PXL 20220722 2157073532No doubt any student who has ever studied modern art has had some exposure to the larger-than-life sculptures of Claes Oldenburg. His death on July 18, 2022 brought to my attention how narrow my awareness of his art had been.

Living, as I do, near Richmond, Virginia, I've had 2 primary exposures to Oldenburg's art: the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) and The Smithsonian Institutions' galleries, both indoors and outdoors. And actually, I guess it's 3--including Sydney & Francis Lewis' house, back in the day.

As a student of, and later practitioner of, interior design, I was probably far more interested in his period house on Monument Avenue*, or in the juxtaposition of his period house along with contemporary artwork. It's not, of course, that I ever knew the Lewises themselves. But they were the generous sort that would let the local church's karate class practice in their front yard. Which featured a very tall clothespin. Sculpted by Claes Oldenburg.

And that's where the old part comes in--my mind envisioned Oldenburg as memorializing found objects before they disappeared from mainstream life. In the '90s, when we were exercising in our gi's in the Lewises' forecourt, we no longer had a use for clothespins, having always had access to washers and dryers.

And consider Typewriter Eraser X, at the National Gallery of Art. My kids don't even understand what a typewriter eraser is, or how it worked. I barely do...the last time I used one was in high school; in college, we were already using state-of-the-art Lanier word processors and stand-alone hunks of computers processing Lotus 1 2 3 (and nothing else--that one app ate up all of its storage and working memory). (Incidentally, Typewriter Eraser X can be seen on a drive-by, outside near the street, as shown in the photo above.)

Yet, when I look at a list of publicly displayed artworks, I was wrong--the vast majority of the objects may be seen everyday: a cherry on a spoon, a trowel, a 3-prong plug, etc.

*Yes, the Lewises lived in the street that got an indoordinate amount of attention in 2021 and 2022, with the removal of statues and equestrian statues of Confederate person's of note.