What happens when an artist becomes fascinated with a fireplug? Claes Oldenburg has answered that question for us. He became fascinated with the fireplug designed by the Chicago Fire Works in 1916 and did a series of drawings in which he inverted, elongated and conceptualized this humble street fixture. The result is the art titled “Inverted Fireplug as Skyscraper” that appears on this poster promoting an exhibition of his works at Richard Feigen Gallery in Chicago in 1969. By some accounts, the artist turned the once lowly fireplug into a colossal phallus towering over a city in a patriarchal statement of power.
Oldenburg was born in Sweden in 1930 and grew up in Chicago. After moving to New York City in the mid-1950s, he began developing a sculpture style in which he took familiar objects and gave them a different scale, shape and texture, with the result that they took on a new meaning.
In the 1960s he created soft sculptures with canvas and vinyl, making cartoon versions of everyday objects such as Two Hamburgers and Toilet. Continuing his fascination with ordinary items as sculpture, he took small objects and made them gigantic, thereby stripping them of their utility, as illustrated by his Clothespin (1976), a public sculpture in Philadelphia. His work, often whimsical, has ranged from drawings and paintings to public sculptures, both mini and monumental. His designs using the Chicago fireplug as his "model" illustrate these themes.
In 1977 he married artist Coosje van Bruggen (1942 – 2009), who collaborated with him on many of his projects.
A signed version of this poster is also available.