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Between and Mortarboard

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Sculpture in the Form of a Bicycle Saddle

Accession Number

Sculpture in the Form of a Bicycle Saddle

Claes Oldenburg

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
ceramic, mahogany, sand

13 in x 8 ¼ in x 8 ¼ in (33.02 cm x 20.96 cm x 20.96 cm);5 ⅛ in x 5 ⅞ in x 11 ½ in (13.02 cm x 14.92 cm x 29.21 cm);13 in x 8 ¼ in x 8 ¼ in (33.02 cm x 20.96 cm x 20.96 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Jack A. and Noreen Rounick

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Swedish-born artist Claes Oldenburg has made a career of turning everyday objects into works of art. While Pop art also used imagery from consumer culture to challenge prevailing notions of what constitutes high art, Oldenburg had a unique approach to doing this that took its cues from the earlier movements of Dada and Surrealism. Where Pop artists like Andy Warhol, for example, would retain and even flaunt the fact that an object was industrially manufactured, Oldenburg transformed the object through free-association and visual puns. He was in search of what he has called “parallel realities,” or the multiple identities a form can take on through changes of material, scale, or physical setting.
Here Oldenburg uses the form of a bicycle saddle to pay tribute to his avant-garde legacy. Ever since Marcel Duchamp mounted a bicycle wheel on a kitchen stool and created the first “readymade,” the bicycle has taken on special symbolic significance within the context of modern art. The orientation of the seat in Oldenburg’s sculpture, with the narrow end pointing up, echoes the shape of another iconic Duchamp readymade, Fountain, a urinal turned 90 degrees from its normal position and signed with the pseudonym “R. Mutt.”

Subject matter
In much of his work, Oldenburg recreates the most unremarkable of household items with painstaking detail and concern for visual appeal, thereby elevating it into a monumental object to be venerated. In “Sculpture in the Form of a Bicycle Saddle,” Oldenburg creates a work that appears to be a mundane object taken out of context, but infuses it with an exquisite aesthetic allure, drawing attention to the beauty of its form and design.

Physical Description
Green ceramic object in the shape of a bicycle seat set in a tray of sand surrounded by a mahogany wood frame

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
abstract sculpture

Additional Object Classification(s)
Mixed Media

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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3 Related Resources

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& Author Notes

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