Best known for his oversized soft sculptures of food and consumer objects of the Pop art period, Claes Oldenburg began his career staging avant-garde performances, constructing environments, publishing writings, and generally embracing the commerce of everyday life. Printed work has always played a central role in his art, beginning with commercially produced announcements and ephemera for his Happenings, and continuing with traditional printmaking. Unlike most Pop artists, Oldenburg has been drawn to lithography because of its affinity to drawing rather than to the commercial look of screenprint. He has also produced a significant body of etchings. Engaging various concepts of reproduction and mass-circulation over the course of his career, Oldenburg has created more than two hundred fifty works, designated as “printed stuff” by the compilers of his catalogue raisonné.
Oldenburg’s environment called _The Store—_a storefront display on New York’s Lower East Side, shown from December 1961 to January 1962—epitomized the artist’s mingling of art, commodity, and commerce. At The Store, he sold painted plaster-and-wire constructions of familiar foodstuffs, clothing, and merchandise, elevating the status of these objects to art. To advertise his endeavor, Oldenburg created numerous printed works, such as business cards, stationery, and posters, including this hand-colored lithograph. Characterized by both a spontaneity of artistic gesture and the desire to self-promote, this print combines the tendencies of 1950s Abstract Expressionists with art’s new embrace of consumer culture. The title of the enterprise, The Store, appears at the top, its address of 107 East 2nd Street at the bottom, and the artist’s signature in reverse below the title. Oldenburg’s array of objects, including a shirt and tie and a piece of cake, capture the humor and irony of this seminal event in contemporary American art.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Judith Hecker, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 154.