This Incredible, Pop Art-Filled Penthouse Lives Up To The Hype

Thursday, December 18, 2014, by Hana R. Alberts

Lisa and Richard Perry's Sutton Place penthouse was completely overhauled in 2002 to showcase the couple's outstanding collection of pop art—think Warhols, Lichtensteins, and more. The fashion designer and her hedge fund husband tapped Tony Ingrao and 1100 Architect's David Piscuskas to remake the old-school space ("Dark paneling everywhere, two ballrooms," Perry said, "it looked like a mini Versailles") into an eye-poppingly colorful home and veritable gallery for all of their valuable pieces. When the renovation finished up in 2002, Vogue devoted a 12-page spread to it. Here now, revisit the vaunted apartment (h/t 6sqft for the reminder), which still makes headlines on the regular.

Shelving Warhol? London gallery pushes Eastern pop art

By Nabila Pathan |

Pop art has long been associated with the names Andy Warhol and David Hockney. Whilst the pop art movement originated in the UK and is often associated with its fixation on American mass culture, its spread to the East is not so well known in the West.

However, a new exhibition at the London-based Saatchi Gallery aims to examine the relationship between Western Pop Art and its lesser-known Eastern counterparts including “Sots Art” in the Soviet Union and “Political-Pop” or “Cynical Realism”, which has flourished in Greater China since the turn of the twenty-first century.
The “Post Pop: East Meets West” exhibition currently on display at the Saatchi Gallery is a celebration of Pop Art’s global reach and legacy. The collection of pop art has been organized by the Tsukanov Family Foundation, an educational charity with an emphasis on promoting Russian and eastern European post-war art. Their collection of Russian Pop art forms a central aspect of the show.
Whilst the exhibition is a showcase of Pop art emerging from four distinct regions of the world (USA, UK, the former Soviet Union and China), the works are presented in relation to each other through the framework of six themes: Habitat; Advertising and Consumerism; Celebrity and Mass Media; Art History; Religion and Ideology; Sex and the Body.
The pop-influenced works span across the past 40 years. According to the Saatchi Gallery, pop art is “widely regarded as the most significant art movement of the last century, ...[it has] exploited identifiable imagery from mass media and everyday life to reflect on the nature of the world we live in.”
“Although from fundamentally different cultures and ideological backgrounds, the artists in this exhibition play with imagery from commercial advertising, propaganda posters, pictures of the famous as well as monetary and patriotic motifs in wry and provocative works that unmistakably reference the Pop Art movement which emerged in America and Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.”
The familiarity of pop art's critique of mass culture on British and American society is echoed in the collections from the Western region; Whether it's Jeff Koons’s basketball sculptures or the pastiches of Warhol paintings by Gavin Turk.
It's the insight into the unfamiliar, via the art installations from China and Russia which highlight the expansive nature of the pop art movement. According to the Evening Standard, these collections resonate with an “everyday reality... dominated by glorious leaders, hammers and sickles and party propaganda.”
The art installations' connection to pop art may not be instantly recognizable, but they intrigue and provoke curiosity. According to the Telegraph: “The Pop Art spirit is alive and well, and thriving most in territories where those Pop staples, mass-consumerism and advertising, barely existed until recently: Russia and China.”
Andy Warhol, a leading figure of the Pop art movement once stated: “Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again”. But through this collection, it's not just America that is seen and nor is it dominating. The Saatchi Gallery’s collection of 256 works by more than 100 artists, is a chance to compare and contrast pop’s influence in the West and the East.
Much of the non-Western exhibits have not been seen before in London. “Post-Pop: East Meets West” will be showcasing at the Saatchi Gallery until 23 February 2015.

