Learning from Los Angeles: Claes Oldenburg’s Bedroom Ensemble (1963)

Anna Kryczka
Visual Studies
UC Irvine

This project focuses on American art, architecture, and material culture. At its core the research investigates domesticity and considers the ways in which domestic space and design impacts historically situated understandings of labor. Claes Oldenburg’s Bedroom Ensemble was fabricated in 1963 in Venice, California. Produced for installation in the Sidney Janis gallery in Manhattan, this work marks Oldenburg’s first use of light industrial fabrication. The Bedroom Ensemble harnesses the ethos of functionalism associated with the culture of privacy and domesticity Oldenburg found to be indigenous to the Los Angeles lifestyle and built environment. Through research in both local and national archives and institutions, this project aims to embed this work into the geographically specific forms of vernacular and modern architecture, fabrication, planning, and design indigenous to midcentury Southern California. Using The Bedroom Ensemble as a starting point for the study of the particularities of a Californian Cold War domesticity, the research conducted will examine how the invention of domestic traditions and conventions through design, alongside technological and economic changes, inflect understandings of domestic space and labor and its societal and political significance.