Pop art exhibition in London

This video from London, England says about itself:

The World goes Pop at Tate Modern

11 September 2015

Interview with curators Jessica Morgan and Flavia Frigeri about women in Pop Art and Evelyne Axell.

By Christine Lindey in England:

Consuming passions

Saturday 17th October 2015

Tate Modern’s The World Goes Pop reveals an art movement which was obsessed with the idealised stereotypes of advertising and packaging, says CHRISTINE LINDEY

POP art was never a coherent, tightly knit movement.

In the mid-1950s, unknown to each other, artists including Richard Hamilton in Britain and Robert Rauschenberg in the US reacted against Abstract Expressionism’s self-absorption, looked outwards and engaged with the blossoming mass visual imagery inundating the consumer society.

Their dialogue with the slick, immediate styles and idealised stereotypes of advertising and packaging became the subject of their art.

By the early 1960s they were grouped with figurative artists as disparate as Peter Blake and Andy Warhol under the name of Pop Art by dealers, critics and museum curators hungry for the latest “movement” to promote.

Those expecting a survey of these well-known US and British artists in Tate Modern’s current exhibition The World Goes Pop will be disappointed.

Intended to shatter “the traditional story of Pop Art,” the exhibition gathers about 160 works by over 60 artists active in the late 1960s and 1970s to “show how different cultures contributed, re-thought and responded to the movement.”

Following current art historical trends it widens its scope by embracing world art, especially that of eastern and southern Europe and Latin America, privileging female over male artists and favouring “political” content.

We are introduced to hitherto largely unfamiliar artists, many of whom appropriated mass imagery’s instant impact, simplicity and impersonal visual languages to comment on serious sociopolitical injustices rather than commenting exclusively on promises of consumer heaven.

In an uncompromising indictment of Franco’s brutal dictatorship the Spanish artist Rafael Canogar’s The Punishment of 1969 features a life size, three-dimensional figure being viciously beaten by the air-brushed silhouette of a baton wielding soldier or policeman.

Rafael Canogar, The Punishment

His compatriot Eulalia Grau’s 1973 photomontage of a gigantic terrified young woman’s face trapped in the boot of a sleek, pink American automobile screams of female oppression.

Martha Rosler’s equally biting feminist photomontages merge idealised naked women’s torsos with kitchen appliances in angry denunciations of the stereotyping of women as domestic and sexual slaves. It is she and Joe Overstreet rather than Warhol or Lichtenstein who represent the US.

The latter’s The New Jemima of 1964-1970 is an uncompromising assertion of black pride from this black US artist and civil rights activist. It challenges the American mass media’s hackneyed image of the plump black servant by depicting her wielding a blazing machine gun rather than a rolling pin or mop, while provocatively flashing her wide smile at the viewer.

Joe Overstreet, The New Jemima

Opposition to nuclear weapons, the Vietnam war, French colonialism in Africa, fascist Spanish and Latin American dictatorships and female oppression dominate the subject matter of artists from as far afield as Japan, Iceland, Cuba, Peru, Brazil, Poland and Czechoslovakia as well as western Europe and North America.

Others merge native folk traditions with those of the industrialised worlds. Marisol, who built her career in New York, delved into her Venezuelan origins to produce her sculpture My Mum and I of 1968 as a tribute to that country’s folk art.

The Colombian Beatriz Gonzalez confronted her ruling class’s subservience to European culture by recreating reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in the bold language of her native folk art. The Cuban artist Raul Martinez repeated identical folk art images of Fidel Castro in a witty riposte to Warhol’s repetitive media images of celebrities.

This well-intentioned exhibition is in danger of leaving the visitor confused and overwhelmed, rather than enlightened by introducing too many unknown artists and scattering their works among too many themes and it’s exacerbated by some ill-defined themes and glib or non-existent explanations of specific cultural contexts.

The feminist message of Rosler’s photomontages from the US differs utterly from that of the Icelandic Erro’s fierce 1968 anti-Vietnam war paintings depicting the Vietcong invading idealised western homes, yet they are forced together into the Pop at Home section.

Feminism is identified as a “global political current” in the Pop Bodies section, which glosses over major cultural and sociopolitical contexts. Yet the obstacles faced by impoverished, illiterate, Catholic women in rural societies differ fundamentally from those faced by well-fed, educated, Protestant women in industrialised nations.

Ultimately, the exhibition’s title is deceptive as most of the works’ subjects and meanings have little in common with Pop Art.

But if you take most of the categories with a pinch of salt and focus on fewer works, rather than attempting to respond to them all, the exhibition offers rich rewards.

It provides an understanding of the ways in which artists worldwide appropriated the visual languages of mass media as a means of questioning major social and political issues.

As such, it makes a valuable contribution to art history.

Runs until January 24, box office: tate.org.uk.

2 thoughts on “Pop art exhibition in London

  1. Pingback: Political art exhibitions in New York City | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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