ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota
What is Art?

Art and Artists
 Africa, Zaire
 England, Higham Manor,
 Donald Judd
 New Mexico (Mimbres)
 Claes Oldenburg and 
 Coosje van Bruggen
 Thailand,  (Blue Hmong)
 Robert Rauschenberg

Inner Worlds Environment   Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
About the Artists

Claes Oldenburg was born in 1929 in Stockholm, Sweden. His family moved to Chicago when he was seven. His father was the Swedish Consul-General. Oldenburg and his brother; created an imaginary island country and designed maps, diagrams, and drawings describing every aspect of life there. Oldenburg later attended Yale University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1956, like many other artists of this time period, Oldenburg headed for New York. There he met artists such as Red Grooms, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and others who influenced his development. He became interested in existentialism. Oldenburg was also interested in interdisciplinary art forms. He organized Happenings, artworks combining theater, music, and visual art, in which the audience often participated.

Oldenburg traveled to Europe where he created plaster of paris carvings of food. Later in New York, he began to create the monumental soft sculptures that many people characterized as Surrealist because of their dreamlike quality. He was linked, inappropriately some say, with Pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein because his subject matter was from daily life or popular culture. Oldenburg was influenced by everything that was happening in his world. In 1969, he moved his studio to New Haven, Connecticut, where he began to collaborate with a fabricating plant to construct the large-scale monumental public art which has brought him international acclaim.

Vocabulary Terms

collaboration--To work together in an artistic undertaking.

existentialism--A philosophical perspective in which it is believed that humans are totally responsible for their actions; from this persepctive, art is a conscious act.

Happenings--Loosely organized performance art that might include music, theater, dance, visual art, or audience participation.

Pop Art--An art movement associated with the 1960s in the United States in which artists incorporated imagery and/or media from popular culture such as advertisements, mass produced objects, movies, and comics.

Surrealism--Movement in art and literature from 1924 to 1945 where artists attempted to give visual representation to dreams, fantasies, and the unconscious mind. Emphasized real objects in unreal situations, surprise, contradiction and shock.

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Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
About the Art | About the Artist | Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons