Produced in 1976, Typewriter Eraser presents a giant disk-shaped eraser that appears to have just alighted on the ground, the bristles of its brush turned upward with a sense of dynamic grace. Oldenburg transforms this once ubiquitous office accessory into a grand monument. In 1970, he began to sketch its mass-produced form, placing it into imagined landscapes in order to explore the idea of using it for a giant public sculpture.
Oldenburg's fascination with elevating mundane objects to something "higher" first manifested itself in his Store project -- a "store-cum-art-gallery" -- first presented at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1961, and then resurrected in a shop-front on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With the Store, Oldenburg embraced the commodities of materialist culture as subject matter, re-creating foodstuffs and merchandise in brightly painted plaster and kapok stuffed canvas. Spending time in Los Angeles in the fall and spring of 1963-64, Oldenburg was inspired to approach the product lines of industry and technology using manufacturing methodology, and he gradually began to abandon the malleability, tactility and fleshiness of his soft-sculptures to create works that could withstand the elements and that more accurately resembled the objects he was representing
The concept of typewriter eraser writ large had initially presented itself as "a fine anti-heroic subject" for a colossal sculpture to be placed outside an office plaza on Manhattan's Fifty-seventh Street. This now obsolete item of stationary had been a favorite plaything from the days when Oldenburg visited his father's office as a boy. Although this project was never realized, Oldenburg remained strongly attached to this strangely exuberant object and continued to use the idea for a number of drawings, prints and sculptures in varying scales and mediums, including this metal and cement version executed in a small edition of three.
Oldenburg's fixation on the metaphoric power of the things that surround us can be seen to stem from those Dada and Surrealist artists who extracted items encountered every day and elevated them into the rarified realm of art. His sculptures undergo a metamorphosis of scale similar to that found in the paintings of Magritte, yet Oldenburg does not tend to distort the function of his chosen objects or to place them in bizarre juxtapositions, but celebrates the singular qualities that distinguish them from all other things. He stated, "We do invest religious emotion in our objects. Look at how beautifully objects are depicted in ads on Sunday newspapers. It's all very emotional. Objects are body images, after all, created by humans, filled with human emotion, objects of worship" (C. Oldenburg, quoted in M. Rosenthal, "Unbridled Monuments; or, How Claes Oldenburg Set Out to Change the World," Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, New York, 1995, p. 259).