Dictionary of Art and Artists








MODERN ART


Impressionism to Post-Modernism




 

 

 

 

Contents:

1 Impressionism

2 Symbolism and Art Nouveau

3 Fauvism and Expressionism

4 Cubism, Futurism and Constructivism

5 Dada and Surrealism

6 Abstract Expressionism

7 Pop

8 Pluralism since 1960

 

 

 

 



7. Pop

(SIMON WILSON)

 


The West Coast

American Pop art was created and developed in New York, but found rapid and early acceptance and a particular individual character on the West Coast, where activity was focused on the two centres of Los Angeles in the south and San Francisco in the north. Los Angeles emerged as the more important centre, and was the first to recognize the genius of Andy Warhol, giving him his first one-man show as a fully fledged Pop artist in 1962. The city of Los Angeles itself, perhaps the most extraordinary urban environment in the world, was an important influence on West Coast Pop, and it is also, of course, the home of Hollywood, itself an important influence on Pop art everywhere. Equally significant were the various exotic subcultures that flourish in the area: those of the surfer, the hot-rodders, the drag-racers, the car customizers and the outlow motor cycle clubs like Satan's Slaves and, most famous of all, Hell's Angels.

Commemorated in the title of Tom Wolfe's essay The Randy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby, the amazing paint jobs and baroque bodywork created by the car customizers and the elaborate decorations of the California surfboards are examples of an industrial folk art of great impact and brilliance which set the tone for much West Coast Pop art. So too were the bizarre drag-racing cars and hot rods, and so was the Hell's Angels' 'chopped hog', a Harley-Davidson 74 which in the hands of the Angels was stripped down and rebuilt to become virtually a mobile piece of sculpture. The Angels' uniform was also a rich item of folk art, particularly the sleeveless denim jacket bearing the 'colours': a winged skull wearing a motor cycle helmet with the name Hell's Angels above with, below, the letters MC and the local chapter name, e.g. San Bernardino. These jackets were further decorated with chains, swastikas and other signs, slogans and emblems: such as the number 13 (indicating use of marijuana), and the notorious red wings.

The world of customizing and of the big bikes is strongly reflected in the work of one of the two major Los Angeles Pop artists. Billy Al Bengston has worked since 1960 on a series of paintings of chevrons and motor-bike badges and parts treated as heraldic devices, the images placed centrally on the canvas and painted in glowing colours with immaculate precision and a high degree of finish. About 1962 his painting took on an even greater richness and gloss, when he began to use sprayed cellulose paint on hardboard and later actually on sheets of metal, thus getting even closer to the technique and medium of his sources. Some of these metal sheet works are artfully crumpled, thus adding a suggestion of accident and death to the glamorous perfection of the painted emblem.

The other major Los Angeles Pop artist is Edward Ruscha (pronounced, the artist insists, as Ruschay). He began using Pop imagery (packaging) in 1960 in paintings like Box Smashed Flat, where presentation of commercial imagery and what looks like Edwardian commercial lettering is still combined with a painterly style. But his painting quickly took on an almost inhuman exquisiteness, precision and perfection of finish, as in Noise... of 1963.

Like Indiana, Ruscha is fascinated by words, and these have always formed the principal subject matter of his paintings and graphics. In some works the words appear in isolation floating against backgrounds of beautifully graded colour that give a feeling of infinite coloured space. Sometimes associated images are introduced, such as the cocktail olive in Sin, and somtimes the word is given a specific context, as with the company names (e.g. 'Standard') for which the architecture becomes a setting in Ruscha's garage paintings (Standard Station, Amanllo, Texas). One lithograph, where the word Hollywood streams unforgettably out of the sunset in the steep zooming perspective and giant lettering of wide-screen title sequences, exemplifies the manner in which Ruscha depicts his words in such a way that their meaning is conveyed pictorially as well as verbally.


Great Britain

By the time artists in the USA began to take up modern urban culture and its imagery as a source for their art, Pop art had already established itself in Great Britain and embarked on an entirely distinct and separate development which was influenced by American life, as seen through the mass media, but not by American art. In the late 1940s two artists emerged who were to have an important influence on the development of British Pop art. These two precursors were
Francis Bacon and Eduardo Paolozzi.

From 1949 onwards Bacon began to use photographs, from mass-media sources among others, as a basis for his paintings. They were always considerably transformed, it is true, but Lawrence Alloway, a critic who was around when these paintings first appeared, has written of the earliest of them, the series of screaming heads of 1949, that 'the photographic reference was conspicuous and much discussed at the time'. The source image for these (and many later works) was a still from Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin (1925), a close up of the face of the wounded nurse in the Odessa steps massacre sequence. He later moved on to using photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, made in the 1880s, of animals and humans in motion, and another major source has been Positioning in Radiography, a medical textbook on the making of X-ray photographs.

At the same time as he began to use photographs, Bacon also established the practice of basing paintings on works of art from the past. Here, one of his most important sources has been a reproduction of the famous portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velazquez in the Palazzo Doria in Rome, although significantly enough Bacon has never seen the original, and once, when he was in Rome, did not take the opportunity to do so.

Above all, Bacon combines in his paintings powerfully evocative images with equally forceful formal statements. Painting, he wrote in 1953, should be concerned 'with attempting to make idea and technique inseparable. Painting in this sense tends towards a complete interlocking of image and paint, so that the image is the paint and vice versa. Here the brush stroke creates the form and does not merely fill it in. Consequently every movement of the brush on the canvas alters the shape and implication of the image.' In spite of the clarity of his published views, many of his early critics discussed Bacon's work exclusively in terms of its imagery, ignoring its formal statement, just as they later did with the work of the Pop artists.

