Profile Study of the Airflow, 1965.
Collage, pencil, and watercolor on paper,
22 x 29-1/4 inches (55.9 x 75.6 cm).
In the fall of 1965, Oldenburg began a series of works based on the 1935 Chrysler Airflow, the first streamlined automobile. To research this subject, he went to Detroit to study the original Airflow and meet its designer, Carl Breer. Aided by photographs of the car, Oldenburg made drawings as well as hard and soft constructions. He used a variety of forms in the soft sculptures: slouched, hanging versions of the entire car in different scales, cross sections showing its radiator and engine, and details of exhaust fans, electrical wires, nuts and bolts, and tires.
Most of the Airflow soft sculptures are made from sewn, hand-patterned canvas stuffed with kapok, materials Oldenburg also used in soft maps and "ghost" versions of various sculptures. Markedly at odds with the metallic, impenetrable surfaces of the original automobile and its components, Oldenburg's seemingly depleted, flayed sculptures, with their pliant appendages, evoke the anatomy of the human body as well as its sensual qualities. The Airflow series signaled an important shift in Oldenburg's subject matter, as he expanded his repertoire of imagery to include technology and the industrial landscape.
"The Airflow is imagined as a place with many different sized objects inside it, like a gallery, a butcher shop, like The Store--and could be just as inexhaustible a subject."