Artwork of the Month
June 1997

Claes Oldenburg, born in Sweden in 1929 and raised in Illinois, attended Yale University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1956, after working as a newspaper reporter and studying art, he moved to New York City. Initially a figurative painter, in the next few years he met and was influenced by artists Red Grooms, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. In the early 1960s Oldenburg used canvas and plaster to make sculptures of food and other everyday objects. He began to consider the scale of his sculptures, sketching ideas in a notebook or building three-dimensional models. He soon began to see these objects as monuments and his sculptures became colossal versions of ordinary things, often taking on new functions.

The idea for a huge spoon sculpture had occurred to Oldenburg before--in the early 1960s he proposed a "spoon as pier" project in Chicago that would extend out into Lake Michigan. In 1985, the Walker asked Oldenburg and his wife, art historian-writer Coosje van Bruggen, to create a work for the pond in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Van Bruggen revised architect Edward Larrabee Barnes' original design for the pond into the abstract shape of a linden tree seed, echoing the lindens planted along the main Garden walkways. She also provided the idea of the cherry placed in the spoon's bowl. These parts combine to form the fountain in which the water rises from the base of the stem and flows over the cherry, running down into the spoon and pond. The spoon and cherry elements were fabricated in shipyards on the East Coast and transported to Minneapolis on a giant flatbed truck. According to both artists, the 59-foot-long, 7,000-pound Spoonbridge and Cherry is a playful response to the Garden's formality.

The Artwork of the Month is part of the Walker Art Center's "New Definitions/New Audiences" initiative. This reexamination of 20th-century art is made possible by the Lila Wallace-Reader¼s Digest Fund. © 1997 Walker Art Center.

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Spoonbridge and Cherry 1985 - 1988

aluminum, stainless steel, paint
354 x 618 x 162 in.

Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Gift of Frederick R. Weisman in honor of his parents, William and Mary Weisman, 1988

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