Finally, as Alloway has pointed out, 'Bacon was the only painter of an earlier generation who was regarded with respect by the younger artists in London. Moore, Nicholson, Pasmore, Sutherland . . . were considered to be irrelevant to any new art in the 1950s'. An important reason for this respect was the tough, uncompromising quality of his art and indeed its positive offensiveness to the then current standards of taste. Even as late as 1962 it was possible for one of London's leading critics to write of Bacon: 'Cruelty, ambiguous sex, a penchant for the perverse, all these occur in his art ... he both gloats over the unusual and derives stimulus from the decadence he paints.' Any older artist capable of evoking this kind of response must have appealed greatly to the rebellious young.

While Francis Bacon stands as a father figure to British Pop art, Eduardo Paolozzi, born in Edinburgh of Italian immigrant parents in 1924, played a direct and crucial part in its development. From the earliest steps of his art education at Edinburgh College of Art, where he went in 1941, Paolozzi displayed a strong interest in popular culture and drew disapproval from his teachers for copying pictures of aeroplanes, footballers and film stars. At this time he also began making collages of material taken from magazines and other sources, including images from science fiction, aviation technology, advertisements for food, domestic appliances and cars, comics, films, pin-ups, newspapers and medical diagrams. Some of these collages are direct and amazingly early harbingers of Pop art: I Was a Rich Man's Plaything of 1947, for example, not only has the word Pop in it but also contains a pin-up, a part of a food advertisement, and, most remarkable of all, a Coca-Cola bottle and the Coca-Cola sign simply presented, in an emblematic way, as they so often were to be in Pop art more than a decade later.


Eduardo Paolozzi.
I was a Rich Man's Plaything


Eduardo Paolozzi.
Evadne in Green Dimensions

The fact that Paolozzi's teachers disapproved of his interest in popular culture is highly significant. As John Russell says, 'Pop was a resistance movement: a classless commando which was directed against the Establishment in general and the art-Establishment in particular. It was against the old-style museum man, the old-style critic, the old-style dealer and the old-style collector' and Richard Morphet has written that 'important roots of British Pop art lie in the anti-elitist attitudes of a generation whose daily life in their formative years steeped them exceptionally thoroughly in their eventual source material, the admass culture of modern life.'

British Pop art grew out of a whole generation's rejection of upper-class culture and out of a revolt within the art education system itself, against the provincialism and parochialism of English art colleges, where at that time Sickert and John were names to conjure with while Picasso and Matisse were considered dangerous foreigners.
Paolozzi was one of the first young artists to implement this revolt, and, as soon as he had finished at the Slade School in 1947 (he did not bother to sit the diploma examination), he removed himself to Paris where, at least, modern art was taken seriously.

In the early 1950s the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London was an informal meeting-place for artists, architects and writers, where they could drink and talk and the artists could show their work in the tiny gallery. In 1952 the management apparently began to feel that it had lost touch with the younger generation, and the result was the creation of what was in effect a sub-committee of the Institute which became known as the Independents' Group or IG. This group, first convened in the winter of 195253, then re-convened in winter 1954-55 after missing a year, was responsible for the formulation, discussion and dissemination of most of the basic ideas not only of Pop art but of much other new British art in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The first season's programme concentrated largely on technology, a novel concern for artists in Britain at that period and one that was to play an important role in British Pop art; but the very first meeting was dominated by a lecture entitled Bunk, given by Paolozzi, during which he projected a large number of his collages, as well as many pulp images presented directly, untampered with except for the act of isolation. These included covers from Amazing Science Fiction, advertisements for Cadillac and Chevrolet cars, a page of drawings from the Disney film Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood, and sheets of US Army aircraft insignia. This was the first time that pulp imagery had been talked about in public in a serious way, although even within the IG, it seemed, the idea that such imagery not only could be the source of art, but (as Paolozzi had implied) could be art itself, took some time to gain acceptance.

In 1953, however, the IG staged an exhibition with the significant title 'Parallel of Art and Life', which consisted of blown-up photographs, not only hung all over the walls of the ICA Gallery but suspended from the ceiling and even propped against the walls. The exhibition was arranged by Paolozzi and four others (Nigel Henderson, Peter and Alison Smithson and Ronald Jenkins), and, like Paolozzi's lecture (which he gave at a number of other places after the ICA, including the School of Architecture at Cambridge and the Arts Club, Oxford), it presented the organizers' world, a world in which life and art have equal importance through the association, without comment, of a large number of images. These included photographs of paintings by Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee and Dubuffet, microscope and aerial photographs, photographs of Pompeii victims, primitive settlements and technological processes.

When the IG was re-convened in 1954 by Lawrence Alloway and John McHale, the theme this time was, quite explicitly, popular culture. Alloway later wrote: 'This topic was arrived at as the result of a snowballing conversation in London which involved Paolozzi, the Smithsons, Henderson, Rcyner Banham, Richard Hamilton, John McHale and myself. We discovered that we had in common a vernacular culture that persisted beyond any special interest or skills in art, architecture, design or art criticism that any of us might possess. The area of contact was mass-produced urban culture: movies, science fiction, advertising, Pop music. We felt none of the dislike of commercial culture standard among most intellectuals, but accepted it as fact, discussed it in detail, and consumed it enthusiastically.'

