Chamberlain at Marfa

Thank you Marfa – I get it! No, thank you Donald Judd for not using the three hangar-size buildings in the town center – formally the Marfa Wool and Mohair Buildings – where you intended to house your mind-boggling 100 milled aluminum boxes. But instead, you allowed John Chamberlain to fill the gigantic space with his automobile scrap metal compositions dating from 1972 to 1982.  Before Marfa, I would occasionally encounter a Chamberlain sculpture on exhibit somewhere and always pick up on the calculated use of car junk noting the original paint jobs on a mangled door or trunk lid while usually spotting a giant contorted fender embedded as an integral element of the composition. But there and then in Marfa, among so many, the assemblage looked stunning in the progressive buildings. Each unique space with high ceilings lined with wooden beams is divided by Judd’s signature swinging doors that pivot on a rotating axis.  The 22 works, definitely on a human scale, are placed to create a flowing spacial rhythm with a striking cohesive visual effect.

Chamberlain was a literary sort who loved giving his work crazy titles.  There are two “gondolas” – one called William Carlos Williams and the other Ezra Pound –which are low-built, long-framed, constructions instead of the usual vertical forms.  My favorite was the black & white structure called Tongue Pictures from 1979. The title is elusive, but on standing in close proximity it has a seductive animal magnetism and inner power – sort of like a mutation between a giant winged insect (or extra-terrestrial) crossed with Darth Vader!  A foreboding sense of powerful potential energy seethes under its compression ready at any moment to explode (now talking kinetic energy here) in order to restore itself to its original shape or perhaps to morph into another entity altogether…

Thank you John Chamberlain – I got it!!

Submitted by Edward Lukasek