Torn Notebook

Lincoln Nebraska

History on the Torn Notebook

The artist Claus Oldenburg made this great sculpture in lincoln NE. The commissioners of this sculpture are The Memorial Art Gallery and it was installed on August 20, 1996. How long it took for this to get done is unknown.
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Artist's Thoughts

"In preparation for a commission by the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Nebraska, we drove from Kansas City, Missouri, through the Missouri River Valley to Lincoln, the capital and location of the university, while setting down our observations along the way. Coosje's notations took the form of lyrical phrases, such as "falcons atop flagpoles," "fields of corn – one ear per stalk – in wayward winds swing," "crows on the butte," and "buffalo peas." Claes mostly wrote down names of things, for example, "barbed wire," "goose," "hoop," and "roller skate." Only when we were back in the studio in New York did we realize that a sculpture about the process of collecting observations could be the perfect subject for a university site.

For some time, as part of the process of making sculptures out of fragmented objects, or "flotsam," as Coosje called them, we had been collecting Claes' discarded spiral-bound pocket notebooks. His habit of tearing them in half after removing the pages he wanted to save resulted in a sculptural form that had already been the subject of a number of table-scale works. It was apparent to us that the torn notebook, with its twisted spiral binding and curled fragments of pages, also had the potential for a dynamic curvilinear outdoor work in large scale.

The Torn Notebook, as executed, appears as if it had been tossed onto the lawn that runs along the border between the campus and the city. Barely touching the ground, the sculpture seems to rise like a huge bird spreading its wings. The "pages," formed out of rolled aluminum, look "torn" roughly in half. Selections from our earlier notations are water-cut through the metal, creating a continuously changing interplay of light and shadow. Coosje's script is on the top half of the "pages" and Claes' on the bottom, in reverse relation to each other, so that one set of script will always be read backward. Loose "page" fragments are strewn over the lawn, as if blown by the wind."

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My thoughts

I thought it was really cool that we have a famous sculpture in Lincoln and I thought it was a really cool design.