Profile Airflow

Claes Oldenburg

American, born Sweden, born 1929

Profile Airflow, 1969

  • Not On View

Molded polyurethane over lithograph on paper

Dimensions: 33 1/2 × 65 1/2 in. (85.1 × 166.4 cm)

Museum purchase, 1970.19

It is fitting that Claes Oldenburg should choose the Chrysler Airflow as his singular homage to the automobile. Oldenburg is renowned for his humorous transformations of everyday objects from American culture rendered in monumental scale and often in deliberately distorted or "softened" form. Oldenburg's soft sculptures have a particular resonance with the form of the Airflow, which itself represented a dramatic softening of the prevailing boxy automotive style of the 1930s. The revolutionary design of the Airflow, notable for its "waterfall" grill and gently curved surfaces engendered the streamlining movement of the 1930s and beyond. Commenting on the lasting influence of the Airflow's design, Oldenburg remarked in 1998, "Cars haven't changed much since the Airflow," adding, "I haven't found one to inspire me since."Working in collaboration with master printer Kenneth Tyler, Oldenburg spent a year crafting the wooden relief mold from which the polyurethane element of the sculpture is derived. Tyler had the equally difficult task of formulating the plastic material that would meet the artist's specifications for color, firmness, and transparency. Profile Airflow ingeniously summarizes the evolutionary aspect of the automotive production process, from its 2-dimensional conceptual stage as seen in the lower gridded level of the sculpture to its final form in its outer polyurethane shell.

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