In the early 1960s John Chamberlain made painted industrial metal his medium of choice. Since the mid-1970s, the artist has purchased car metal directly from the manufacturer. When purchased, the material has been molded and painted to suit its industrial function and is otherwise ready for the automobile assembly line. In Chamberlain's workshop, however, the metal is put in a press and metamorphosed into a work of art. The pressure of the press overpowers the metal's more obvious quality of rigidity and realizes its latent quality of malleability. The painted metal, originally shiny and smooth, is scarred in the process, leaving the painted surface cracked and splintered and revealing the metal base where bent and disfigured.
The metal pieces which comprise Daddy in the Dark display the range of the material's character, from relatively rigid, straight, untortured components to twisted, rolled, crushed components. The great majority of the pieces appear to have been originally painted white, highlighting the contrast between painted surface and exposed metal on twisted areas. The monochrome quality is interrupted by a small protruding mass of vibrantly painted metal. When massed together to form this monumental sculpture, these contrasting components infuse the work with tension and vigor. The more rigid components offer erectness and a sense of stability, the rolled and twisted pieces suggest movement, and the vibrant-colored protrusion is evocative of a fire smouldering within. Latent, too, is a suggestion of the energy required to set the components in their twisted state.
Fig. 1 Leonardo da Vinci, Drapery study for a seated figure, Musée du Louvre