Born in 1927 in Rochester in the U.S. state of Indiana, the sculptor John Chamberlain first trained as an artist in Chicago before spending a year at Black Mountain College, where he made the acquaintance of prominent artists and writers of the time. When he moved to New York in 1957, he had just started working on the aesthetic form that has since become so typical of his work – with dented car parts of various colours – which turned Chamberlain into a protagonist of Junk Art. After experimenting with film in the late 1960s and discovering graphic printing processes for himself in the ’70s, he expanded the range of materials in his sculptures from the ’80s. John Chamberlain died in December 2011 at the age of 84 years in New York.
Different facets of Chamberlain’s output are represented in the Brandhorst Collection, ranging from early monochromatic, painted and unpainted steel sculptures from car metal, to small-format, brightly coloured wall reliefs and two sheets from the ‘Gondola’ series (1982). With the work Lord Suckfist (1989), the Brandhorst Collection holds one of John Chamberlain’s major works. This free-standing sculpture is a combination of various car parts that have been crushed together with seeming ease to produce an aesthetically pleasing and diversified shape. The title, which alludes to the farcical figure in François Rabelais’ Renaissance series of novels, Pantagruel, helps underline that this object has not come about by chance nor is it the result of an accident, and that Chamberlain’s sculptures have always united superficial and subliminal references.