The art of John Chamberlain has resisted categorisation for over five decades. Emerging from under the shadows of Abstract Expressionism and the work of sculptors associated with the movement such as David Smith, Herbert Ferber and Seymour Lipton, Chamberlain, who studied at Black Mountain College in the 1950s, developed the aesthetics of their metal sculpture into an entirely new direction. With his adoption of the raw and coloured sheet metal of crushed car parts around this time, Chamberlain embraced the ready-made assemblage techniques that distinguished the work of Rauschenberg and Johns as well as the later Pop aesthetic of artists like Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein.
"In the early sculptures I used anything made of steel that had colour on it. There were metal benches, metal signs, sand palls, lunch boxes, stuff like that...Body shops would cut parts away ( for me) and I would choose what I wanted from whatever was in their scrap pile...I wasn't interested in the car parts per se, I was interested in either the colour or the shape or the amount... Just the sheet metal. 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 coloured." (John Chamberlain in conversation with Julie Sylvester, cited in J. Sylvester, John Chamberlain A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-85, New York, 1986, p. 15)
Though American sculptors such as Alexander Calder and David Smith had used colour in their sculpture, Chamberlain's clear articulation of colour in his work was also seen as allying his work closer to the Pop aesthetic. At the same time, one of the artist's greatest champions and critics, Donald Judd, saw in Chamberlain's work, the unique strength of their factual presence as manufactured objects recast into an alternate form. The closeness between the two artists, along with Chamberlain's adoption of more restrained colours in the late 1960s, also led to the sculptor's work, being equated with Minimalist tendencies.
Azimuth Lamella is one of a number of elongated and narrowly constructed sheet-metal sculptures that Chamberlain made in the late 1980s. Consisting of a strata of colour-painted crushed metal sheets compressed and welded together into a tall and elegant monolithic form, the work is a simple and material expression of abstract form and colour displaying a somewhat restrained sense of the baroque. The elaborate and rather obscure title that the artist has given the work seems to refer to the extreme nature of the thinness of the crushed metal and the overt elongation of the work as well as conveying on its forms an element of the organic.