John Chamberlain, ‘Lucy Snaggletooth’, 1976, Phillips

Property from a Distinguished American Collection

From the Catalogue:
John Chamberlain’s Lucy Snaggletooth is a stunningly potent affirmation of the artist’s stylistic and technical achievements first realized at the beginning of his career in the 1960s. By the mid-1970s, Chamberlain had come back to using the discarded and contorted auto-parts that had formed the majority of his acclaimed early works but which he had temporarily disavowed after feeling pigeonholed by their success. Works such as Lucy Snaggletooth, from 1976, represent his triumphant return to a medium that would become synonymous with his idiosyncratic practice.

Wall-bound in three dimensions, Lucy Snaggletooth pulsates with Chamberlain’s particular creative sensibilities. Melding the expressive use of color found in the work of his Abstract Expressionists predecessors with the Americana-Pop inflection of the found car parts, Lucy Snaggletooth is a luscious example of Chamberlain’s wall-relief works. Chamberlain described himself as “basically a collagist. I put one thing together with another thing. I sort of invented my own art supplies.” (John Chamberlain, quoted in Susan Davidson, John Chamberlain: Choices, New York, 2012, p. 27) A vibrant orthogonal of vermilion serves as the foundation for the piece, flanked by a deep crimson on the left and wonderfully cut through with the black racing stripes of the original Chevy Corvette Stingray (as seen in the hood ornament subtly embedded within the composition), while a cliffhanger of polished chrome leans out and over the top edge. The beauty of the work is grounded in its compositional elements, so clearly evocative of their prior lives as car parts, now imbued with new creative powers. Lucy Snaggletooth brims with Chamberlain’s unbridled energies; bound to a wall, the present lot commands the room in which it is installed.

The genius of Lucy Snaggletooth lies not just in the sheer marvel of the metal, shot through with color, contorted and bound and almost weightlessly suspended, but also in Chamberlain’s innate ability to transform an act of ruin into an act of creation. As he began to understand the specifics of welding and experimenting with the engineering of form, Chamberlain discovered that the physical framework of mounting objects to a wall provided him the freedom to explore more bulbous and daring compositions. An elegant structure born of detritus and chance, Lucy Snaggletooth reaffirms the very basis of modernism’s working ideal that the purpose of art can be its own making.
Courtesy of Phillips

Toronto, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Ltd., Survey—Part I, February 14 - March 6, 1976
New York, Marisa Del Re Gallery, Found Objects, June - July 1983

Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York, 1986, no. 538, p. 148 (illustrated)

O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York
Robert King, New York
Anita Friedman Fine Arts, New York
B.C. Holland and Co., Chicago (acquired in 1984)
Ralph and Helen Goldberg, Chicago (acquired in 1984)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About John Chamberlain

John Chamberlain is best known for his twisting sculptures made from scrap metal and banged up, discarded automobile parts and other industrial detritus. “My work has nothing to do with car wrecks,“ he has said. “I believe common materials are the best materials.” With its emphasis on paint finishes and the raw materials’ lines and seams, his work has been described as a kind of three-dimensional Abstract Expressionist painting. While his breakthrough work dates form the 1960s (namely in sculpture), he has also more recently worked with large-scale photography.

American, 1927-2011, Rochester, Indiana, based in Shelter Island, New York