Corridor Pin, Blue

Corridor Pin, Blue, 1999
Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929)
Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009)

Corridor Pin, Blue is a signal sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The viewer’s conventional expectations of a safety pin are truly “turned on its head.” The scale is magnified by a factor of 250, and the pin is balanced vertically in a manner impossible to achieve with its real-life counterpart.

The extended pin point is evocative of the pointer of a compass, or perhaps the extended arm of an acrobat or dancer. In a final, humorous subversion, Oldenburg plays on the very nature of the “safety” pin by creating a pin that is open and potentially dangerous, or at least expressive and pointing, rather than closed and safe.  By creating a safety pin that can no longer be used in practical terms, Oldenburg and van Bruggen have shifted the viewer’s attention away from the object’s function and instead toward its formal and sculptural properties. While the safety pin epitomizes the modernist maxim that “form follows function,” it also may be viewed as an elegant minimalist sculpture that merits elevation into the realm of fine art.

Like many of Oldenburg’s and van Bruggen’s large-scale sculptures of the past decade, Corridor Pin, Blue takes as its subject a common, utilitarian household or workplace object so prosaic that it typically goes unnoticed—in fact, these objects’ low profiles are often inversely proportional to their degrees of high utility. Oldenburg’s embrace of such prosaic objects may be seen as part of a long tradition of “found” objects dating back to Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, bottle rack, and snow shovel and paralleled by Jasper Johns’s beer cans and flashlight.

Claes Oldenburg is widely acknowledged as one of the most important and influential sculptors of the postwar generation. Although he is often hailed as a pioneering figure associated with the Pop Art movement, Oldenburg’s early installations and subsequent “soft” sculptures had an emphatically three-dimensional, hand-crafted presence that differed substantially from the two-dimensional, mass-produced commercial imagery embraced by most Pop artists. More recently, working in partnership with the curator, critic, and art historian Coosje van Bruggen, who died in 2009, Oldenburg focused on the creation of the large-scale public sculptures.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Oldenburg spent most of his childhood in the United States.  After studies at Yale University and the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved to New York City in 1956, where he established an artistic reputation through a series of innovative installations and performances that engaged imagery and issues associated with American popular culture.

Oldenburg is perhaps best known for his “soft” sculptures of everyday objects, often fabricated in unconventional modern materials such as vinyl or plastic, that challenge and subvert traditional conventions regarding sculptural materials and their permanence. The title of the work is a reference to the first exhibition of this sculpture proximate to a long corridor at the Museo Correr in Venice, Italy.

Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929)
Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009)
Corridor Pin, Blue, 1999
Stainless steel, aluminum, and polyurethane enamel
Foundation purchase, gift of the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation
2003.66a–b

Listen to Emma Acker, Assistant Curator of American Art, provide her perspective on Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Corridor Pin, Blue.

 
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