It may look like just a giant paintbrush, but Claes Oldenburg’s larger-than-life, whimsical-looking works are never so simple. Paint Torch, Oldenburg’s 51-foot sculpture installed in Lenfest at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, merges merge two ideas: the paintbrush and the torch. The paintbrush is meant to celebrate PAFA as a location where painting with a brush is still practiced, while the torch is meant to illuminate the history of PAFA as the first place of art in a new country.
Installed at a daring 60-degree diagonal position, the Paint Torch stands on the point of its handle in a gravity-defying gesture. Underneath on the Plaza floor sits a six-foot high “glob” of paint, part of which the brush has lifted into the sky in a depiction of the act of painting a picture. The “Glob” and “Blip” at the tip of the brush are both illuminated from within at night by changing red hues.
The Swedish American artist’s first large-scale sculpture was the 45-foot Clothespin, which is located a few blocks south at 15th and Market Streets.