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Oldenburg's 'Soft Screw' Sculptures Are Changing Over Time

Chazen Museum of Art

What happens when the material you use to make your art changes its properties over time?

Claes Oldenburg is an American/Swedish sculptor known for his larger than life, even monumental works. Think giant erasers, cherries on spoons, and giant melting ice cream cones.

From 1974 - 1976, Oldenburg worked on a series of pieces he called Soft Screw(s). Designed by Oldenburg and manufactured by the Gemini G E L Studios in Los Angeles, the Soft Screw sculptures were made of a relatively new material, Elastometric Urethane.

The giant black soft screw started off as a liquid, and were poured into a mold and allowed to harden. Now, almost 40 years later, the Soft Screws are changing.

Contributor Gianofer Fields spoke with Maria Saffiotti Dale, who is Curator of Paintings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts for the Chazen Museum. Dale says that when Oldenburg made these monumental sculptures - little was known about the new material he used.

"Part of the problem is that since they were made over a period of two years they weren't all made from the same batch," she says. "The material itself was fairly new and use by artists of polyurethane was experimental."

Sculptures that are larger in scale and made of solid materials are thought to be able to last forever, but these sculptures are physically changing because of the material they were constructed with.

"What happens a popsicle, when something starts melting, gravity pulls it down," says Saffiotti Dale.

Material culture contributor Gianofer Fields curates the Radio Chipstone series, funded by the Chipstone Foundation.

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.