19 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Pop art is very much alive and kicking. The World Goes Pop is currently at the Tate following on the heels of Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi Gallery, the BBC ran a recent series BBC Four Goes Pop, Allen Jones was at the Royal Academy and Richard Hamilton had a solo show at the Tate last year. That is not even to mention continuing interest in other artists like David Hockney on the edges of the movement.
Maybe it is because we are bored of the self referential world of post-modernism or perhaps there is a recognition of the present day relevance of the movement as we fight off an ever increasing barrage of media imagery. It could well be that Pop Art turns out to be modern art’s most influential movement, parodying all this mass media imagery whilst creating a startlingly prescient take on the world of today: the age of consumerism.
Within this apparent surge of interest the work of Derek Boshier has found a new lease of life. Recently featured on BBC4’s ‘What do artists do all day’ (a series that also featured Sir Peter Blake) he now has a solo show at Flowers Gallery which also coincides with the release of an excellent Thames & Hudson monograph (reviewed here).
The Rethink/ Re-entry exhibition features a fascinating range of rarely seen pieces, much from Boshier’s own collection whilst surveying the shifting emphasis of his art in the late sixties and early seventies. It re-examines his work of the period via the extraordinary variety of his practice – assemblages, collages, drawings, films, graphics and prints alongside more recent films and collages.
In thé ground floor gallery we see the sharp political edge of his work in works like The Stun (1979), a spoof tabloid front page bringing together the Queen and Irish Violence with an incisive wit. Meanwhile in Hi Consumers Don’t Forget Nothing Lasts Forever (1978) Boshier takes a wry shot at consumer culture.
Three perspex vitrines take a more conceptual angle and have a distinctly affinity with John Baldessari works of that time. King George V Avenue Cardiff from 1971 for example features a series of red circles and black columns lined in perspective along a found image of a broad street.
Boshier’s provocative and experimental approach was reflected within the gathering punk movement and also appreciated by David Bowie who commissioned him to work on LP sleeves, as well as stage set design. Featuring both on walls and vitrines are original drawings from Boshier’s collaborations with The Clash on graphics for the CLASH 2nd Songbook, and with Bowie for the 1979 album Lodger. He happily told Boshier ‘do what you like’ for the interior of the gatefold sleeve; Boshier obliged with a collage on mortality that Bowie loved.
His versatility continues with a neat Joseph Cornell style box from 1976, State of Mind, that makes a statement both on consumerism and politics combining a toiletry bottle and newspaper cutting featuring strikers.
Downstairs three series of photographed images are a different take on Hockney’s photo collages and Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip. From his 1978 Routes series a sequential strip of images introduce time as an element as the camera’s lens takes a ‘stroll’ at three different locations.
In yet another media, film, Boshier’s 1973 Change is also showing, along with three more from 2014. In Change Boshier spliced sequences of still images from an installation at his Whitechapel Gallery retrospective of the same year. It remained unopened for 38 years, until its recent rediscovery provoked his desire to create new films using contemporary digital technologies.
Last but not least are four collaged works from 2014, each edged with his trademark broad black lines.
They look effortless and Boshier reminds us that his talent for drawing, eye for design as well as his desire to make works politically relevant are all still as strong as ever. He remains an important figure not only in the story of Pop Art but also in the contemporary art world.
For more information visit www.flowersgallery.com
Images courtesy of the artist, Flowers Gallery and CELLOPHANELAND*
4 October 2010 § 3 Comments
I was greatly saddened to read of the recent death of Tony Curtis. I was privileged to spend some time with this great Hollywood actor – one of the last of a dying breed of true old-fashioned ‘film stars’. It is to the Academy’s shame that he was never awarded an Oscar before his death – let us hope that they – albeit too late – right that wrong as soon as possible with a postumous award at the very next awards ceremony.
Some people will know that he was not only a great actor but also talented painter. However there are probably a few more things that you almost certainly will not know. Firstly, he drew or painted virtually every single day up to his death – a habit that he began before he became an actor. Secondly, he was a prolific creator of boxes, something that he claimed (probably wrongly) to have started before the renowned box-maker Joseph Cornell. Thirdly, he considered himself more of an artist than an actor. Finally, the proudest moment of his life was not to do with acting – it was when MoMA bought and displayed one of his works in New York.
I had the great fortune to be able to spend a day with him at his home and studio in Las Vegas a few years ago, in June 2006, just before the bout of pneumonia which put him in a coma and eventually led to his death. The story of this meeting began as I strolled though Carmel California, home to Clint Eastwood as well as dozens of ‘art’ galleries. Amongst a slew of Indians on horseback, aspens in the snow and wolves howling at the moon we noticed a private view of Tony’s paintings. Inquisitive, and expecting yet more dross, we wandered in to discover a selection of quite charming and attractive work.
With more than a nod to Matisse (but how many artists are guilty of that ‘failing’?) his attractive works show flattened planes, bright colour fields and delightfully free brushwork. Most usually they are still lifes, occasionally featuring one of his seven cats (more out of necessity than design) and often set on a green/blue cabriole-legged table that he was given by Marlene Dietrich(!). His occasional landscapes are less successful but despite some naivety he is certainly a more than competent artist whose work is not merely part-time daubing but something that deserves to have some, modest, recognition.
We actually purchased one of the works, for its undeniable decorative value, and were told that we could meet Tony at a reception the next day. Our schedule did not allow this and we reluctantly headed homeward. About a week later we received an unsolicited contact from his representative advising that we would be welcome to visit him ‘any time’ at his Vegas home. The next summer we found ourselves being welcomed in to the home and studio where he enjoyed wonderful panoramic views over the city. We discovered a charming, polite and humble man who loved to talk – and not just about himself – as well as listen. He showed us around his studio and talked so passionately about his art that when he eventually mentioned Hollywood I dead-panned that I did not realise he was also an actor. He laughed loudly and continued showing us gems like his sketch book from Some Like it Hot where he doodled in the (frequent) breaks from filming.
He spoke eloquently and freely about everything and everybody often clasping your hands as he made a heartfelt point. He elucidated all the problems of filming with Marilyn, his relationship with her, his love of big breasts (!), how proud he was when MoMA accepted his work and much, much more. He spoke most emotionally when, referring implicitly to the lack of an Oscar award, he said that he felt that he was not truly appreciated by his peers. I found myself – shrink-like – reassuring him that this surely could not be true and that verysoon they would appreciate all his marvellous work.
Later we continued on to to celebrate both his (3 June) and my wife’s birthday at the Picasso restaurant at Steve Wynn’s Bellagio Casino. Surrounded by $100 million of original Picassos he held court at the small cocktail bar at the entrance patiently signing menus and having photos taken with all and sundry. He loved the attention and he shared his joy and enthusiasm for life with all who approached. We continued to the table where he generously bought us a dinner that we enjoyed as the anecdotes continued unabated. As the meal drew to close two candle-studded desserts apeared for the birthday boy and girl and everyone joined in for a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the joint celebration.
It was an unforgettable day and we felt greatly priviliged to have been able to briefly enjoy his company. As an actor his talent is recognised – by most – and I hope too that, over time, his art will be appreciated as much as his acting. He will be greatly missed.
- Family plans public farewell for actor Tony Curtis (pbpulse.com)
- Tony Curtis remembered during Monday morning memorial (hollywoodnews.com)
- Tony Curtis: “I Won the Oscar of Life” (cbsnews.com)