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John Chamberlain (b. 1927)
Works from the Vanthournout Collection
John Chamberlain (b. 1927)

Now Morton Ever: Dedicated to Morton Feldman

Details
John Chamberlain (b. 1927)
Now Morton Ever: Dedicated to Morton Feldman
painted and chromium-plated steel
57 x 80 x 36¾ in. (144.8 x 203.2 x 93.4 cm.)
Executed in 1989.
Provenance
Waddington Galleries, London
Private collection, Switzerland
Buchmann Galerie, Lugano
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
A. Grant, "John Chamberlain," Art and Auction, July 2008, p. 44.

Lot Essay

With a grace and elegance that defies its obdurate material--its tubular chromium-plated steel folded and twisted into seemingly ethereal flight--Now Morton Ever, dedicated to the avant-garde composer, Morton Feldman (1926-1987), is a prime example of John Chamberlain's signature style, a transformation of discrete car metal parts into intersecting contours and voids, its colors glistening in a voluptuous cluster of polychromatic bandings. The beauty of this work lies not only in its dynamic movement, which seems to levitate it beyond the bounds of gravity, but also in its interplay of solid and void, which compels the viewer's attention as it captivates the imagination.

A monument to friendship as well as to artistry, Now Morton Ever: Dedicated to Morton Feldman, conveys both in the wording of the title and the rapt intensity of its form the profound respect in which Chamberlain held the composer. An art world insider from the 1950s until his death in 1987, Feldman, who was an art critic of formidable intellect and a composer of commanding invention, dedicated pieces to several Abstract Expressionists, including Mark Rothko ("Rothko Chapel"), Franz Kline, Wilhem de Kooning, and Philip Guston, whose works filled his living spaces. Feldman's friendships with Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and the dealer Leo Castelli are well documented: it was he who brought Castelli to Rauschenberg's studio, which led, fortuitously for the dealer, to a meeting with Johns and their subsequent collaborations (C. Tomkins, Off the Wall: a Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, New York, 2005, p. 130).

Shaping his objet trouvé according to their innate structural properties, Chamberlain fashioned the steel and chrome into a kinetic "field" of elements, further cutting and torquing his chosen materials in line with accident and chance to reveal the inherent tensions that hold together the forms taking shape. Feldman, too, was inspired to abandon the traditional elements and procedures, and instead, to "project sounds into time, free from a compositional rhetoric..." (M. Feldman, quoted in T. DeLio, The Music of Morton Feldman, New York, 1996 , p. xiii). Writing of the early 1950s, Feldman recalled the freedom from art-historical strictures with which artists carried out their investigations: "... Anybody who was around in the early fifties with the painters saw that these men had started to explore their own sensibilities, their own plastic language...with that complete independence from other art, that complete inner security to work with what was unknown to them. That was a fantastic aesthetic achievement" (M. Feldman, quoted in M. Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, New York, 1974, p. 43).

The unitary form implicit in Now Morton Ever derives paradoxically from its discrete parts, the multiple coats of lush lacquer both melding and activating the cuts and folds of its surfaces, creating an improvisational, yet controlled essay in process, materiality, and form. The intrinsic beauty of Now Morton Ever derives in part from this split in perception between the poise and grandeur of the unitary form and its individuated derelict elements, which Chamberlain resolves into a correspondence of visceral energy and curvilinear fluidity. An apt tribute to an artist who shared with Chamberlain a desire to experiment and re-imagine traditional techniques, both artists forged a new vocabulary, one sonic the other material, and deployed it in a milieu of experimentation.

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