Richard Hamilton was a member of the Independents' Group from the beginning, and in 195455 he began to play an increasingly important part in the development of Pop art both inside and outside the Group. In 1955 he had an exhibition of his work of the last four years at the Hanover Gallery. These paintings were much discussed by the IG, particularly the four Trainsition (sic) ones and Carapace, which, as Alloway pointed out, were concerned with a classic situation of the Hollywood movie of the time the speeding car seen from a moving train, and (in Carapace) the view through the windscreen of a moving car. Also in 1955, Hamilton designed and organized an exhibition, 'Man, Machine and Motion', which was shown in Newcastle upon Tyne as well as at the ICA in London, and which pursued, mainly through photographs, the ideas of the aesthetic possibilities of the machine which had been discussed in the first sessions of the IG in 1952. Then, in 1956, the IG organized an exhibition called 'This is Tomorrow' at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The exhibition was intended as an exploration of the possibilities of integrating the various visual arts; in it, twelve teams, each supposedly consisting of a painter, a sculptor and an architect, worked to produce as many environments.

Hamilton, with John McHale and the architect John Voelcker, produced a section which included a profusion of images from popular magazines, comics and film publicity, including the sixteen-foot robot which had been used to advertise a science fiction film at the London Pavilion and a life-size still of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Tear Itch. A juke box played continuously.

For the exhibition poster, and for reproduction in the catalogue,
Hamilton made a special collage. Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, a comprehensive anthology of Pop imagery and sources, with its comic hung on the wall as a painting, its can of ham displayed as sculpture, its pin-up imagery and emphasis on glamorous consumer goods, is uncannily prophetic of later developments in Pop art. Also it prominently features the word Pop as an abbreviation for 'popular culture' or 'popular art'. Artists at that time still did not use the word to refer to what they themselves did; when the Independent Group talked about Pop art they were still referring to mass commercial culture itself, and in January 1957 Hamilton produced a now famous list of its qualities:

Popular (designed for mass audience)
Transient (short term solution)
Expendable (easily forgotten)
Low Cost
Mass Produced
Young (aimed at Youth)
Witty
Sexy
Gimmicky
Glamorous
Big Business

This formulation Hamilton included in a letter to Alison and Peter Smithson, who had also been involved in 'This is Tomorrow', and in the same letter he proposed, as a follow-up to 'This is Tomorrow', another exhibition similarly created by teams, in which the work exhibited would conform to his definition of Pop it would in other words be Pop art in the sense that the term later generally came to be understood: 'fine' or 'high' art based on commercial art sources.


Richard Hamilton. Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?

From then on Hamilton attempted to fulfil the definition in his work both by actually giving it the qualities he had listed (although he would not make it expendable) and by treating those qualities as part of his subject matter. Since 1956 one of Hamilton's principal preoccupations has been with consumer goods and their role in society, particularly as revealed through the ways in which they are advertised. The motor car, of course, is the consumer good, and the first two paintings he made after 'This is Tomorrow', Hommage a Chrysler Corp (1957) and Hers is a Lush Situation 11958), both take their point of departure from advertisements for American cars, of the type that use glamorous women to sell the car. Both already reveal the elaborate and witty transformations Hamilton imposes on his source imagery, and his deep interest in the process of painting itself.

Later in 1958
Hamilton produced another consumer goods painting, $he, which perhaps more than any other of his early works encapsulates his formal, iconographic and sociological preoccupations. It is one of the first masterpieces of British Pop art. The theme of this painting, put at its simplest, is the use of sex by advertisers to sell consumer appliances, a theme wittily suggested by Hamilton in the title, where the first letter is written as a dollar sign. Or, as Hamilton himself put it, 'She is a sieved reflection of the ad man's paraphrase of the consumers' dream.' He also said that 'Woman in the Home' was a possible alternative title for the picture. These two statements occur in a lengthy account, 'An Exposition of $he by Hamilton, published in the magazine Architectural Design in October 1962. He begins by comparing the artist's image of woman in the 1950s with the ad man's image of her at the same period: 'Art's Woman in the fifties was anachronistic, as close to us as a smell in the drain; bloated, pink-crutched, pin-headed and lecherous; remote from the cool woman image outside fine art.' In the advertisement, 'she is truly sensual but she acts her sensuality and the performance is full of wit. Although the most precious of adornments, she is often treated as just a styling accessory. The worst thing that can happen to a girl, according to the ads, is that she should fail to be exquisitely at ease in her appliance setting the setting that now does much to establish our attitude to a woman in the way that her clothes used to. Sex is everywhere, symbolized in the glamor of mass-produced luxury - the interplay of fleshy plastic and smooth, fleshier metal.' Hamilton rejected the fine-art image of woman in favour of the commercial-art one with its much greater relevance to the realities of contemporary life; and in She he brilliantly introduced it into fine art, creating a new vision of art's most ancient motif.

The immediate visual sources for the paintings were as follows. For the woman a photograph from Esquire magazine of a model known as Vikky (The Back) Dougan, who specialized in modelling backless dresses and swimsuits. In the Esquire photo she is seen from behind wearing a dress plunging so low as to reveal the beginning of the cleavage of her buttocks. Hamilton notes: 'The only pin-up I can remember having a greater impact in art circles was Brigitte Bardot spread piecemeal through Reveille in October 1957.' Then, for the appliances, firstly what Hamilton described as 'a brilliant high shot of the cornucopic refrigerator' an advertisement for an RCA Whirlpool fridge/freezer which gave him the overall layout for the painting - and secondly, for the object in the foreground, two advertisements, one for a Westinghouse vacuum cleaner and one for GEC small appliances.