Historical Realities of Concept Pop: Debating Art in Egypt

by Surti Singh

Today, every phenomenon of culture, even if a model of integrity, is liable to be suffocated in the cultivation of kitsch. Yet paradoxically in the same epoch it is to works of art that has fallen the burden of wordlessly asserting what is barred to politics. Adorno, “Commitment”

Over the past three years, Egyptian street art has become an iconic symbol of protest. It has appeared and reappeared with the same lightening speed as the rapid shifts in the political climate, directly participating in the events that transpired under the regimes of Hosni Mubarak, Mohammed Morsi, and Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. In the hands of Egyptian street artists, art was a powerful revolutionary weapon. Now, in an atmosphere of repression, where many of the signs and symbols of the revolution have been painted over and protest has been outlawed, a new set of questions is crystallizing about the role of art in contemporary Egypt.
Can art still preserve the revolutionary spirit that spilled out in the graffiti and murals that covered Egypt’s streets? Should this even be art’s focus? In thinking through these questions, one is reminded of the debates that ensued about art and politics among members of the Frankfurt School in the early part of the twentieth century. In this spirit, one can ask: should art be committed?
In a recent article in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, one of Egypt’s leading artists working under the pseudonym Ganzeer affirmed art’s continuing political potential in Egypt today. Ganzeer advocates for art that is intimately tied to Egyptian reality and observes a new form of political art emerging in post-revolution Egypt. He calls it “Concept Pop,” a heady blend of Pop Art and Conceptual Art. Ganzeer argues that the artists who are most relevant, engaged, and revolutionary today are those whose works, often without knowing it themselves, embody the qualities of Concept Pop.
For Ganzeer, Concept Pop maintains the revolutionary spirit of Egyptian street art because it is void of the artist’s ego and because it takes up the concerns of the average Egyptian. Like street art, Concept Pop provides an immediate and unequivocal message, one that “your average Egyptian can instantly ‘get’ and relate to.” Composed of objects taken from our everyday environment, works of Concept Pop are self-explanatory. There is no need for a curator or a museum label; the objects themselves lead us to a concept. Ganzeer positively notes that knowledge of the history of art is not a precondition for grasping the concept; the viewer need only be of the same environment from which the artwork is produced.
Ganzeer analyzes key exhibitions in 2013 signifying the emergence of Concept Pop—notably Hany Rashed’s Toys at Mashrabia Gallery, Huda Lutfi’s Cut and Paste at the Townhouse Gallery, and Ahmed Hefnawy’s contribution to the Revolution Museum at the abandoned Viennoise Hotel. All of these exhibitions were shown in downtown Cairo in close radius to one another, near abandoned hotels and cafes, amid a political environment of clampdown on dissent and a strongman rising to power, and only a five minute walk from Tahrir with its now faded scenes of protest.
When discussing Rashed’s distorted plastic objects Ganzeer writes, “I get it. I understand that the artist is telling me that the world we live in is fake and unreal.” Ganzeer’s analysis of Hefnawy’s immersive tear-gas installation is his most striking example—a recreation of a familiar, real-life scenario that many Egyptians experienced. Ganzeer writes:
I was there in Tahrir Square when the first tear gas canister was shot into the air. Everyone present paused for a split second in an attempt to understand what that thing was. It wasn’t long before crowds were running all over the place without being given the opportunity to understand the situation. Hefnawy gave his audience the opportunity to examine that moment in one’s own time, an opportunity to be saddened and hurt by it, exemplified by the tears in the eyes of many viewers at the art show. An art show that gathered hundreds of viewers on its opening night, many of whom confessed they had never been to an art show before.
In recreating specific events, such as a shot-gun ejecting a tear-gas canister, Hefnawy’s exhibition freezes an historical moment in time, such that the actual participants in the historical event can have time to reflect. In Ganzeer’s description, art offers a therapeutic moment, an opportunity for the audience to release emotions from a safe distance. Collectively, the audience can mourn their experience. 
