Claes Oldenburg

Counter and Plates with Potato and Ham


Not on display

Claes Oldenburg born 1929
Painted plaster
Object: 117 × 1073 × 578 mm
Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1970

Display caption

Inspired by food, clothing and household appliances, Oldenburg's sculptures introduce surprising modifications in terms of scale, materials and texture. His aim is 'to get people accustomed to recognising the power of objects'. This sculpture represents the counter of a bar with a sandwich, French bread, potato and slices of ham. Oldenburg's sensuous use of colour and texture echoes the surfaces of abstract paintings of the period.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Claes Oldenburg born 1929

T01239 Counter and Plates with Potato and Ham 1961

Inscribed 'CO 1961' on the under-side
Painted plaster, 4 5/8 x 42 1/4 x 22 3/4 (12 x 107.5 x 58), with two additional elements, one 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 5 1/4 (0.5 x 20 x 13.5) and the other 1/2 x 8 1/8 x 5 3/8 (1.5 x 20.5 x 13.5)
Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1970
Prov: Mr and Mrs Burt Kleiner, Beverly Hills; with Richard Feigen Gallery, New York; E.J. Power, London
Exh: The Store by Claes Oldenburg, 107 E. 2nd Street, New York, December 1961-January 1962 (73 in inventory) as 'Counter and Plates with Potato and Ham'; New Talent, Richard Feigen Gallery, Chicago, August-September 1963 (no catalogue); Pop Art USA, Oakland Art Museum, September 1963 (works not numbered, repr. p.41 in colour) as 'Food Platter'
Lit: Claes Oldenburg's Store Days (New York 1967), pp.16, 34; Barbara Rose, Claes Oldenburg (New York 1970), pp.62-70
Repr: The Friends of the Tate Gallery Annual Report 1st May 1970-30th April 1971 (London 1971), p.15

The artist said that this was one of his first painted plaster works and was made of muslin soaked in plaster on wire netting. When he first made it early in 1961 it proved to be too flimsy and liable to bend, so later the same year he turned it over and backed it with more plaster to give it greater rigidity. The cracks appeared at this stage in its construction. The paint used was enamel paint.

He added that its starting-point was the counter of a restaurant just round the corner from The Store. The dark blue line represents the front of the counter, and there is a sandwich cut in half, a portion of potato, French bread and slices of ham; the colour of the counter is arbitrary. He also sees it as a landscape and a seascape, and regards his activity in making this work as both the making of a painting and the realisation in physical form of the motif of a counter - that is to say, as the bringing together of these two notions (painting and physical-equivalent-for-a-counter) into a single work.

It was subsequently among the works exhibited in The Store at 107 East Second Street (his own studio), which he opened as a display and selling space from December 1961 to January 1962, with the intention 'to create the environment of a store, by painting and placing (hanging, projecting, lying) objects after the spirit and in the form of popular objects of merchandise, such as may be seen in stores and store-windows of the city, especially in the area where the store is'. In the words of Barbara Rose: 'In The Store, Oldenburg re-created the articles he passed every day in his slum neighborhood: the cheap underwear and sleazy dresses from Orchard Street, the food displayed in bodegas and delicatessens along Second Avenue' (op. cit., p.64).

Published in:
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, pp.568-9, reproduced p.568



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