The source images are elaborately processed by
Hamilton, and these processes are perhaps the key to an understanding of his art, for their effect is to produce a highly abstract painting in which the artist's most obvious concern is with the extension of the language of painting, in other words the exploration of the medium itself. This is dazzlingly illustrated in $he by the virtuoso range of treatment of the individual elements of the composition: the fridge door is a smooth fleshy pink (the colour of the original in the ad, which Hamilton called Cadillac pink and which he said 'was adopted with enthusiasm for the painting'), while within it is a Pepsi-Cola bottle treated in the traditional manner of European still-life painting, although perhaps its most recent ancestors are the bottles in Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergere. The combined toaster and vacuum cleaner in the foreground (named the 'Toastuum' by Hamilton) is immaculately air-brushed (i.e. sprayed) in aluminium paint, while the linking passage from Toastuum to fridge door is entirely painterly, even to the extent of paint being allowed to run down the picture surface, no doubt a conscious reference to Abstract Expressionism. The woman's shoulder and breasts are, in Hamilton's phrase, 'lovingly air-brushed', this time to the exact tone and texture the flesh of women takes on in glossy magazines; but her single eye is a piece of collage, a joke winking plastic eye, given to Hamilton by a friend from Germany after he had already been working on She for two and a half years, and instantly incorporated by him into the painting. (The element of chance often plays a vital role in Hamilton's otherwise highly controlled art.) This eye is a characteristic piece of wit, as is the row of dots springing from the Toastuum, which indicate the flight path of the toast when it is automatically popped up. The woman's skirt is collage, and in relief as well, made of 1/8-inch plywood and given an extra sculptural quality by delicate modelling of the surface, which Hamilton says can best be explored by sensitive fingers rather than the eye. Also collage is the freeze part of the fridge, a photograph of a detail from an advertisement for an automatic defrosting system, blown up and stuck into the painting.


Richard Hamilton. $he

Finally, the mechanisms of Hamilton's apparently arbitrary selection of particular fragments from his sources, and his also apparently arbitrary manipulation of them once selected, can be best understood by reference to the figure of the woman in $he: for example, the shape of the area of her breasts and shoulders is partly the result of Hamilton's desire to combine Vikky Dougan's back ('too good to miss', he said) with breasts essential to the ad man's image of woman (the breasts are in fact from another pin-up) and partly from his desire also to perpetrate a mild erotic joke by giving the breasts two alternative readings, one of which introduces a large, pointed, dark-aureoled nipple into the immaculate kitchen. Similarly, the scooped-out part of the relief represents the area of flesh revealed by the deep plunge line of Vikky Dougan's dress, but, says Hamilton, 'it also suggested an apron effect in negative: this was nice an apron, however minute, is fundamental to the woman-in-the-house image'.

Hamilton has always been one of the least productive, in quantitative terms, of all major contemporary artists, but everything he does produce is elaborately considered, deeply pondered and densely packed with ideas. Every work is a major statement, the result of a complex conceptual process, and it is not surprising therefore that they have the look more of the products of the engineer's drawing-board than of those of the artist's easel. He was the direct inheritor of Duchamp's attitude towards the making of art.

At the time when
Richard Hamilton was creating his technologically and ad-mass orientated art, Peter Blake, an artist ten years younger, was developing a rather different kind of Pop art, remote from the cool intellectualism of Hamilton. Blake is interested neither in technology nor in consumer goods, as he explained in an interview in 1963: 'For me Pop art is often rooted in nostalgia: the nostalgia of old popular things. And though I'm also continually trying to establish a new Pop art, one which stems directly from our own time, I'm always looking back at the sources of the idiom and trying to find the technical forms that will best recapture the authentic feel of folk pop.' Blake's ultimate sources thus lie in Victoriana and Edwardiana, and his art is directly rooted in the world of his own childhood and youth (toy shops, comics, badges), in the world of pop music (Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard) and popular entertainers and film stars (Sammy Davis Jr), and in the world of fairgrounds where he has drawn on the traditional heraldic carnival style of lettering and decoration as well as on fairground personalities (tattoed ladies, etc.) and the bric-a-brac of fairground prizes. He also has a great affection for two popular entertainments particularly dear to the British, all-in wrestling and strip-tease. Like other major Pop artists, he also uses other art, both contemporary and of the past, as part of the subject matter of his own.

On The Balcony, which
Blake painted between 1955 and 1957, is, like Hamilton's She, one of the first substantial masterpieces of British Pop art. In it Blake has painted no less than twenty-seven variations on the theme On The Balcony, the most important of which is the row of four young people in the centre of the picture. Three of them are displaying an array of badges including 'I Love Elvis', 'I Like the Hi-Los', and badges of children's clubs like ABC Minors and I-Spy. Two of them are wearing Union Jacks, indicating their allegiance to Queen and Country, and this kind of pop patriotism, very much in the air in the 1950s in the aftermath of the Festival of Britain and the Coronation (people talked about a New Elizabethan Age), is a major theme of the painting, taken up again in no less than three representations of the Royal Family (the whole family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, the Life magazine cover of Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother with Winston Churchill). This emphatic Britishness remains an important part of Blake's art.


Peter Blake. On The Balcony

The fourth figure looks very like a self-portrait, and this reading seems to be confirmed by the fact that the figure displays no badges, only a portrait of John Minton, an artist who had considerable influence in British art schools in the 1950s, who taught Blake at the Royal College, of whom Blake once said: 'if he looked at your picture you felt it was worth while going on', and who committed suicide in 1957. The portrait of him in Blake's picture is inscribed 'In sincere memory', and was clearly added as a personal tribute. The fourth figure is also holding a painting, which would seem to identify him as an artist. These are the first of the many references to art in On The Balcony. The most obvious is the reproduction of Manet's famous painting The Balcony of 1869, but Blake has also included, very interestingly, his idea of what three contemporaries, two of whom have since become well-known abstract artists, might have done with the same subject. In the middle behind the royal family is a Robyn Denny, immediately below it is a Richard Smith, and lower down is a thickly impastoed Leon Kossoff.