Not surprisingly, Ganzeer’s argument provoked criticism. Adham Selim, a Cairo-based architect and researcher, published a response a few weeks later in Mada Masr. Selim accuses Ganzeer of reading the role of art metaphorically and therefore reductively. He believes Ganzeer’s idea of Concept Pop falls somewhere between kitsch and Socialist Realism. The issue, for Selim, is that we cannot make the distinction that Ganzeer wants to draw between those who are engaged and those who are not, for we are all part of the same event that is unfolding. It is impossible, according to Selim, to not be politically engaged with the moment in which one is involved. The same goes for art. Furthermore, Selim views Ganzeer’s emphasis on the message that art conveys as obscuring art’s aesthetic experience rooted in its sensory qualities. In other words, in demanding that art convey a message or lead us to a concept, art’s status as art is ignored.
While pointing to some of the potential weaknesses in Ganzeer’s view of art, Selim does not fully engage with the notion of Concept Pop. Let me take this opportunity to weigh in on the debate. Though Ganzeer’s analysis is tied to the immediate Egyptian context, where Egyptian artists and Egyptian audiences share the same historical moment and communicate about and reflect upon real events through art, Concept Pop has wider implications. It revives the debates about whether art should be committed or autonomous.
In his essay “Commitment,” Theodor W. Adorno distinguished between committed and autonomous art; a distinction that can shed light on Ganzeer’s and Selim’s views. For Adorno, committed art attempts to involve the audience in a particular historical moment, to cultivate a political consciousness, and to engage with historical atrocities and suffering. Commitment implies that art should convey a certain political message; it is not difficult to see in Ganzeer’s Concept Pop a similar desire for art to be active and participatory in the politics of the time. Ganzeer draws a direct contrast between art produced by active participants in the current historical moment and those who are merely passive spectators.
Conversely, Selim wants to uphold the autonomy of art from politics but falls into a vindication of l'art pour l'art or art for art’s sake. Selim writes:
You can’t ask a music producer about the political statement in their beats, or how their bass line, for example, contributes to the current state of affairs. You usually enjoy music for what it is, not for what it stands for. You don’t put an extra effort into trying to communicate the meaning of the beats to the musically-uneducated masses.
Selim wants to rescue art from its reduction to a political tool. But is the choice only to subordinate art to politics or to place art outside of politics? Looking more closely at Ganzeer, Concept Pop reveals another option that Adorno’s concept of autonomous art can help to flesh out. For Adorno, autonomous art is devoid of political ends, but it is not apolitical. Its critical potential emerges from being a part of society and yet standing apart from it. Autonomous art is ideological and it is emancipatory.
Reading Ganzeer’s Concept Pop charitably reveals a desire for art that is not simply a commodity, or a reproduction of the dominant logic, and not simply art for art’s sake, or a retreat into the avant-garde. This is the more valuable question that the notion of Concept Pop poses. In the current climate, how can art resist simply becoming one commodity among others, or abdicating politics all together?
Ganzeer proposes a mediation between Pop Art and Conceptual Art. He views the former as succumbing to the commodity form and the latter as pervaded by intellectual vacuity. As Selim rightly points out, Ganzeer hastily dismisses the historical value of both movements in order to edify his view of Concept Pop. Selim attempts to fill in this gap by discussing the way both Pop Art and Conceptual Art exceed Ganzeer’s descriptions. According to Selim, Pop Art cannot simply be the repackaging of commodities for elite consumption as Ganzeer imagines, since this reading ignores Pop Art’s celebration of mass consumption. At the same time, Selim admonishes Ganzeer for not taking into account the anti-establishment effect that Duchamp’s work of Conceptual Art—“Fountain” (1917)—had on the art institution of his time. While Selim’s reading prompts the reader to think in a more complex way about the history of art, there is another key moment that resonates much more strongly for Concept Pop.
Ganzeer’s description of Concept Pop has similarities with Neo-Dada, a movement that emerged in the 1950s exemplified by the work of artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Yves Klein. Neo-Dada was a bridge between the Conceptual Art exemplified by Marcel Duchamp and the emergence of Pop Art in the early 1960s. Like Concept Pop, Neo-Dada emphasized the viewer’s response to the artwork over the artists’ ego, and its “junk aesthetic” was based on mass media and found objects. Neo-Dada prompted the viewer to think about everyday reality, and this conceptual dimension persisted into Pop Art. The broader issue is whether we can neatly separate out the conceptual from the pop aesthetic; the debates about whether Pop Art merely affirmed consumer culture or produced its critique are still not settled, and this a dimension that eludes Ganzeer’s formulation of Concept Pop.
