In this interview, the late Claes Oldenburg looks back on both the motivations and the modalities of his distinctive practice. Among the topics discussed are his signature “guises,” such as the Ray Guns and the Flags, the performative basis of his early objects, and his sustained commitment to an aesthetic of shape-shifting.

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Author notes

∗ This interview took place in Oldenburg's studio on Broome Street in New York on February 10, 2015, in the wake of two major events in 2012–13: the exhibition Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties, curated by Achim Hochdörfer and Ann Temkin, at MUMOK in Vienna and MoMA in New York; and the publication of his Writings on the Side: 1956–1969, edited by Achim Hochdörfer, Maartje Oldenburg, and Barbara Schröder. I had begun to work on my Mellon lectures about “brutal aesthetics” at this time, and I knew I wanted to address his early work. On the afternoon of our talk, Oldenburg was, as usual, thoughtful, funny, generous.