Commercial art sources are introduced in the various renderings of packaging, especially the still-life group on the table (the table acting as a 'balcony'), which prominently features a Kellogg's corn flake packet.

One of the most significant aspects of this painting is the way in which Blake plays on the difference between illusion and reality. The corn flake packet is a three-dimensional object rendered on the flat canvas in a traditional illusionistic way, but the magazine covers for example, being flat themselves, look as if they might be collage (a method Blake has made extensive use of), while the Leon Kossoff is a real miniature abstract painting you could almost cut it out and frame it.

In 1960
Blake had an important one-man exhibition at the ICA, where he showed a large group of recent works combining painting and collage. These works were done, not on canvas, but on solid pieces of board sometimes treated as a plain surface but frequently divided into compartments by beading or strips of wood and sometimes resembling doors or walls. In the compartments were images of pop stars, pin-ups or entertainers. In contrast to these collage elements and forming a setting for them, the boards were emblazoned with abstract designs, emblems and lettering painted in enamels in a manner strongly reminiscent of the traditional decoration of fairground booths. The exhibition included Elvis and Cliff, Girlie Door, Kim Novak Wall, Sinatra Door and Everly Wall.

In 1961
Blake made Love Wall, his largest work until then, a remarkable compilation of images of love ranging from contemporary pin-ups, romance comics, film stills and seaside postcards to Edwardian wedding photographs, valentines and birthday cards. The word LOVE (above an emblematic heart) is painted into one of the panels, forming a small individual painting which is remarkable for its strong, hard-edge forms and abstract use of colour.

Peter Blake's contribution to the first phase of British Pop art has often been underestimated; by 1961 he had produced a whole group of works, including those shown in his 1960 ICA show, which are the purest Pop art in that they combine vivid Pop imagery and direct collage elements with equally vivid abstract forms derived from the same Pop sources.

The second phase of British Pop art began in 1961, when
David Hockney, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips, Patrick Caulfield and others, all students at the Royal College of Art, made a great impact with the work they showed at the 'Young Contemporaries' exhibition. Besides inheriting the situation created by Bacon, Paolozzi, Hamilton and Blake, this young group were also influenced by two other artists of the same age as Blake, Richard Smith and the American R. B. Kitaj, although neither was strictly speaking a Pop artist.

R. B. Kitaj was a fellow-student of
Hockney and the rest at the Royal College from 1957 to 1961. He was older, more experienced and more seriously involved in art than any of them, and his paintings were concerned with exploring problems of representation. Allen Jones spoke perhaps for all the Royal College group when in 1965 he recalled: 'I learned more, I think, about an attitude to painting merely from watching him. I didn't speak to him very much, but suddenly I thought this was something vital in comparison to everything else at the College, in other words the influence wasn't one of imagery but of a dedicated professionalism and real toughness about painting.' There is no doubt that Kitaj's actual way of painting, in which significant figurative images are integrated by strongly painterly means (loose brushwork, etc.) into an often complex compositional structure, had a strong impact particularly on Hockney, Jones and Boshier.
 


R. B. Kitaj. Synchromy with F.B.


R. B. Kitaj. The Ohio Gang

Richard Smith was one of a small group of British painters (Robyn Denny and Bernard Cohen were others: who, in the later 1950s and early 1960s, were looking at Pop sources but using them as the basis for a completely abstract art. Smith left the Royal College in 1957, went to America, where he stayed until 1961, and there developed a painterly, large-scale art rooted in the mass-media but in which the source material was not presented (as it always is in true Pop art) as a strongly figurative image. Rather, certain of its qualities, of colour or of shape, were isolated as the basis for the painting. In his series of cigarette-packet paintings of the early 1960s, for example, form and colour are derived from the packet itself, and the large scale and soft-focus treatment come from wide-screen cinema cigarette advertisements where a packet may appear six feet high and, when viewed from close to, dissolves into blurred and shifting washes of colour.


Richard Smith. Quartet

Smith has explained that he wanted to extend the expressive range of painting, to create a new kind of fine art experience through the use of commercial art: 'This would be possible, I thought, through paintings that shared scale, colour, texture, almost a shared matiere with an aspect of the mass-media.' This attitude in itself must have been influential, but Smith's paintings also demonstrated to the younger Pop artists not only a new sense of scale, quite different from that of Hamilton and Blake, but also the possibility of a broad painterly treatment of Pop source material.

David Hockney, like Allen Jones, has recorded his appreciation of R. B. Kitaj, who, he says, has affected him more than anyone else 'not only as an artist but as a person'. Other influences on Hockney were Francis Bacon and the French artist Jean Dubuffet, who may well have drawn his attention to the aesthetic possibilities of the most important of his early stylistic sources, graffiti, an aspect of the urban scene not really looked at by any other Pop artist. Indeed, although the debt to Bacon, especially, is apparent in Hockney's work in the early 1960s, its primary visual quality comes from the extraordinary graffiti-like drawing of the figures and from the scrawled messages and individual words, parts of words and numbers which in some cases come to dominate the painting. (Hockney has explained that he wrote on many of his paintings at this time in order to make his meaning as clear as possible.) His paintings also have the usual Pop characteristic of combining strongly abstract elements with vivid figurative imagery. In, for example, The Cha Cha Cha that was Danced in the Early Hours of the 24th March (1961), one of his best early paintings, the dancing figure and the words and messages are set against flat rectangles of emblematic red and blue at the top of the picture, a large expanse of raw untouched canvas in the middle and a flat strip of mauve at the lower edge.