Ganzeer’s notion of Concept Pop ekes out a new and vital political role for art at this particular moment in Egyptian history, a moment suffering from an absence of politics. At the same time, Concept Pop is vulnerable to the pitfalls of committed art. It is not without reason that Adorno was highly critical of committed art. He saw in his own time with figures like Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertolt Brecht that committed art often inadvertently worked against its purported aims. Instead of political liberation, committed art frequently became a mouthpiece for the status quo; instead of remembering suffering, committed art risked aestheticizing suffering into an object for enjoyment or pleasure.
This is what potentially troubles me about Concept Pop—if it is only portrayed as another version of committed art, it risks embracing an overly simplistic equation of aesthetics with politics. For example, Ganzeer’s descriptions of Concept Pop are very affirmative. Individuals view the work of art, identify with what they see, and feel that their experiences are validated. In this sense, art is an affirmation of the reality in which people live and the political events that they have undergone. It facilitates identification between the viewer and the artwork.
Why is identification problematic? Perhaps identification can work as a salve for historical trauma as Ganzeer theorizes, but it does not facilitate critical reflection within the subject. For both Ganzeer and Selim, art is a positive experience for the viewer. While Ganzeer focuses on the role of the artwork in generating a conceptual understanding of historical events, his view of the subject as simply seeking confirmation of its experience in art remains static. Similarly, while Selim wants to protect art from its reduction to a political tool, his view of the subject that simply enjoys art without concern for politics is equally superficial. Both Ganzeer and Selim neglect the role art can play in transforming the subject instead of simply appeasing it.
If Ganzeer’s notion of Concept Pop could expand beyond the requirement of affirmation and identification, it could more adequately theorize certain trends in contemporary Egyptian art. For example, the ‘message’ of Rashed’s exhibition may be that the world is fake and unreal. But we can also read Rashed’s exhibition in another way, as a work of autonomous art.
Rashed’s exhibition initially grew from an interest in plastic as a material, without any direct political motivation. In an interview with Medrar TV, Rashed notes that he always begins with the materials first and then creates the work itself. He spent much time experimenting with plastic—heating it, stretching it, and casting it—using photographs of street images and models. In a review of his exhibition Toys in Mada Masr, Rashed reported that he showed the melted figure to Ganzeer, who described it as a toy. With inspiration from Ganzeer, Rashed went on repeated trips to Cairo’s Attaba market, collecting the mass-produced commodities sold there, which became the basis for Rashed’s reproductions.
If Rashed’s art is a work of Concept Pop, I would argue that its political import is in the distorted form of the artwork itself, a form that is created from and is part of this particular historical moment and yet rebels against it. Attaching a blatant political message to the exhibition obscures the more complex layers that gave rise to the work of art. It is the absence of politics in Rashed’s useless objects, distorted ‘toys’ that have no function enclosed in clear plastic bags—made from the same material that produces the endless, cheap commodities infiltrating Cairo’s streets—that conveys the most potent political message. It is a microcosm for the paralysis of politics in Cairo today. While Rashed’s exhibition could have become kitsch, the melted, stretched out forms reflect art’s confluence with the commodity form and at the same time its critique.
It is not so much that Ganzeer’s notion of Concept Pop obscures the political potential of art today; rather its idea can reflect a different understanding of politics than one that relies on a direct message to the audience. This must be the starting point for understanding the political role of contemporary Egyptian art: Instead of affirming the audience’s experience, how does it provoke and unsettle the subject? How does it cause the subject to shudder at its concrete historical reality? By refusing rather than promoting reconciliation with a false reality, works associated with Concept Pop can provoke the subject to think beyond it.

