John Chamberlain (sculptor)

Annie Lee | Mar 3, 2023

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John Angus Chamberlain was an American visual artist born on April 16, 1927 in Rochester, Indiana, who died on December 21, 2011. His work, characterized by the use of crushed and welded automobile fragments, gained fame in the 1960s, considered sometimes as an attempt to transpose into three dimensions the research of abstract expressionism, sometimes as a component of pop art.

John Chamberlain spent his childhood in Chicago and then, after serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, attended the Art Institute of Chicago (1951-1952). His work, influenced by David Smith, was based on welded metal tubes and blades. He studied and taught sculpture at Black Mountain College in North Carolina (1955-1956) where he became friends with poets such as Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and Charles Olson.

He moved to New York in 1956. The following year, he created Shortstop, his first sculpture incorporating car parts and debris, a technique he concentrated on from 1959 onwards, creating pieces designed mostly to be hung on the wall.

Chamberlain had his first major solo exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1960. By the early 1960s, his work was becoming well known. He was included in the Art of Assemblage exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1961 and in the same year participated in the São Paulo Biennial. From 1962, he was frequently exhibited at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1964.

While continuing to work with automobile debris, Chamberlain experimented with other materials. From 1963 to 1965, he made geometric paintings with spray paint for car bodies. In 1966, he received two fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and began a series of sculptures in rolled, folded and bound urethane foam. In 1970, these were followed by sculptures of melted or crushed metal and melted Plexiglas.

In the early 1970s, he returned to large sculptures made from automobile parts. Between 1972 and 1975, he assembled these sculptures on the ranch of collector Stanley Marsh in Amarillo, Texas. The resulting body of ten works, named after Texas cities and counties, the Texas Pieces, were shown in the sculpture garden at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York in 1973 and at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston in 1975; eight of the pieces are now on display at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. In 1977, Chamberlain began to take an interest in photography, working with a Wide-lux panoramic camera.

In 1971, he had his first retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. A second retrospective was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1986.

In 1993, Chamberlain received the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture from the International Sculpture Center in Washington DC. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York in 1990 and received the Distinction in Sculpture Honor from the Sculpture Center in New York in 1999.

John Chamberlain lives and works in Shelter Island Heights, New York.

John Chamberlain has always rejected any idea of social criticism in his use of car bodies, symbols of American consumer society. He claims that he uses car bodies only for their formal interest and says that he works without a pre-established plan, letting the material express itself.

Chamberlain uses the relatively malleable nature of sheet metal to bend and crease it. The colored surface of the metal is reminiscent of painting without quite resembling it.

His work has been compared to that of the French sculptor César, although it is very different. César works on car bodies with a crusher to make compressions.


  1. John Chamberlain (sculptor)
  2. John Chamberlain
  3. ^ Chamberlain, Guggenheim Museum, archived from the original on 2008-02-26, retrieved 2008-04-25
  4. John Chamberlain // Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
  5. Stefan Dürre: Seemanns Lexikon der Skulptur. E. A. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-86502-101-4, S. 79.
  6. Past Academicians “C” / Chamberlain, John NA 2006. (Memento des Originals vom 20. März 2016 im Internet Archive)  Info: Der Archivlink wurde automatisch eingesetzt und noch nicht geprüft. Bitte prüfe Original- und Archivlink gemäß Anleitung und entferne dann diesen Hinweis.@1@2Vorlage:Webachiv/IABot/; abgerufen am 18. Juni 2015.
  7. Kathrin Chod, Herbert Schwenk, Hainer Weisspflug: Turm von Klythie (Skulptur). In: Hans-Jürgen Mende, Kurt Wernicke (Hrsg.): Berliner Bezirkslexikon, Mitte. Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein. Haude und Spener / Edition Luisenstadt, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89542-111-1 ( – Stand 7. Oktober 2009).

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