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Artists John Chamberlain
John Chamberlain Photo

John Chamberlain

American Filmmaker, Sculptor, Painter, and Printmaker

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: April 16, 1927 - Rochester, Indiana

Died: December 21, 2011 - New York, New York, USA

John Chamberlain Timeline

Quotes

"I wasn't interested in car parts per se, I was interested in either the color 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.... I believe that common materials are the best materials."
John Chamberlain
"Art is a liaison between some sort of deranged mentality and others who are not going through it."
John Chamberlain
"...one day something - some one thing - pops out at you, and you pick it up, and you take it over, and you put it somewhere else, and it fits. It's just the right thing at the right moment. You can do the same thing with words or with metal."
John Chamberlain
"You use [colors] in a graffiti manner, or as though you were writing a foreign language that you didn't really know, so you write as if it were a penmanship exercise rather than communication."
John Chamberlain
"Art is basically made by dissatisfied people who are willing to find some means to relieve the dissatisfaction."
John Chamberlain

"My work has nothing to do with car wrecks."

John Chamberlain Signature

Synopsis

John Chamberlain is known internationally for his long career of making vividly colored and vibrantly dynamic sculptures using discarded automobile parts that he twisted and welded into monumental shapes. He used the early modernist techniques of collage and assemblage at a magnified scale and he emphasized the brilliant colors of automotive paint. Chamberlain's sculptures appeared in New York at the same time as the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists; some were his mentors and they shared a similar critical reception.

Key Ideas

Chamberlain used the jagged edges and curved surfaces of the salvaged auto parts in his spontaneous, instinctual process. In effect, this was similar to Abstract Expressionist painters who used house painters' brushes, mops, brooms, and poured paint to make splashy gestural marks and washes of saturated color.
Scorning the presumptions of critics and intellectuals, Chamberlain was not commenting on the waste and taste of American consumers. He chose materials that were cheap, abundant and easy to work with, plus he enjoyed the process of finding and accumulating them. Their brilliant commercial colors and flashy surfaces inspired his creativity.
Chamberlain's art gave the common materials he used - steel from auto bodies, foam rubber used for cheap furniture, Plexiglas boxes, and paper bags - new meaning in sculpture. His experiments with what he openly called "junk" or "garbage" took place at a monumental scale and, along with their rough facture, revealed a range of new choices for his contemporaries.
Chamberlain achievement was to be able to work at any scale. He said that if you got the scale right, the size never mattered, as long as you understood how the pieces fit together. The fit he discovered and utilized was based on the implied relationship between size and scale.

Biography

John Chamberlain Photo

Childhood

Born April 16, 1927 in Rochester, Indiana, Chamberlain was the son of a fifth-generation saloonkeeper. When he was four his parents divorced and he went to live with his grandmother in Chicago. There he discovered an interest in music but lacked the talent to pursue the training. As a rebellious teenager he and a friend decided to hit the road for California. On their way they were arrested and told to move on: mostly to stay out of trouble Chamberlain lied about his age and joined the Navy at 16 in 1943.

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John Chamberlain Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
John Chamberlain
Interactive chart with John Chamberlain's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

David SmithDavid Smith
Julio GonzalezJulio Gonzalez
Richard StankiewiczRichard Stankiewicz
Vincent van GoghVincent van Gogh

Personal Contacts

Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Donald JuddDonald Judd
Franz KlineFranz Kline
Robert CreeleyRobert Creeley
Charles OlsonCharles Olson

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
ConstructivismConstructivism
CubismCubism

Influences on Artist
John Chamberlain
John Chamberlain
Years Worked: 1957-2011
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Frank StellaFrank Stella
Nancy RubinsNancy Rubins

Personal Contacts

Donald JuddDonald Judd
Andy WarholAndy Warhol

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Process ArtProcess Art
Junk ArtJunk Art
MinimalismMinimalism
Neo-DadaNeo-Dada

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein
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