In 1956, Claes Oldenburg moved from Chicago to New York's East Village and created art that reflected the neighborhood's grittiness–a period captured in "Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store" at the Museum of Modern Art. During his "Street" period, he used cardboard, chicken wire, burlap and newspaper to create purposely crude signs, cars, apartments, guns and ghoulish street characters. In 1961, Oldenburg maintained a studio and storefront that he called "The Store," from which he sold papier-maché and plaster food, clothes, cigarettes and advertising signs. In addition to these objects, the exhibit contains Oldenburg's first sewn and stuffed cloth and foam rubber soft sculptures, including an 11-foot ice cream cone and a hamburger as large as a couch (shown above, with along with various signs). The sculptures reflect Pop art's celebration of everyday objects and commercialism. Oldenburg saw his street art as a raw alternative to the sculptures found in museums. Ironically, his formerly gritty East Village is rapidly gentrifying and his art has moved from his former urban storefront to major museums.
“Claes Oldenburg: The Street and the Store” will run through Aug. 5 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, NYC; (212) 708-9400, moma.org.