Split Button, Penn campus’ cleverly adopted sex symbol, is not the only oversized domestic object in Philadelphia. A giant electric plug flanks the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A steel clothespin looms casually over the 15th and Market intersection. And Claes Oldenburg’s fourth contribution to the city’s collection of colossals? Paint Torch — his largest yet. Installed this August outside the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts, Oldenburg’s goliath paintbrush stretches 51 feet above Lenfest Plaza. As if in the act of painting, the brush stands at a 60–degree angle, complete with illuminated bristles and a nearby glob of paint. While the paintbrush clearly pertains to the PAFA, the torch aspect of the sculpture references Philly’s role in leading the American Revolution.
But at the age of 82, why is Oldenburg continuing to choose enlarged household paraphernalia? In a 1961 manifesto, he wrote: “I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all. I am for an artist who vanishes.” But as enticing and romantic as this underlying philosophy may seem, don’t get too attached. Oldenburg went to Yale.
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