Inverleith House

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John Chamberlain  

24 July – 4 October. Tues - Sun, 10am – 5.30pm

John Chamberlain, It Ain't Cheap, 1965. Installation view, the Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, New York. © John Chamberlain/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), NEw York. Photo: Bill Jacobson. Courtesy Dia Foundation, New York.

John Chamberlain, It Ain't Cheap, 1965. Installation view, the Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, New York. © John Chamberlain/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), NEw York. Photo: Bill Jacobson. Courtesy Dia Foundation, New York.


Press Release:

John Chamberlain
25 July – 4 October 2015

‘There should be one place where your act of discovery is still alive and I think that place is art.’

John Chamberlain.

Inverleith House is delighted to present the first exhibition in a UK public gallery by the great American artist John Chamberlain (1927-2011). One of the pioneers of post-war American art, Chamberlain was a key figure in the vibrant New York art scene of the 1950s and ‘60s; his innovative work in sculpture, painting and film spans six decades. Chamberlain represents a unique link between the vivid colour palettes and frenetic energy of Abstract Expressionist painting and the truthfulness to material found in Minimalist sculpture. 

Defying easy categorization, Chamberlain continues to exert a powerful influence on artists working today. A self-described collagist, concerned with the ‘fit’ of a sculpture, Chamberlain’s well-known use of discarded car parts within his work often overshadows a radical and diverse engagement with other materials, such as urethane foam, paper bags, Plexiglas, galvanized or stainless steel, and aluminium foil.

This exhibition seeks to represent the many facets of Chamberlain’s broad investigation into materiality as well as engage with the natural context of Inverleith House and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where his sculptures, presented both inside the gallery and outdoors, resonate with the site’s formal yet unwieldy natural elements of trees, flowers and shrubs, revealing the power and innovation of an artist completely beyond style or fashion.

The exhibition features 19 sculptures on loan from the Dia Art Foundation in New York which have never before been exhibited outside North America. These include a number of Chamberlain’s series of small sculptures entitled Penthouse, 1969, watercolour and resin on paper; Stuffed Dog, 1970, in urethane foam with cord and paint – and Socket, 1978, in painted aluminium. Also present are a number of crushed and manipulated metal sculptures including It Ain’t Cheap (1965), and several larger works such as Rainier Falls (1977), Chickmeat (1979), and Gondola Walt Whitman (1981-82), one of a series of works dedicated to poets and writers. These works are accompanied by other major sculptures on loan from private collections in Europe and America.

Four of Chamberlain’s late works, monumental sculptures in bright green, pink and bronze coloured aluminium - Ritzfrolic, Wishingwellwink, Fiddlersfortune (all 2010) and Naughtynightcap (2008) can be viewed outdoors in the Garden’s landscaped grounds. The tiny aluminium foil maquettes made by Chamberlain for these sculptures are also displayed, at Inverleith House.

The exhibition also presents for the first time in the UK, a continuous digital screening of The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez (1969), an experimental film originally shot on 16mm, directed by and featuring Chamberlain and a number of Warhol superstars including Ultra Violet and Taylor Mead.

Artists Biography

John Angus Chamberlain was born in 1927 in Rochester, Indiana and died in 2011 in New York. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago (1951–52) where “It’s all in the fit” became his mantra. His first sculptures, in welded steel, were exhibited in 1954 and he attended Black Mountain College (1955–56), moving to New York in 1956. His first retrospective was at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1971, where his most recent retrospective, Choices, was also held (2012). Over 100 solo exhibitions have included: John Chamberlain: Sculpture, 1954–1985, MOCA, Los Angeles (1986); Staatlich Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (1991); John Chamberlain: Sculpture, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996); John Chamberlain: Foam Sculptures (1966–79) and Photographs (1989-2004), Chinati Foundation, Texas (2005–06); John Chamberlain: American Tableau, Menil Collection, Houston (2009); Chamberlain at the Fairchild, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Florida (2012–13); ArtZuid, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2013); John Chamberlain: It Ain’t Cheap, Dan Flavin Art Institute, Dia Art Foundation, Bridgehampton (2013). His work has been included in numerous international survey exhibitions, including the São Paolo Biennial (1961, 1994), the Venice Biennale (1964), the Whitney Biennial (1973, 1987), and Documenta 7 (1982).

We wish to thank the Estate of John Chamberlain, the Dia Art Foundation, New York and private lenders to the exhibition. It is presented as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival with support from The Henry Moore Foundation, Creative Scotland, The John Chamberlain Exhibition Circle and Gagosian Gallery.


John Chamberlain is organised with the support of the Dia Foundation, New York. The exhibition is presented with the generous support of the Estate of John Chamberlain and Gagosian Gallery. With thanks to the Henry Moore Foundation.

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