GLENN LOWRY: Welcome to Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store an exhibition that examines the early years of Oldenburg’s extraordinary career, focusing on his first two major bodies of work. On this tour, you’ll hear from the artist himself.
CLAES OLDENBURG: My name is Geometric Mouse or Ray Gun. My name is Claes Oldenburg and I am, I hope, an artist. And I enjoy what I’m doing.
GLENN LOWRY: In 1956, the twenty-seven year old artist moved from Chicago to New York’s Lower East Side.
CLAES OLDENBURG: I came to New York because I thought that it was, probably the only place one could, begin a career as an artist. I had gotten to a point where I felt that the next step should be New York. I went through all the things that you go through in New York. You start at the Y and then you work your way up to, if you're lucky a large enough space that you could call it a studio. And eventually I found a place on the Lower East Side, between C and D, on Fourth Street. And that became my first studio.
GLENN LOWRY: Up until then, Oldenburg had been working primarily in drawing and painting. But the gritty neighborhoods of lower Manhattan inspired a change.
CLAES OLDENBURG: That’s how I do my work. It grows out of the surroundings. My focus was not on abstraction [that] had dominated the scene. I became more interested in objects. I found them more versatile than figures, because you can change an object without making it look strange.
GLENN LOWRY: Ann Temkin is the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA and the curator of this exhibition.
So much of what is possible to do in sculpture today wouldn't have been possible if Oldenburg had not made sculptures something that could sit on the floor, hang from the ceiling, be a relief on the wall.
GLENN LOWRY: On this tour, you’ll hear more from Claes Oldenburg and Ann Temkin, as well as Paulina Pobocha, Assistant Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture.
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