Claes Oldenburg (Sweden, 1929 – New York City, 2022) grew up in the United States, where he trained to be an artist. In the 1960s he became one of the most important representatives of Pop Art. Initially Oldenburg was inspired by Jean Dubuffet and made collages and assemblages from materials such as cardboard and jute: imitations of objects that he found on the street. In keeping with the spirit of Pop Art, Oldenburg’s favourite subjects include tools and food. In 1961 he made an exhibition installation in the form of a shop, selling plaster copies of food and clothing. His works are playful and surprising, yet critical. They also question the nature of art itself.
From 1962 his objects increased in size and took on an alienating quality through their use of scale and unusual materials. He made a wooden replica of a saw, and textile and foam rubber sculptures of electric plugs. He emphasised the qualities of these banal objects precisely by denying them.
From 1965 Oldenburg designed colossal monuments, comprising enormously enlarged banal objects to be sited in existing locations. He depicted these fantasies in collages and drawings; their perspective creates an overwhelming effect. Several of these projects were realised in the 1970s and 1980s. The demands of making public sculptures on such a grand scale led the artist to employ more durable materials, but the subjects remained banal. A trowel, a washing peg, and a screw: these are everyday objects realised on a heroic scale.