On View

Three-Way Plug, Scale A (Soft), Prototype in Blue

Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

Three-Way Plug, Scale A (Soft), Prototype in Blue

Artist: Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden, born 1929)
Date: 1971
Medium: Naugahyde, wood, chain, plastic and wire
Overall: 144 x 77 x 59 in. (365.8 x 195.6 x 149.9 cm.)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Coffin Fine Arts Trust; Nathan Emory Coffin Collection of the Des Moines Art Center, 1972.92
Accession number: 1972.92
Classification: sculpture
Label TextClaes Oldenburg was born in 1929 in Stockholm but grew up in Chicago where his father was the Swedish Counsul. He matriculated at Yale University and in the mid-1950's moved to New York, where he began making sculptures in plaster and creating and participating in happenings. Source: Bulletin, September-October 1973.
Oldenburg’s innovative approach to sculpture stemmed from his fascination with consumer culture. As an immigrant to the United States, he became fascinated with how large and bright things were in mid-twentieth-century America, from the cities to the cars and even the food. He was inspired to create enlarged versions of ordinary objects, made from paper, cardboard, or imitation leather like this one, turning them into “soft” sculptures that challenged traditional ideas about how art should look and stand in the gallery. Oldenburg’s giant, witty objects became sought after public sculpture, appearing in cities all over the world. Des Moines is the home of two of Oldenburg’s monumental sculptures: Crusoe’s Umbrella, 1979, in Cowles Commons, and Plantoir, 2001, an oversize garden trowel, on the grounds of Meredith Corporation. July 22, 2020
Exhibition History"200 Years of American Sculpture," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Mar. 1 - Sept. 26, 1976

"Oldenburg: Six Themes," Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Apr. 6 - May 25, 1975 (traveling exhibition - BLUE PLUG shown at the Walker Art Center only)

"Claes Oldenburg: Object into Monument," Pasadena Art Museum, CA, Dec. 7, 1971- Feb. 6, 1972; (Circulated to: Berkeley, University Art Museum, University of California, Feb. 28 - Apr. 9, 1972; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson Gallery - Atkins Museum, May 11- June 18, 1972; Fort Worth, Texas, Fort Worth Art Center Museum, July 13- Aug. 20, 1972; Des Moines Art Center, Sept. 18- Oct. 29, 1972; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, Nov.8- Dec.; Chicago Art Institute, Illinois, Jan. 17 - Feb. 25, 1973)

"You Start Here," Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA, September 23, 2005 - February 27, 2006

"The Ordinary Must Not Be Dull: Claes Oldenburg's Soft Sculptures." Pulitzer, St. Louis, MO, July 29 - October 15, 2016
Published ReferencesNATHAN EMORY COFFIN COLLECTION, a portfolio of fifty selections from the collection, published by the Des Moines Art Center to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the death of Nathan Emory Coffin, 1981, b/w ill.

Kathleen Sinclair Wood, CLUES TO AMERICAN SCULPTURE, Starrhill Press, Washington, D.C., 1990, b/w ill. p.48

"200 Years of American Sculpture," David R. Godine in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1976, ref. p.208, checklist no.183, p.344, color ill. pl. no.52, p.209

AN UNCOMMON VISION: THE DES MOINES ART CENTER, Des Moines Art Center, 1998, ref. p.215, color ill. pp.214 & 215

DES MOINES ART CENTER: SELECTED PAINTINGS, SCULPTURES AND WORKS ON PAPER, Des Moines Art Center, 1985, ref. pp.166, 168 & 169, b/w ill. pl.105, p.167

Thomas Buser, EXPERIENCING ART AROUND US, West Publishing Company, St. Paul, MN, 1995, color ill. p.535

Benjamin Forgey, "Two Centuries of U. S. Sculpture All In One Place," SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, Vol.7, No.6, Sept. 1976, color ill. p.59

"Oldenburg: Six Themes," Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1975, exh. cat. ref. no.99, ill. p.20, detail ill. p.21

Joshua C. Taylor, THE FINE ARTS IN AMERICA, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1979, ill. p.216

DES MOINES REGISTER, Sept. 20, 1972, ill. p.9

"Dwiescie lat mararstwa amerykanskiego," Muzeum Narodwe, Warsaw, 1976, exh. cat. ill. (Blue Plug not in exhibition)
entirely unexpected