John Chamberlain's use of auto parts as a material suitable for sculpture, and his use of compression as a technique, came to define the signature elements of the artist's work beginning in the late 1950s. In Scull's Angel, what at first appears as an explosion of violent, uncontained energy is in fact a unitary field of tightly knit, baroque folds of steel. The title of the piece combines a reference to the New York taxi and limousine baron Robert Scull, a prominent collector of Pop art and sometime drinking companion of the artist, whose taxicab fleet was called "Scull's Angels." The term "angel" is occasionally used to designate a patron of the arts. The fact that Scull's Angel appears to be made of parts of a smashed and deformed taxi fender may be an ironic comment on Chamberlain's "twisted" relationship to the collector. The artist's approach to sculptural form has been substantially informed by his appreciation of the found and manipulated objects welded together by the sculptor David Smith, and also by the Abstract Expressionist paintings of Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning. Yet the artist's use of the automobile—perhaps America's most prominent cultural icon—relates directly to the consumer imagery of Pop art. Citing influences from both Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, Scull's Angel reflects a conscious synthesis of these two critical American art movements.
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