|Pauline Boty ‘Colour Me Gone’|
Without Pop I’m not quite sure where we would be today. A bland, identity-less society perhaps. An opposite to the one we have today which is filled with alternative sub-cultures and people expressing themselves in the most fabulous ways. The beginning of Pop Art in the Sixties filled a gap in the lives of everyday people destroying boundaries between high art and low culture. Popular culture and commercialism suddenly became the hot topics of conversation. A collision between the new youth
|Gerald Laing ‘Souvenir’|
and old establishment. Everyday subjects and objects that were largely ignored became the focus of investigation. Commercial artists such as Andy Warhol understood the visual vocab of popular culture elevating it to its now infamous status.
‘Painting Pop’ at the Abbot Hall looks at British painters, specifically in the year of 1962, who contributed to the international development of modern art. Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton were amongst the first to respond to this merging of mass pop culture. Hamilton once described Pop as ‘Popular (designed for a mass audience); Transient (short term solution); Expendable (easily forgotten); Low Cost; Mass Produced; Young (aimed at Youth); Witty; Sexy; Gimmicky; Glamorous; and Big Business’.
It was Hamilton’s ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’ in 1956 that went on to influence American artists including Warhol and Lichtenstein. The new exhibition includes one of Hamilton’s pieces ‘JFK’, a major signifier of the space race where America was desperate to land on the moon first.
Peter Blake is also one of Britain’s best known pioneers frequently rubbing shoulders with The Beatles, his painting ‘Wrestling Irish Lord X’ is a fun expose of popular sport. Gerald Laing’s huge canvases were based on newspaper photographs of famous models, astronauts and film stars, the
exhibition features his well-known painting ‘Souvenir’, a response to the Cuban missile crisis which used a 3D effect allowing the viewer to see Khruschev from one side and Kennedy from the other.
One of Britains most renowned pop sculptors, Allen Jones also makes an appearance with ‘The Battle of Hastings’ exploring the territory between abstraction and representation. With the help of the Tate, National Portrait Gallery and Government Art Collection the gallery is displaying paintings from all the major pioneers including David Hockney, Joe Tilson, Richard Smith, John Bowstead, Derek Boshier, RB Kitaj and the unforgettable Pauline Boty.
The only female painter in the British wing of the movement. She was described by the Independent newspaper as “the heartbreaker of the Sixties art scene.” Amazingly the Abbot Hall has one of her most famous paintings of Marilyn Monroe, ‘Colour Her Gone’. Her work was uncompromising, sensational, gaudy, and sexual, response to the marginalisation and sexism of women. These ideals marked the beginning of 1970s feminism.
‘Painting Pop’ shows a Britain leading the way in inspirational and exciting new art, it is also a revelation in the huge social, political, cultural and technological strides taking place in the 1960s. All hail ‘British Pop Art’!
* Images courtesy of Lakeland Arts
On until 7th October 2017
Abbot Hall Art Gallery