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*
1 November 2015 § Leave a comment
It seems that any debate about the artistic merits of Allen Jones’s works are almost entirely overwhelmed by the public reaction to his infamous female nudes. Drawing on the imagery of bondage and rubber fetishism his highly sexualised sculptures were a sensation when first revealed to a shocked sixties public, whilst fifty years or so on from their creation, they still stir strong views from people who tend towards the love/hate ends of the spectrum.
From the canvases we move on to two large spaces filled with his sculptural works. To illustrate the natural connection of Hamiltons 3D works to his paintings, the first one of these was largely occupied by highly original sculptures where two dimensional sheets of wood and steel have been cut, twisted and folded. With this seemingly simple process, Jones has created complex, dynamic and stylish objects that illustrate his consummate talents.
The final large gallery consists of his most controversial female sculptures. Standing terracotta-warrior style paraded across the room they are rather unnerving and one’s unease at viewing them works is immediate. Is he brilliantly revealing the male voyeuristic gaze and exposing how men really look at or think about women. Or does he simply just enjoy creating fetishistic sculptures of women?
Although his public statements have been equivocal, one has to suspect the former. This is what he said about his ‘furniture’ works: “presenting the figures as objects that would demand an immediate, non-art response: ie, chair – sitting; table – using. I attempted to dislocate the normal expectations when the viewer wishes to confront a work of art.”
7 August 2011 § Leave a comment
Since I purport to comment on contemporary art I thought it might be useful to post some sort of definition. In an attempt to find any sort of consensus I stumbled across an excellent blog called ART CANON whose tag line is art genres, groups, movements and styles, art critics, historians, philosophers and theorists (Not sure who Jacques Ranciere is, or want a definition Neo Geo? Then this is the site for you!) Here is their entry which takes from Tate and Wiki:
Term loosely used to denote art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature. In relation to contemporary art museums, the date of origin for the term contemporary art varies. The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, founded in 1947, champions art from that year onwards. Whereas The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York chooses the later date of 1977. [Tate]
Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at this present point in time or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced since World War II. [wikipedia]
Not clear, so perhaps the biggest contemporary art gallery in London – Saatchi – has a good definition? Nope – they don’t even bother. The Tate is the next and it calls itself ‘Modern’ (as many contemporary art galleries do), and if you want to get more confused try the auction houses. Sothebys Contemporary department includes work from ‘the early abstract expressionists to the present day’. Since the term had also been sometimes used in the 1920’s one assumes they refer to the American movement of the mid 1940’s. Christies Contemporary Art is ‘dedicated to art created after 1970… focusing on the various artistic movements of this time, from Minimalism and Conceptualism… ‘ Bonhams do not have a definition and nowadays tend to hold ‘Modern and Contemporary’ sales. None of them help clarify matters by chucking in occasional pre-war works, by Picasso for example, in to their Contemporary sales.
Contemporary art is most normally taken as starting after the end of the modernist period (in which I’d include the abstract expressionists) so I thought a look at writings on post-modernism might help. Post-modernism is also hard to pin down but usually is considered as a movement including most, but all, Contemporary art – and, as the name suggests, succeeding modernism. In Wikipedia’s definition it contradicts its previous entry (quoted by ART CANON above) by now placing the start of Contemporary art as 1950. To confuse matters further some thinkers and philosophers feel that modernism has not ended, or that post-modernism is actually just a part of modernism – but I won’t go in to that!
It is generally accepted however that by 1960, amongst many other influences, the Assemblage art of Robert Rauschenberg, the Fluxus movement and the Pop art of, for example, Andy Warhol and Richard Hamilton had at least laid the foundations of what we would now call contemporary art. It is in the end probably impossible to define exactly where modernism ‘died’ – so let’s just settle for somewhere between 1950 and 1980.
In general the main problem lies with using social science to define art history – can the start and end of ‘modernism’ ever be defined? Can anything ever come after post-modernism (or contemporary art)? Would we not be better off just sticking to the ‘isms’ and movements like cubism and Pop art, which have clear styles, aims, practitioners and so on? And so for a definition of contemporary art, I will leave that as a trap for others!
