Claes Oldenburg's "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X"

Claes Oldenburg’s “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X”

Located in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art, at 6th Street and Constitution Avenue in Downtown D.C. (MAP), is a sculpture formally entitled “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X.”  Despite being something that people under the age of 50 may not even recognize, the sculpture is considered one of the more iconic pieces of late century U.S. sculpture.

In the mid-1960s Claes Oldenburg decided that he wanted to challenge the notion that public monuments must commemorate historical figures or events.  Considered within the context of our nation’s Capitol, which is replete with historic and commemorative monuments and memorials, this was a somewhat radical idea.  Using this idea as his only guidance, Oldenburf began creating drawings of monuments based on common objects, such as a clothespin or a pair of scissors.

He later went on to include discredited or obsolete objects, some of which were things he remembered from childhood.  He recalled that as a youngster he enjoyed playing in his father’s office with a typewriter eraser and the late 1960s and 1970s he focused on the typewriter eraser.  He used it as a source for drawings, prints, sculpture, and even a never-realized monument for New York City.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, was constructed in 1999, and is made of steel and fiberglass.  It measures over 19 feet tall, and weighs over 22 tons.  The sculpture presents a giant falling eraser that has just alighted, the bristles of the brush turned upward in a graceful, dynamic gesture.  There are two other versions of the Typewriter Eraser. One is the centerpiece of the MGM sculpture garden in front of the Mandarin Oriental in City Center in Las Vegas.  The other is located at the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. All three sculptures are the same size and identical in appearance.

Although it may not be your reason for taking a vacation in D.C., or even for visiting the National Gallery of Art, seeing Typewriter Eraser, Scale X is something you should consider. Its central location makes it easy to find, and it is always available for viewing 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Take a photo of yourself in front of it and show your friends that you stood in front of one of the weirdest sculptures you’ve ever seen.

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