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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. © Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

Alphabet/Good Humor

From an edition of 2

Artist: Claes Oldenburg (born 1929)
Date: 1975
142 × 68 × 28 in. (360.7 × 172.7 × 71.1 cm)
Medium: Painted fiberglass and bronze
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2008.18
On View
Accession Number: 2008.18
Provenance(Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY); Private Collection, Highland Park, IL; (Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago, IL); Private Collection, London, England; (Pace Wildenstein, New York, NY); purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2008
Label TextOldenburg is well known for his monumental sculptural enlargements of ordinary objects from popular culture and modern life. He has explored the theme of three-dimensional letters throughout his career. In 1972 his friend, author Michael Crichton, commissioned him to create a sculpture based on his 1970 print Alphabet in the Form of a Good Humor Bar. The theme of the alphabet fittingly reflects Crichton's background as writer.

Oldenburg was inspired by the Good Humor ice cream advertisement, which depicted an ice cream bar with a bite taken out. The sculpture's swollen letters derive from the balloon-style graffiti, and have an implied, but false, softness. Their organic, limb-like forms are compressed, and–along with their fleshy color, inspired by the sunrise in Hollywood–evoke images of body parts. The letter A is an homage to his then-partner Arlene Hannah Wilke. Characteristic of his style, Oldenburg takes letters out of their context for his new creation, inviting viewers to rethink their preconceptions about these objects.