Beginning in the late 1950s John Chamberlain began to develop a new and radical form of sculpture using discarded pieces of metal that he found in breakers yards. Intrigued by the inherent color and form of these fragments he began to bend and twist these ready-made materials into sculptures that are both beautiful and formally intelligent. This delicate and intimate sculpture embodies the full voluminous texture and rich color palette that are contained within Chamberlain's early works and celebrates the artist's innovative sculptural form.
By 1956, Chamberlain had moved to New York and joined the dynamic artistic scene that formed around the Abstract Expressionist movement. He was fascinated by the gestural brushstrokes of Franz Kline and the lushly abstract paintings of Willem de Kooning. While spontaneity seemed incompatible with the slow and deliberate methods of traditional sculpture, Untitled showcases Chamberlain's unprecedented ability to render the improvisational speed of painting in abstract metal sculptures.
Untitled harnesses the same energy Chamberlain used to bend, twist, and torque the metal of his larger car part sculptures. The vibrant composition leads the eye in and out of swirling loops, dense geometric masses, and deep cavernous shadows. From every angle unexpected formal relationships and contrasting primary colors infuse the work with tension and vigor. The main body of the sculpture consists of larger sheets of green, blue and red painted metal folded into geometric shapes. While the rigid components offer a sense of stability, thin pieces of metal explode out the central body of the sculpture creating a radiating sense of energy, spontaneity and a refined delicacy. Infused with warm bursts of yellow and hints of pre-fabricated patterned metal this composition is fresh and lively. Chamberlain's incorporation of sheet metal with colorful abstract designs emphasizes the range of his process and creativity.
In the 1960s Chamberlain was interested solely in the color and shape of metal from automobiles, sand pails, lunch boxes and other metal objects. In reference to his choice of metal, Chamberlain said, "It already had a coat of paint on it, and some of it was formed. You choose a material at a time when that's the material you want to use, and then you develop your processes so that when you put things together it gives you a sense of satisfaction. It never occurred to me that sculpture couldn't be colored." (J. Chamberlain, quoted by J. Sylvester, John Chamberlain A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-85, New York, 1986, p. 15) In his studio, Chamberlain treated each piece of metal as an individual entity before welding them into a harmonious composition that maximized their volume and color. Untitled's lush color, unique materials and complex spatial interplay epitomizes Chamberlain's ground-breaking contribution to sculpture during the 1960s.