So, does that help? I thought not, but it is nevertheless good to see that – as is often the case in the art world – there is no definitive answer. The moral perhaps is if you want to hold an opinion, or like a work that is ‘unpopular’ – then why the h*ll not!
Homework for tonight:
Terry Smith, What Is Contemporary Art? Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009, 344 pp. ISBN: 13-978-0-226-76431-3.
E. H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion, Phaidon, 1960 386 pp, ISBN: 0-7148-1756-2
Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les Presse Du Reel, 1998, 125 pp. ISBN-10: 2840660601
Nelson Goodman, Of Mind and Other Matters, Harvard University Press, 1984, 210 pp. ISBN: 0-674-63126-9
9 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Launching the cover image for his new album Olympia ageing rocker Bryan Ferry demonstrated that he is clearly suffering from more than a little senile dementia. Having studied fine art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne under Richard Hamilton he seems to have forgotten all that he learnt.
Ferry has chosen Kate Moss to be photographed posing in the style of Eduard Manet’s infamous 1963 painting. He states that ‘Moss was the obvious choice to convey the glamorous notoriety of the original. He adds that ‘Kate has long been the ‘‘femme fatale’’ of our age, as controversial as she is beautiful and the most glamorous female icon since Marilyn Monroe. Olympia was a kind of early pin-up picture and in a sense a forerunner of some 20th century pop art, which I feel strongly connected to.’
It is hard to know where to start in this catalogue of misinterpretation. The original is not a representation of ‘glamour’ in any way. This is a portrait of a prostitute, in her eyes we see contempt for the, assumed, male observer, mixed with melancholy and perhaps boredom. She wears cheap shoes, a shoelace necklace. The emphasis is not on the appeal of ‘Olympia’ but on our perception of her. It is a comment on status, a reflection on Victorian society and values, an examination of the male gaze. The painting is itself a copy of Titian’s Venus of 1538 and in replacing the original virginal and romantic nude goddess with a hooker Manet expected, and duly received, widespread opprobrium. He had however in one fell swoop replaced the classical ‘nude’ with a shockingly ‘naked’ woman and started a continuing debate on sexuality and the male gaze. As one of the most studied paintings in art history, a quick ‘google’ will reveal much more about this fascinating and ground-breaking painting that is well-worth investigating further.
There is more though. Ferry seems to think that Olympia had ‘notoriety’. She had not. The whole idea of the painting was that she was the very opposite – an anonymous and symbolic naked woman. As for a ‘femme fatale’, this should be a ‘dangerous seductress’, leading and tempting men in to danger and despair – both alluring and mysterious. I hardly need to say again that Manet’s Olympia, lying bored and available as she stares scornfully at the male viewer is not the ideal representation of this archetypal persona.
Bryan, bless him, then signs off with an absolute corker. The painting is aparently ‘a forerunner of some 20th century pop art’. Really? If by ‘Pop Art‘ he is referring to the sort of art found on the cover of ‘pop’ albums (I would not put the excellent Roxy Music in that category by the way), then I guess that might be true? Otherwise, I am afraid Mr Ferry is talking out of his arts.
To be fair, before I go, I must quickly say that Ferry is no artistic philistine, and note that he has been observed to be a selective collector with a ‘good eye’ who has accumulated a substantial collection of British 20th century art. His collection incudes works from Bloomsbury group artists like Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant as well as Vorticist Wyndham Lewis and Augustus John. Perhaps he needs to go back to his student notes?
As for the virtues or otherwise of the ubiquitous Kate Moss as either a ‘femme fatale’ or an ‘Olympia’ I leave you to your own decision. I made my choice long ago!
- Kate Moss wows on Bryan Ferry album cover (marieclaire.co.uk)
- Bryan Ferry’s eye for a masterpiece (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jonny Greenwood, Flea, Roxy Music (Including Brian Eno!) Join Bryan Ferry On New Album (stereogum.com)
- RollingStone.com: Exclusive Premiere: Bryan Ferry’s “You Can Dance” Video (rollingstone.com)