Beyond Fabric: The Early Barrel Works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 1958-1962
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My thesis examines how artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude appropriated the oil drum as a charged medium when considering this object's various cultural connotations. As most scholarship have focused on the husband-and-wife team's artwork involving fabric, this project provides an alternate discourse by analyzing their early barrel works from 1958-1962. During these years, Christo's artistic development established his interest in using the barrel as reoccurring medium throughout his oeuvre as well as his desire to create large-scale works of public art with his partner, Jeanne-Claude. While in Paris, Christo found the oil drum to be a cheap and accessible working material for many of his wrapped sculptures. Yet its inherent volume and ability to stack led to his experimentations with installation, cumulating in he and Jeanne-Claude's first collaboration. Beyond the barrel's economic associations, together they began to examine how it could take on larger cultural contexts, especially the political.