Claes Oldenburg. Giant Soft Fan. 1966-67
Curator, Anne Umland: Claes Oldenburg absolutely reinvented monumental sculpture in the 1960s. And he did this in two ways, both in terms of its subject matter, which invariably featured commonplace objects rendered on this gigantic, disproportionate scale. And in the whole notion of sculpture as something soft that's pliable.
He thought of the fan first as a monumental sculpture placed on Staten Island, so blowing breeze up the bay. And later on he thought about it as a replacement for the Statue of Liberty, guaranteeing, he said, workers on Lower Manhattan a steady breeze. And, I think, you only have to think of the Statue of Liberty, frozen in place, absolutely vertical, arm uplifted, situated on a platform, versus this schlumpy, wonderful sort of fan whose rotary blades drip down, to instantly grasp what it was that Oldenburg did that was just so absolutely radical, unconventional, redefined our whole very notion of what monumental sculpture is.
This transforming of mass produced objects into something that is clearly hand-made speaks to making an art that is for the everyday consumer, something inorganic, hard, metallic, rendered soft, rendered organic, like our very human bodies in all their lumps, bumps and folds, something that is subject to time and change and chance. I think there is a poignancy in something that once was rigid, and that now has all gone soft.