John Chamberlain



1999 Painted and stainless steel 44.5 x 43.2 x 35.6 cm / 17 ½ x 17 x 14 in

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.

A self-described collagist, Chamberlain was influenced early on by the compilation and welding methods of modernist sculptor David Smith and the expressionist gestures of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. This informed an understanding of his work as a three-dimensional form of Abstract Expressionism. Observing the manifold yet harmonious character of Chamberlain’s practice, Donald Judd observed: ‘the source of the divergent aspects are held more closely together than those in any other expressionistic work. Chamberlain's sculpture is simultaneously turbulent, passionate, cool and hard. The structure is the passionate part.’

‘SUPERSTARMARTINI’ reflects the artist’s legendary sense of humor 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. His interest in poetry and ideograms began while studying at Black Mountain College in the mid-1950s, and the way his titles sound when pronounced and the form in which they appear are considered as independent and integral components of their sculptural counterparts.

Belying its size, ‘SUPERSTARMARTINI’ exemplifies the significance of spatial relationships in Chamberlain’s practice and demonstrates the dynamism of its larger ribboned relatives through its color and play on scale. For Chamberlain, ‘if the scale is dealt with then the size has nothing to do with it’. As a result, ‘something as small as a top could have the same authority and the same expression as some of his large sculptures’.

On view in Southampton

Our private viewing space is now open in the Village of Southampton, on the South Fork of Long Island, New York, presenting key works by artists in our program, including Louise Bourgeois, George Condo, Lorna Simpson, and others. ‘SUPERSTARMARTINI’ by John Chamberlain can be viewed at the gallery by appointment from Tuesday to Sunday, between the hours of 11 am and 6 pm EST.