Michael Blackwood (b. 1934)
Claes Oldenburg - The Formative Years (1975)
Claes Oldenburg
The Formative Years
52 minutes, color
Narrated by the artist.

Claes Oldenburg claims the most important thing in art is style, and in this film he identifies the sources of his inspiration. The film appropriately begins with Oldenburg attending the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - one of the artist's favorite events. Among the whimsical and fantastic inflated balloons, so suggestive of the playful and exaggerated qualities of his own art, he discusses influences and his work. The film follows the progress of a commissioned outdoor sculpture, a colossal baseball mitt. A modest first baseman's glove, originally purchased at a dime store in Chicago, is transformed into a drawing, then into a small scale model, and finally metamorphosed into a 12 foot sculpture of steel and lead.

A trip to Chicago is woven into these sequences, where Oldenburg conducts a tour of his personal landmarks. He shows us the original fireplug which inspired his Proposed Colossal Monument for the End of Navy Pier, Chicago: Fireplug, the best place to find Ray gun shaped discarded objects, the ideal site for his colossal Windshield Wiper, how the Christian Science Church has turned into an ice bag, and the cemetery-like aspects of the Chicago skyline. He visits a famous Chicago cemetery and reveals his desire for "someone to donate land to make a cemetery for artists so that they could work on their own tombs during their lifetime...each one could be by an individual artist who created a tomb in his own style - it could be a permanent group show."

In his New York studio Oldenburg works on his well known Good Humor Alphabet and installs a soft drum set at the Whitney Museum. Rare black and white footage of his 1959 "Happenings" documents his irreverent beginnings and artistic adventures.

Claes Oldenburg in UbuWeb Sound
Claes Oldenburg in UbuWeb Historical