Now at the Guggenheim Museum NYC: John Chamberlain: Choices

Painted car metal sculpture at John Chamberlain's Guggenheim exhibit.

As more than one writer has already noted, at first glance the John Chamberlain retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum looks as if they staged some sort of disastrous funny-car rally down the Guggenheim's signature spiral ramp, the wreckage in each gallery perhaps awaiting a tow. But of course, as any fan of artist John Chamberlain's trademark, twisted metal sculptures will tell you,  there's a whole lot more going on in each of these spectacular pieces than jagged car parts. Known as the man who, in the words of the museum's website, "successfully translated Abstract Expressionism into three dimensions", the huge John Chamberlain Choices at the Guggenheim shows off this deeply influential AND totally crowd-pleasing artist in all of his sharp, colorful, often surprisingly graceful glory. A visit to the Guggenheim isn't far away for residents of Glenwood's Upper East Side Manhattan real estate.

John Chamberlain Sculptures exhibited at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum.

John Chamberlain Sculptures at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum

John Chamberlain: Choices, at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum NYC features more than 100 works by this groundbreaking, still-vital artist, most of which are of his dynamic, hulking, car-steel sculpture variety. All of these pieces, with their sharp edges and explosive silhouettes, can't help but provoke winces of pain, or vague feelings of fear and doom: automobile culture is just too deeply embedded into our brains for us to ever NOT see the straight-up car crash in Chamberlain's work. At the same time, there's also something playful about his work–in a anthropomorphically robotic kind of way–as if each piece is about to spring to life and start clanking around, Transformers-style. For both reasons, John Chamberlain's Guggenheim show is one of those exhibitions which you can be reasonably certain will engage your kids, if applicable, as well as yourself.  

John Chamberlain's car crash sculpture at the Choice exhibit at the Guggenheim.

John Chamberlain's sculpture made of car metal at the Guggenheim in Manhattan.

But there's a great deal more to John Chamberlain's sculptures than the instant, visceral reaction. Chamberlain was a genius with color, and most of these sculptures can be read almost as three-dimensional abstract paintings. When he first started working with car metal, Chamberlain kept whatever color his slab or strip of choice had been painted in the factory. Quickly, though, he allowed himself to paint, airbrush, sandblast, or stencil (depending on the era) the scraps in order to suit the immediate desires of the piece on which he was working. The result is art that can be appreciated on so many levels that we actually walked down the Guggenheim's ramp (yes, we always go backward, beginning at the end) twice just to take it all in. John Chamberlain: Choices is a great museum show. 

Colorful car steel sculpture by John Chamberlain at the Guggenheim.

Metal sculpture made of car metal by John Chamberlain displayed at the NYC Guggenheim.

John Chamberlain: Choices at the Guggenheim Museum NYC

John Chamberlain: Choices will be at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum through May 13, 2012. The Guggenheim Museum NYC is located on Fifth Avenue and 89th Street, and is open every Sunday through Wednesday, and then on Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and on Saturdays until 7:45 p.m. Closed Thursday. For more information about the Guggenheim and John Chamberlain: Choices, please see the museum's website, here.    

Huge John Chamberlain sculpture in the Choices exhibit at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum.

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