The subject matter of
Hockney's art is broadly autobiographical, and in the early 1960s, while still at the Royal College, his principal preoccupations, not surprisingly perhaps, were with art, and the making of art, and sex. These themes come strongly through in his painting, even when, as in another major early work, his shaped canvas painting of a Ty-Phoo tea packet, he is ostensibly concerned with that other major Pop subject, packaging and advertising imagery. In particular, the title of this work, Tea Painting in an Illusiomstic Style, draws attention to the formal statement, while the artist's erotic interests are expressed in the life-size figure of a naked boy who appears (part of the whole illusionistic joke of the painting) to be actually sitting inside the packet. Further evidence of the way in which Hockney at this time was taking the language of painting as part of his subject matter is provided by the fact that he exhibited the Ty-Phoo picture in 1962 under the title Demonstration of Versatility Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style. It is one of four Demonstrations, another of which, A Grand Procession of Dignitaries in the Semi-Egyptian Style, also marks his first (but by no means his last) use of earlier art as a source.

There is no doubt that
David Hockney was the dominant personality in the Royal College group, and he has had a greater success than any of them. In fact his brilliant success and his personal style have made him, like Andy Warhol in America, a Pop star himself; and many of his later paintings depict the surroundings of successful Pop personalities California Seascape, and the series of California swimming pools, for example - as well as the personalities themselves.


David Hockney. Tea Painting in an Illusiomstic Style


David Hockney. California Seascape

Allen Jones, like David Hockney, gained a rapid success after the 1961 'Young Contemporaries' exhibition. His earliest themes were, in rather odd contrast, sex on the one hand and buses, aeroplanes and parachutists on the other. His style was both painterly and abstract, closer to Richard Smith in its approach than any of the other artists of the Royal College group (although, as we have seen, Kitaj was also important to him). As well as adopting a painterly approach, Jones also used the important formal device of the shaped canvas. In his famous series of bus paintings of 1962-63, many of the canvases are staggered rectangles that seem to lean forward along the wall, physically implying movement; and in a number of them, too, the wheels were painted on a separate piece of canvas and literally attached to the bottom of the canvas. The effect of this is to give the image a greater reality and impact than it could have if simply depicted as a figure on a ground.

Erotic imagery first appeared in two Bikini paintings in 1962, although these were still, like the bus paintings, very abstract. The eroticism became explicit in paintings of couples and hermaphrodites like Man-Woman (1963), and in the single figure pin-up girls like Curious Woman (1964), which has the breasts actually modelled in three dimensions. Later Jones's obsession became more intense, and he expressed it in a much tighter, glossier style than before. His sources lie particularly in those sex magazines catering for underwear, rubber and leather fetishists, and in 1969 he produced a number of pieces of erotic furniture consisting of very realistically modelled and glamorous girls wearing leather boots and harness, offering themselves as seats, hatstands and Girl Tables.
 


Allen Jones. Bikini


Allen Jones. Man-Woman

 

 


Allen Jones. Girl Table


Allen Jones. Chair

Derek Boshier was the third member of the Royal College group to adopt a painterly semi-abstract approach to painting Pop imagery, but right from the beginning he tended to blend passages of extreme painterliness with bold, clear cut figurative images. In Idenli-Kit Man (1962I, one of his very best early works, the raw canvas is beautifully brushed with long feathery strokes of white, blue and mauve to create an effect of pale atmospheric colour which contrasts strongly with the flat, sharply outlined giant green toothbrushes and the vivid red and white stripes of the toothpaste. It is clear that the he-aldic quality of the striped toothpaste made a strong appeal to Boshier, and in the next few years he evolved a kind of bright jazzy painting based on such sources but from which all figurative references were eliminated. Since 1964 he has been a completely abstract artist.


Derek Boshier. Idenli-Kit Man

Anthony Donaldson was at the Slade School, and did not develop a fully-fledged pop iconography and treatment until about a year later than the Royal College group. But from 1962 he produced brightly coloured paintings, based mostly on repeated images of strippers, in which the tones are manipulated in such a way as to produce a constant strong image-ground reversal which makes the painting extremely abstract in its effect. By 1963 he was producing jazzy, optically active works in which the imagery was no longer readable, although there were still strong references to the source. Later his work became more figurative and more specifically erotic, and Girl Sculpture (1970) effectively combines the sensuality of the nude girl with the extreme sensuousness of a beautiful gold flake acrylic paint job.
 


Anthony Donaldson. Girl Sculpture


Anthony Donaldson.
Summer


Superficially Patrick Caulfield is the British artist who appears to be the closest to Roy Lichtenstein: he presents, like Lichtenstein, boldly outlined figurative images which in fact are part of a rigorously abstract formal structure. However, his imagery has none of the assertiveness usual in Pop art, and he does not draw on advertising or indeed any of the usual Pop sources. Instead he uses images which, while being instantly familiar and recognizable, as in Pottery, for example, are so extremely unassertive as to emphasize to a degree greater than in any Pop artist the purely formal message of the work.

Having played a major part in laying the foundation of Pop art in Britain in the 1950s,
Eduardo Paolozzi insists that he is not a Pop artist and that, if anything, he is a Surrealist. However, it is almost impossible to look at Pop art in Britain in the 1950s and not to take his work into account, particularly his striking sculptures based on machinery and the heavy-industrial aspects of the city landscape like electricity sub-stations. The Last of the Idols (1963) combines solid architectural forms with a wheel, is topped off with what looks like a heavy electrical insulator and has a hard paint finish like that of heavy machinery.


