This is the second of two posts of the Frieze Art Fair I attended on May 5th.

Certainly not a “diamond in the rough” in terms of galleries or artists, I still must note that John Chamberlain‘s sculptures at the famed Gagosian gallery were nonetheless a standout for me.

A Visit to the Frieze Art Fair in NYC, part II
photo credit:

These sculptures caught my eye from afar. They are created from the remnants of automobiles, some pieces still stamped with the makers. Looking at them, one is entranced by the sinuous forms each individual piece creates, and the beauty of each sculpture as a whole. 

A Visit to the Frieze Art Fair in NYC, part II
Photo credit: Hypebeast

Chamberlain’s artful genius is evident as he manages to make his work look singularly natural, untouched, and almost easy in a way that only comes with true expertise. And to imagine that could be said of “crushed” steel seems absurd, yet I find it rings true for me. 

At the same time, certain lines and pieces of the steel meld together to make almost human-like forms: for instance I found repetitive pieces of steel welded together that reminded me of fingers. The imagery of these half-human hands in his pieces fascinated me, as I began to see those “fingers” in different sizes showing up in many of his works: one can see some at the apex of the piece pictured at the top, for instance. In his sculptures fingers may clutch the steel, pull it back, or rest at the top of the folded, twisted metal. Always placed differently, they gave a certain humanoid aspect to each work, making me wonder if some sort of robot creature might have wanted to escape the crushed steel. 

The dynamics between the reflective, matte and white metals in this series also create tension as one’s eye shifts from what seems to be a used, recycled material to pieces of perfectly reflective steel. 

Chamberlain’s sculptures are some of the works that made me stop and think at Frieze. And those are often my favorite works. Here are some of the questions they elicited in my (always inquiring) mind: how much do they weigh? How did he source the materials? Did he go to a junkyard? Elsewhere? How exactly does he crush the metal? How does he work, adding the pieces together: is there a central ballast of sort around which he adds the steel? And where would such a piece find the perfect spot in a home? I could picture them in the center of a foyer, well-lit at the end of a long hallway… or perhaps even outside if the artist permitted it.

While I don’t have all the answers, artwork with such high level of workmanship and detail and that leaves me with questions are what I love best. I look forward to having the opportunity to see more of Chamberlain’s work.