Empire Sign—With M and I Deleted refers to the visual language of street graffiti. “It is quite right,” Oldenburg wrote while working on The Street, “to emphasize the vulgar if it has been neglected, if art has become too lyrical . . . by vulgar I mean proletarian, ordinary, tasteless, but also instinctive (life affirming).” Bustling New York City provided Oldenburg with the everyday subject matter that he sought. “Empire” may be a reference to the city’s many buildings and businesses named in honor of New York, the so-called Empire State. Oldenburg often chose to leave out letters from his signs. Addressing this tendency in 1963, he commented, “Where I use writing, I should like to provoke a physical effect of enunciation.” Where letters are missing, “the writing loses its sign character.”
Gallery label from Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store, April 14–August 5, 2013.