T01089 Koko-Nor II 1967
Urethane foam and nylon cord, 39 x 50 x 48 (99 x 127 x 122)
Presented by Alan Power 1968
Prov: Alan Power, London (purchased from the artist)
Exh: John Chamberlain, Guggenheim Museum, New York, December 1971-February 1972 (77)
Repr: Ronald Alley, Recent American Art (London 1969), pl.26
John Chamberlain made his first sculptures of urethane foam rubber in 1966 and had an exhibition of some two dozen pieces at the Dwan Galleries, Los Angeles, in December 1966-January 1967. Almost all of them were produced by tightly gripping the waist of a piece of foam rubber with a length of nylon cord. This sculpture dates from the following year and is said by the donor to have been made in Chamberlain's studio in New York in February 1967. It was known at first simply as 'Untitled', but James Jay Jacobs II, Chamberlain's assistant, says that the title is 'Koko-Nor II'. Like the titles of some of the other urethane sculptures, this is a Chinese geographical point, Koko-Nor being the name of both a province and a lake in northern China. This name was chosen more or less at random, and although there happens to be a slight similarity between the form of the sculpture, when viewed from certain angles, and the shape of the lake, this was purely coincidental. The sculpture is intended to be displayed with the projecting forms upwards.
In an interview published in the catalogue of his Guggenheim Museum exhibition, Chamberlain said that all the material he works with, including foam rubber, is common material with which he suddenly 'fell in love' and was excited by. 'All that material is common but what you do with it is what's uncommon. ... I wanted the sculpture to exist on its own terms coming through the process of myself. ... I found that the particular principle of compression and wadding-up or manipulating with the fingers, so to speak, whether you use the machine or not, has a lot of application to a lot of different materials and I only use materials that deal with that.'
When asked why he decided to use foam, he replied: 'Well, the foam is very interesting to me. I thought it was very funny. And you can see the humor. I mean it's really instinctive and sexual. I tried working it several different ways and I returned to the first way, which was tying and squeezing it.'
He has used urethane in a number of different ways, by heating, cutting, moulding, pressing and tying it.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.116, reproduced p.116