John Chamberlain (b. 1927)
John Chamberlain (b. 1927)


John Chamberlain (b. 1927)
enamel on sheet metal on artist base
27 x 28 x 20 in. (68.5 x 71 x 50.8 cm.)
Executed in 1960.
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
David K. Anderson, New York
Private collection, Paris
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 3 May 1995, lot 15
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
"American Sculpture in Paris," Art in America, 1960, vol. 48, p. 97, no. 3 (illustrated).
F. Choay, "Lettre de Paris," Art International, December 1960, p. 36 (illustrated).
F. Whiteside, "Three Young Americans," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, vol. 19, no. 1, Fall 1961, pp. 52-57.
J. Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York, 1986, p. 57, no. 51 (illustrated).

Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Three Young Americans, April-May 1961.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition, December 1971-February 1972, p. 30, no. 14 (illustrated).
Buffalo, Anderson Gallery, Selected Works from the Gallery Collection, Part I, October-November 1991, no. 22.
Buffalo, Anderson Gallery, And Then Some..., January-April 1994, no. 43.
Philadelphia, Locks Gallery, The Art of Assemblage: Early Works, May-June 1994.

Lot Essay

John Chamberlain's commanding sculpture Jo-So exhibits many of the dramatic changes that were sweeping through the New York art world during the dramatic post-war period and whose reverberations were felt around the world. Using pieces of metal sourced from the city's breaker's yards instead of paint laden brushes, Chamberlain strove to command three-dimensional space just as the Abstract Expressionist's painterly gestures commanded the canvas. The strands of red, white, and yellow metal that sweep around the body of this work recall the gestural brushstrokes of Willem de Kooning's best paintings or Franz Kline's calligraphic compositions. Within the central body of this sculpture Chamberlain creates an environment that contains crests and deep folds of metal, producing a surface that is as rich in aesthetic beauty as any heavily impastoed surface of a painting from this period.

By 1954 Chamberlain had begun to make sculptures that were indebted to the influence of David Smith--open, linear works that were more or less articulated as one single plane. But he had started to become frustrated with the slow speed at which he had been working, and given his background as a trained painter, had begun to search for a method of working that combined the speed at which painters worked with the three-dimensionality of sculpture. By 1956 Chamberlain had also moved to New York and had joined the dynamic artistic world that developed around members of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He had become particularly enamored of the work of de Kooning, chiefly his voluminous paintings of the 1955-56 period and was especially excited by his energetic canvas, Gotham News, 1955. But while most members of the scene were grappling with the redefinition of painting, Chamberlain forged his own path in sculpture. Chamberlain has admitted that the gestural power of Kline and the color of de Kooning's paintings had an important effect on him, albeit intuitively rather than consciously. Jo-So shares a powerful sense of spontaneity and traces of process in its crumpled, rusted, and scraped steel, for improvisation was essential in Chamberlain's adoption of auto parts as a sculptural medium.

Included in Chamberlain's 1972 retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Jo-So was executed at a point when the artist was embarking on the most important part of his career and his large sculptures made from automobile parts were becoming central to his oeuvre. His explorations of the extremes to which he could push the medium have become some of the most iconic pieces of sculpture to be produced during the post-war period. Through this creative transformation of discarded automotive steel into sculpture, Chamberlain explored his ground-breaking medium with prodigious formal ingenuity, while simultaneously illustrating the automobile's central role in transforming American society. His sculptures from this period have long since been recognized for their significant contribution to sculpture in the twentieth century, but it is his mature sculptures, such as Jo-So, that have come to embody the spirit of one of the most exciting times in American art.

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