Patrick Caulfield. Pottery


Eduardo Paolozzi. The Last of the Idols

Significantly these works (from 1962 onwards) were made for Paolozzi at an engineering works near Ipswich, and they are assembled (welded) either from stock machine parts available from manufacturer's catalogues or from machine parts made to Paolozzi's own specifications. More than any Pop artist, Paolozzi has pursued the logic of using industrial processes to make an art whose source itself lies in the industrial world.

Like
Eduardo Paolozzi, Joe Tilson is an artist whose sources lay in the urban, industrial and commercial scene, but whose aesthetic aims in almost all his work of the 1960s were very different from those of the Pop artists. However, Tilson made a number of purely Pop works, in particular the series of Transparencies started in 1967 and including images of Yuri Gagarin, Che Guevara and the Five Senses, one of which, Transparency Clip-O-Matic Lips, with its huge glistening mouth and gleaming teeth, is a stunning presentation (relating more to the erotic than to the sense of taste which it is supposed to represent) of an image presumably culled from a toothpaste ad.


Joe Tilson. Transparency Clip-O-Matic Lips


Continental Europe

It has frequently been pointed out that true Pop art, both for sociological and intellectual reasons, is an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. But the revolt against Abstract Expressionism which gave rise to Pop art in America found its counterpart in Continental Europe at the same time, and produced a kind of art clearly related to Pop. This art is best understood in the context of
Nouveau Realisme or New Realism, a movement founded originally in i960 by the French critic Pierre Restany and a small group of artists (among them, Yves Klein and Arman); the term quickly came to be applied to any artist following this tendency, whether he was a member of Restany's original group or not.

Restany published the first manifesto of
Nouveau Realisme in April i960 in Milan (New Realism was to operate mainly on a French-Italian axis, with the Germans keeping somewhat to themselves). In it he stated in florid rhetoric his rejection of the existing situation in art: 'We are witnessing today the exhaustion and sclerosis of every existing vocabulary, of all the languages, of all the styles', and then went on to propose a remedy. 'What are we going to put in their place? The fascinating adventure of the real seen as itself and not through the prism of an imaginative and intellectual transcription.' In spite of the firmness with which Restany asserts that there will be no imaginative or intellectual transformation of the source material, there is no doubt that the basic attitude of the New Realists towards urban reality was both intellectual and romantic, whereas that of the Anglo-Saxon Pop artists was intellectual and cool, i.e. classic. This is made clear by Restany himself in the second manifesto, published in Paris in 1961: 'The New Realists consider the world as a picture, the great fundamental masterpiece from which they take fragments endowed with universal significance.' This significance, for Restany, was a sociological one: 'And through these specific images the whole social reality, the common wealth of human activity, the great republic of our social intercourse, of our social activity, is brought before us.'

This second manifesto of New Realism bore the title 'Forty Degrees above
Dada', a clear acknowledgment of Restany's debt to that movement, and especially to Duchamp. Like the American and British Pop artists, he took his point of departure from the readymade. 'In the present context,' he wrote, 'Duchamp's readymades take on a new significance. They translate the right to direct expression of a whole organic sector of modern life, that of the city, the street, the factory, of mass production. . . . The anti-art gesture of Duchamp will henceforth be affirmative. . . . The readymade is no longer the height of negativity but the basis of a new expressive vocabulary.'

There is no doubt that the most original and the most influential of the New Realists was Yves Klein, who died prematurely in 1962. His aims were, ultimately, quite different from those of the rest of the group. Klein's works which have most relevance to New Realism are his Anthropometries, paintings of the female nude made by applying the paint direct to the girl's body and imprinting her on the canvas. Klein's real concern was not with the external world but with the reality of art, and particularly with the reality of colour, which he felt embodied the essence of art. From 1949 onwards he produced a large number of monochrome paintings in pink, blue and gold, and finally, in 1957, settled on blue as representing the essence of colour. In the last few years of his life he produced a series of 194 paintings in an unearthly, pure ultramarine blue which became known to the art world simply as 1KB International Klein Blue. Being the essence of art, this blue could be applied to any support, and Lecturer 1KB Elegant is one of the many works Klein made basically from sponges soaked in his blue. His portrait of Arman, a cast of the artist's torso coated with 1KB and mounted on a gold-leaf ground, is considered by many to be his masterpiece.


Yves Klein. Anthropometries


Yves Klein. Arman

Apart from Klein the New Realists tend to fall into a number of groups using different approaches and techniques. First, the painters: Alain Jacquet, Martial Raysse, Valerio Adami, Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg and Winfred Gaul. Second, those who use the techniques of assemblage but in a basically two-dimensional form related to painting: Arman and Daniel Spoerri. Third, those who use techniques of assemblage in a fully three-dimensional sculptural form: Cesar and Christo. Fourth, those who use collage: Michelangelo Pistoletto and Oyvind Fahlstrom. Fifth, those who use decollage, that is, the torn poster technique: Raymond Hains, Mimmo Rotella and Wolf Vostell.


Gerhard Richter. Station

Alain Jacquet uses the silkscreen process to put his images through a succession of transformations which makes them more and more abstract. Dejeuner sur I'herbe is one of his best-known works, one of the series he calls camouflages, which are all based on very well known works of art. In this case Jacquet has reconstructed, using live models beside a swimming-pool, and photographed, Manet's famous Dejeuner. (The Manet itself, of course, was based on a famous engraving after Raphael by Marcantonio Raimondi.) His photograph of this group has then been blown up to such enormous size that, when silk-screened onto the canvas, it functions as strongly as an abstract pattern of colour as it does as a figurative image with complex references both to art and to life.


