John Chamberlain

Velvet White

Not on view



Painted and chromium-plated steel

Overall: 81 1/2 × 54 1/2 × 61in. (207 × 138.4 × 154.9 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the Albert A. List Family

Rights and reproductions
©John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


In Velvet White, John Chamberlain created a dynamic sculpture out of crushed automobile metal, which he assembled by fitting two already-compressed pieces of metal together, one on top of the other. Despite the violence suggested by wrecked or junked cars, he manipulated the material as carefully as one might crumple or crush a bolt of the softest fabric. As a symbol of the automotive industry, a leader in America’s post-World War II economic boom, the salvaged metal also alludes to the cycle of production and disposal that helped fuel the newly developed consumer culture of the 1950s and 1960s. Chamberlain’s particular interest is the nature of the sculptural object, especially its three-dimensional presence and potential for varying profiles. By maintaining the irregularity of the crushed metal he found, he forces the viewer to walk around the jagged, voluminous form of Velvet White to experience it in full.