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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Claes Oldenburg
Claes Oldenburg
American, born Sweden, 1929
Giant Soft Fan—Ghost Version
Canvas, wood, and polyurethane foam

120 x 59 x 64 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of D. and J. de Menil

Arts of North America

With his oversized, soft-sculpture version of a common household fan, Claes Oldenburg brings a surprising sense of humor and irreverence to the gallery space. In Giant Soft Fan—Ghost Version, Oldenburg takes a common desk fan and enlarges it to nearly 10 feet tall. Instead of using the original material of the industrial fan—metal—he swaps hard for soft and realizes his sculpture in canvas.

Oldenburg is one of a number of artists who, in the 1960s, began to examine the objects and images of consumer culture. These so-called Pop artists turned everyday items into compositional sources for their art. Oldenburg's jarring sense of scale and unexpected use of materials make his reconstructions of everyday objects appear imposing, yet also soft and droopy. He reverses the viewer's expectations of what makes a monumental sculpture. The subtitle of this work, Ghost Version, refers to the sculpture's white color; Oldenburg also made a companion Giant Soft Fan in black vinyl, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.