Intimately sized and striking in character, John Chamberlain’s ‘SUPERSTARMARTINI’ (1999) is an outstanding example of the artist’s innovative and adventurous sculptural practice. Here, an assemblage of steel ribbons – rendered in vividly colored stripes, solids and marbled mixtures of paint – intertwine and crumble into a spirited and multifaceted form, creating a sense of balance and transformation. From any given perspective, the sculpture proposes a new composition as the viewer explores each eccentric fold, twist and curl of brightly painted steel.
While exemplifying the significance of color and structural relationships in Chamberlain’s practice, ‘SUPERSTARMARTINI’ also reflects the artist’s legendary sense of humour and poetic sensibility. Expressed as a single word in uppercase letters, as though projecting from a marquee, his title summons an emboldened sense of liberation and joie de vivre. Wordplay and the abstraction of language feature prominently in Chamberlain’s oeuvre.
John Chamberlain (1927 – 2011) was a quintessentially American artist, channeling the innovative power of the postwar years into a relentlessly inventive practice spanning six decades. He first achieved renown for sculptures made in the late 1950s through 1960s from automobile parts – these were path-breaking works that effectively transformed the gestural energy of Abstract Expressionist painting into three dimensions. Ranging in scale from miniature to monumental, Chamberlain’s compositions of twisted, crushed, and forged metal also bridged the divide between Process Art and Minimalism, drawing tenets of both into a new kinship.