Claes Oldenburg's Clothespin-4 ft-Soft Version, 1975, is from a series of different representations of this household object. The artist executed variety of Clothespins. There are sculptures fabricated out of steel, aluminum, bronze, cardboard and sketches of clothespins as well as the present soft sculpture version. The clothespin has also been immortalized on a large-scale as a public sculpture 45 feet tall in Centre Square Plaza, Philadelphia.
Oldenburg's keen interest in the clothespin may seem peculiar, but it was this old-fashioned, everyday object that was a crucial part of the artist's working method, as well as representative of the way in which mundane objects can transform into monumental structures depending on the context in which they are experienced or viewed. In the exhibition catalogue for a show held at the Walker Art Center, Oldenburg explains his relationship with the object to the interviewer: "Clothespins are a studio necessity for me. With clothespins I join parts of soft sculptures in preparation for sewing. Clothespins also hold parts together while the glue is setting. They are the instruments of connection which are so important in the fabrication of my work. The most efficient clothespin is the old-fashioned one which has a little spring in it. I prefer the ones made of wood. My studio is full of clothespins. I handle these objects. After a while I begin to see them as much larger structures than they actually are and think of enlarging them. They have an architectural character, like the three-way plugs which also lie about in my studio" (C. Oldenburg quoted in Oldenburg: Six Themes, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1975, p. 61).
Oldenburg's acute desire to create an object that exists outside of the realms of reality and art is the catalyst for the soft version of the Clothespin. Oldenburg is interested in the literal feeling of the object. For the artist, the object is meant to exist alongside its viewers, engaging them in a completely different way than traditional large sculptures or paintings. Clothespin-4 ft-Soft Version suspends conventional ideas of how a viewer is expected to interact with the art object by challenging the importance of experiencing art from a distance, on a wall, or under glass. "What I want to do is to create an independent object which has its existence in a world outside of both the real world as we know it and the world of art. My intention is to make an everyday object that eludes definition" (C. Oldenburg quoted in G. Celant "Claes Oldenburg and the Feeling of Things," Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 12).