hard,” and other versions. The Monument shows the development of huge public sculptures in drawings and collages from the mid-’60s.
The show culminates with a rare presentation of Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing, walk-in structures housing objects collected by the artist, demonstrating the incredible variety—and mystery—of consumer culture and studies for works based on it.
Other highlights specific to the Walker’s presentation include a section centered on Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s monumental Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988), the now-iconic fountain sculpture commissioned for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Throughout the galleries, sketches, snapshots, home movies, and slide projections give insight into the mind, heart, and creative process of an artist known for his humorous and profound depictions of the everyday.
Organizing curator: Achim Hochdörfer, MUMOK (Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien)
Walker coordinating curator: Siri Engberg