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Press Release

NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of drawings and sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The exhibition, entitled Images à la Carte, will comprise a selection of 50 notebook drawings of food that Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen worked on together between 1987 and 2003. The exhibition coincides with the publication of these drawings in a book of the same title.

Claes Oldenburg’s practice of working out ideas for drawings or sculpture on notebook pages started at the beginning of his career and continues today. In the late 1980s, when Coosje van Bruggen suffered from food allergies that severely restricted her diet, she suggested “a displacement of the senses– that which could not be eaten could be consumed with the eyes.” He started drawing small studies of appetizing dishes she selected from the menu as a way of sharing them with her. This playful activity quickly grew into an exchange between the two artists, with van Bruggen pointing out metamorphic qualities of specific dishes that lend themselves to an architectural scale, or Oldenburg volunteering drawn souvenirs of meals he had while away from her. The drawings display the two artists’ characteristic humor, poise and kinetic sculptural sense.

Fifty of these drawings were brought together in Images à la Carte, a book conceived by van Bruggen and Oldenburg, and published by Paula Cooper Gallery this year. Also included in the exhibition are large drawings on other food themes, such as a series of variations on blueberry pies, which the artists have developed as subjects for garden sculptures, as well as studies for their 40 ft. large scale sculpture, Dropped Cone, installed in 2000 on top of the Neumarkt Galerie in the center of Cologne, Germany.

The exhibition also presents three large-scale sculptures: two Blueberry Pies, and Canapé Gazebo, a painted aluminum sculpture displaying Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s whimsical conjoining of the prosaic and the architectural.

The Shuttlecock Pies, in painted aluminum, previously shown at the entrance to the Correr Museum in Venice and on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, combine the form of a blueberry pie with that of a shuttlecock to serve as twin ornaments to a garden staircase. The Canapé Gazebo enlarges an hors d’oeuvre consisting of a slice of cheese on two pretzel sticks to a garden folly, in the shelter of which the owner reclines, reading in the company of his two dogs.

Oldenburg and van Bruggen have collaborated on forty large-scale projects since 1978, redefining public spaces across the United States, Europe, and Japan. Their most recent work is the 144 foot long, 64 foot high homage to Eros, Cupid’s Span, a colossal bow and arrow shot into the ground, on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Their 65 foot high Collar and Bow will be installed at the entrance of Frank O. Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles this September.

Claes Oldenburg was born January 28, 1929, in Stockholm, Sweden, but 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 himself in the early 1960s with a series of installations and performances influenced by his surroundings on the city’s Lower East Side. Oldenburg’s initial interest in constructing environments such as The Street (1960), The Store (1961), and Bedroom Ensemble (1963) soon evolved into a concentration on single sculptures. Using ordinary, everyday objects as his form of expression, he went on to develop “soft” sculpture and fantastic proposals for civic monuments and buildings. In 1969, Oldenburg took up fabrication on a large scale with Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, which became a controversial focus for student protest when it was installed on the Yale University campus, followed in 1976 by Clothespin for downtown Philadelphia.

Born in Groningen, the Netherlands, on June 6, 1942, Coosje van Bruggen received a master’s degree in art history from the University of Groningen. From 1967 to 1971 she worked in the curatorial department of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and was co-editor of the catalogue of Sonsbeek 71, an exhibition of contemporary sculpture held in Arnhem, and other sites throughout the Netherlands. Van Bruggen was a member of the selection committee for Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany (1982) and has been a contributor to Artforum (1983–88); and Senior Critic in the Department of Sculpture at Yale University School of Art (1996–97). She has also authored books on Claes Oldenburg’s early work and on John Baldessari, Hanne Darboven, Bruce Nauman, and the architect Frank O. Gehry, among others. Van Bruggen’s first collaboration with Claes Oldenburg was in 1976, when Trowel I, originally shown at Sonsbeek 71, was rebuilt and relocated in the sculpture garden of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands. In 1978 van Bruggen moved to New York, where she continued to work with Oldenburg to establish direct contact with a wider audience by creating large-scale, site-specific works in urban settings. Their collaboration has extended to include smaller-scale park and garden sculptures as well as to indoor installations.

For more information, please contact the gallery: (212) 255-1105 or