Claes Oldenburg, Houston, 2012
Hardcover, 43 pp., poems and black and white reproductions throughout, 13 x 10 x 0.5 inches
In 1957–58, after he moved to New York’s Lower East Side, Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) began making collages he has described as “mostly done in an uncontrolled and intuitive dream mode.” Made from found, printed imagery, the Strange Eggs are enigmatic, surrealistic, and vastly different from the Pop art of the 1960s for which he soon became famous.
These collages are characterized by self-contained forms, or "eggs," the artist made by melding cut fragments of photographic illustrations. While many of the pieces are unrecognizable, some original references are discernible: a piece of pie, the hind leg of a horse, the creased skin of a clenched fist, and the texture of concrete. These eighteen collages were first shown at the Menil Collection in 2012, and they are being published together for the first time, along with poems that the artist wrote at the same time based on found imagery from his walks around New York's Lower East Side. Anticipating second-generation New York School art-poetry collaborations by half a decade, Strange Eggs makes an important single-artist contribution to our understanding of the period.