Accession Code: WU1056
Title: Crown of Thorns (J Robert Oppenheimer's Dilemma
Date completed:2011 - 2014
Medium: Fire extinguisher, steel ruler, stars, eagle
Height (mm): 2210
Width (mm): 230
Location Name: Physics
Gifted to the University of Warwick through the Contemporary Art Society and the Artist's Widow, 2017
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Carter described himself as “a still life artist of an unconventional kind”, the ‘found objects’ which he assembled for this sculptural still life may at first sight seem random but characteristically each has symbolic meaning which underlies the work and is referenced in its subtitle.
J. Robert Oppenheimer was a physicist and the leader of the team which developed the atomic bomb which resulted in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and effectively ended the Second World War. Soon afterwards it was learned that the Soviet Union had also developed an atom bomb and an urgent debate was begun in America about plans to build a more powerful weapon, the hydrogen bomb. An Advisory Committee, chaired by Oppenheimer, was set up to consider this and make a recommendation. The Committee unanimously voted against the idea but Oppenheimer’s links with Communist groups led to his being accused of being a Soviet agent and stripped of his security status; his reputation as a hero who helped to bring an end to the war was replaced with that of enemy to the state. The advice of the Committee was rejected.
Carter’s sculpture, with the fire extinguisher an analogy of quenching danger and the eagle and stars, emblems of America, all refer to and make a comment on this history.