Alain Jacquet. Dejeuner sur I'herbe

Valerio Adami depicts the urban and suburban landscape, as in his Showcase, in a style in which objects are simplified, abstracted and distorted to the point where they are often difficult to read, and are painted in flat, brilliant Pop colours surrounded by strong black outlines.


Valerio Adami. Showcase

Martial Raysse is one of the best-known New Realists, largely because his work is probably closer to Pop art than that of any of the other Europeans. Raysse has made extensive use of assemblage and mixed media, creating complete tableaux like his Raysse, which uses an inflatable children's paddling-pool, garish plastic beach equipment and photographs of girls in bathing suits, but his most interesting works in the context of Pop art are his more or less straight paintings (some have neon attachments) in which images of girls have garish, extremely synthetic colour superimposed on them. He has also made a series of tableaux affreux (awful pictures), generically titled Made in Japan (still in the early 1960s a phrase implying cheapness, imitation, etc.), in which revered old master paintings like Ingres' Odalisque were, like the girls, rendered in lurid colour.


Martial Raysse. Made in Japan

The German artists Gerhard Richter and Conrad Lueg organized the 1963 'Demonstration of Capitalist Realism' in Dusseldorf, and both of them use photographic sources for their paintings, although in very different ways. Richter most characteristically uses landscapes, or people in movement, but blurs them to convey a cinematic sense of instability and scale. Lueg's paintings on the other hand present strong, sharply outlined images in which internal details are run together to create large abstract areas of colour somewhat like Lichtenstein.

Winfred Gaul began his career as a painter of imaginary landscapes but in 1961 a visit to Rome turned him onto the urban environment and in particular to traffic signs and signals. After that he painted virtually nothing else, and he said of his paintings that 'their aesthetics are grounded in the garish colours and gigantic forms which are the new dimensions of city life, they constitute an art-form which has its habitat amongst the skyscrapers and the new industrial buildings, amongst the lines of traffic at the intersections on the motorways'.

Arman (Armand Fernandez) is one of the best known and most typical exponents of New Realism. Already in 1959 before the group was formed he was making what he called Allures, which involved making impressions on the canvas using objects dipped in paint; and in the same year he began the use of assemblage which has remained his basic technique. Anger - Broken Table (1961) is one of his early series of assemblages of smashed everyday objects all titled Anger. Also at this time he began to explore the aesthetics of accumulation, piling up valueless objects like bottle caps and presenting them in glass fronted cases, or later, embedded in slabs of clear plastic to become precious art works. One of his most striking accumulations, however, is a fully three-dimensional work, the famous Torso of 1967 in which dozens of rubber gloves are embedded in a clear plastic female torso, creating the disturbing impression that the woman is being groped from within by disembodied male hands.
Daniel Spoerri's use of assemblage involves the element of chance to a very high degree. His tableaux-pieges, or 'snare paintings', are works in which accidental arrangements of everyday objects, e.g. a table top after a meal complete with dirty glass, crumbs, cigarette ash in the ashtray, would literally be trapped, fixed to a base, and then hung up on the wall.


Arman. Anger - Broken Table

Cesar (Cesar Baldaccini), the most eminent of the New Realist sculptors, has always been fascinated by machinery. From 1955 to i960 he produced sculptures welded from scrap iron and machine parts, and in i960 he began to make his Compressions - sculptures made from compressed car bodies or parts. The materials for these works are selected by Cesar who also directs their arrangement in the car-crusher which plays the conclusive part in the creative process.

Christo (Christo Jaracheff) is a sculptor who works directly with existing objects, wrapping them up in many-layered parcels (the final layer sometimes being transparent polythene), so that the resulting sculptures, like his marvellous early work the Wrapped Bottle of 1958, take on a mysterious poetic quality and invite the spectator to speculate endlessly as to what they may contain while the original mundane object remains quite untampered-with inside. Afterwards Christo moved away from his involvement with objects and grappled directly with the city itself and with the natural world. He packaged his first building in 1968 (the Kunsthalle, Berne), and in 1969 he wrapped a one-mile section of the Australian coastline near Sydney.


Cesar. Compressions


Christo. Wrapped Bottle

Michelangelo Pistoletto and Oyvind Fahlstrom both use collage in a highly individual way. Pistoletto uses life-size photographs of people, usually in informal everyday poses, and - in his most effective works, like Man Reading - doing something that would not be out of place in an art gallery. These images are transferred on to a tissue paper and applied to large polished steel mirrors. The mirror reflects the environment in which the work is hung, so that Pistoletto's figures appear to be actually in the room or gallery together with the spectator, who, of course, in his turn becomes part of the work when reflected in it. Pistoletto has said that the first real figurative experience man has is when he recognizes his own image in a mirror.

Fahlstrom's use of collage is unique in that the collage elements of his paintings are movable, enabling the spectator to manipulate and rearrange their complex imagery relating, among other things, to politics, science, sport, day-to-day events, comic strips, and thus give the work a new appearance and a new meaning.

The decollage, or torn poster technique, of Hains, Rotella and Wolf Vostell has been a particularly fruitful development within New Realism. Their torn advertisements are a strong and direct way of presenting commercial art imagery while at the same time vividly evoking the sleazier aspects of the urban environment.


Wolf Vostell. Coca-Cola

 

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