Claes Oldenburg Giant Soft Fan 1966-67

  • Not on view

Here Oldenburg has rendered a hard object in a soft material so that it sags and droops, and he has greatly inflated its size. There is humor in this transformation of a hard machine into a collapsible object, and the result has a bodily and sexual connotation. There is also a subtle nostalgia: in its focus on the culture of its time, Pop art seemed jarringly up-to-date in the 1960s, but this fan’s design was old-fashioned even then.

Gallery label from 2011.

Pop art's gaze on the universe of commercial products is often deadpan and cool. With Oldenburg, though, it becomes more comically disorienting: sculptures like Giant Soft Fan challenge our acceptance of the everyday world both by rendering hard objects in soft materials, so that they sag and droop, and by greatly inflating their size. (There are also Oldenburg works that make soft objects hard.) The smooth, impersonal vinyl surfaces of Giant Soft Fan are Oldenburg's knowing inversion of the hard-edge aesthetic of the 1960s. There is humor in this transformation of a hard machine into a collapsible object, which, like Salvador Dalí's limp watches, has a not too elliptical bodily and sexual connotation. There is also a subtle nostalgia: in its focus on the culture of its time, Pop art seemed jarringly up-to-date in the 1960s, but this fan's design was old-fashioned even then. Oldenburg often makes monumental public sculpture, enlarging his everyday objects to a scale far more enormous than even the Giant Soft Fan. Notes he wrote in 1967 show him playing with that idea: "The Fan's first placement was on Staten Island, blowing up the bay. Later, I sited it as a replacement for the Statue of Liberty . . . [guaranteeing] workers on Lower Manhattan a steady breeze." Giant Soft Fan. 1966-67

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 249.
Medium
Vinyl filled with foam rubber, wood, metal, and plastic tubing
Dimensions
Fan, approximately 10' x 58 7/8" x 61 7/8" (305 x 149.5 x 157.1 cm), plus cord and plug 24' 3 1/4" (739.6 cm) long
Credit
The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection
Object number
2098.1967
Copyright
© 2019 Claes Oldenburg
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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