Keith Haring review: the political side of a pop-art legend

Keith Haring: the Political Line, an exhibition of the late artist’s work, opened at San Francisco’s De Young last week just days after the GOP swept the US midterm elections. This coincidence is hard to overlook while viewing Haring’s wildly familiar and celebrated paintings of the 1980s, works driven by his sense of difference and, as the exhibition emphasizes, a fervent political consciousness with which he pushed back at the Reagan-Thatcher conservatism of his time.

Haring’s work, made during his condensed, prolific career — he died at 31 from Aids complications – entered into broad cultural consciousness with neon colors, energetic line work, and an urban pulse, though these attributes, the show argues, were just a facet of the artist’s interests and achievements. The Political Line, then, serves both as an art historical reconsideration of the artist’s popular output, as well as a welcome celebration of art with activist inclinations.

The exhibition, organised by guest curator Dieter Buchhart and the De Young, trades the ebullient, candy-colored pop sensibility usually associated with Haring for graver images and somber colour schemes. The works on view tend toward black, ochre and red, with occasional bursts of more vibrant hues punctuating thematic sections. These organize Haring’s work according to various political and cultural concerns: sections of the show are organized by themes of greed, racism, ecological disaster and disease.
If the last major museum show devoted to his work, organized in 1997 by the Whitney, focused on the public, convivial nature of his work, even including the muted thump of club music in the background, The Political Line has a more solemn, silent vibe – a room containing small, glowing black light paintings, for example, evokes a darkened catacomb rather than a disco. The show begins with a human-scaled fibreglass Statue of Liberty, her robes painted crimson and entirely inscribed with Haring characters, line work, and tags contributed by graffiti artist LA II. This 1982 work is set in the centre of a room, in front of a large painting of black-lined figures fleeing an alien ray, and adjacent to a seemingly blood-spattered early drawing expressing a meat is murder message, adding to a passionate critical opposition to ominous forces of political power.

The show goes on to provides humanizing context with works and ephemera that speak to his position and range. His 1978 Manhattan Penis Drawings for Ken Hicks, works he made in public places as a display of gay sexuality are seen here, as are ransom note-like collages made in 1978 from newspaper headlines, many referring to Reagan and cultural unease. There is a case displaying Polaroids taken by Haring’s pal Andy Warhol, and spiral-bound journals in which Haring has handwritten his influences and insecurities. With these inclusions, it’s almost impossible not to be swayed by the heartfelt ethos.

This is evident throughout the exhibition, in his infamous subway drawings, in numerous works that depict surprisingly grisly, almost surrealistic acts of torture, some bringing to mind the photographs from Abu Ghraib, and in large, orgiastic images of crowds turned into patterns of primal violence. Of note is a recurring figure with a circular hole in its center, a form inspired by the 1980 assassination of John Lennon.

Haring seemed unstoppable at the time. His prolific work ethic, some conjecture, was driven by a sense that his life would be cut short. An abundance of material then seems a fitting attribute for surveys of his work, though within this vast show, the inclusions sometimes feel repetitive. But then again, Haring’s targets haven’t been reconciled – making his persistent sense of resistance worthy of this platform.

The pop artist whose transgressions went too far – for the PC art world

His works provoked riots in the 1970s. Now Allen Jones is back at the Royal Academy after 35 years in the wilderness
Allen Jones (born 1937) has been demonised. In 1969 he made a group of three sculptures of scantily-clad female figures. They were slightly larger than life and arranged in positions that enabled them (with the addition of a glass top or padded seat) to be turned into a table, a chair and a hat stand. These super-mannequins were highly modelled, wigged and leather-booted, and unavoidably realistic. When first exhibited in 1970 they provoked outrage among the feminist community. Jones’s 1978 retrospective of graphic art at the ICA caused a near riot even though the sculptures weren’t shown. In 1986, when the chair went on display, it had acid thrown over it by an incensed extremist.

The price of being controversial is usually increased fame, but for Jones it has resulted in his work being ostracised in this country. His last museum show here was a selection of prints at the Barbican in 1995. Before that, the most recent survey of his work took place at the Serpentine Gallery in 1979, which means that he hasn’t had a proper retrospective in Britain for 35 years. This is scarcely believable: Jones is a hugely popular and successful figure in Europe (particularly in Germany), and is featured in museums all over the world. He has worked extensively in America and China, and is widely celebrated for the part he played in the origins of Pop Art in the 1960s. But he seems to have transgressed some unwritten taboo and been banished from the museums of his homeland. Could this be because so many of them are now run by timid bureaucrats?
Revealingly, a recent Jones retrospective organised by a German museum was turned down by the woman director of one of the main public galleries in London with the words ‘we don’t want any trouble’. But this is not just about political correctness; crucially, it’s about art. So, when the Royal Academy mounted a survey of Modern British Sculpture in 2011, co-curated incidentally by the director of Tate Britain, Penelope Curtis, not only was Jones excluded but, as he ruefully points out, the last figurative sculptor in the show was Henry Moore. It’s as if history has been rewritten according to the abstract thesis of modernism, and figurative work (of the kind Jones has devoted his life to) has been airbrushed out.
Jones explains the situation, as he sees it. ‘For artists of my generation, coming on stream in the Sixties, whatever you did you had to reckon with American gestural abstraction. The problem with figurative art at the time was that it had run out of steam, but the polemic was that you couldn’t do it any more, which seemed absurd after 4,000 years of people making representations of each other. To me the Pop movement was incontrovertibly a swing of the pendulum back towards representation. The problem wasn’t with representation, it was the age-old one — with the language. And the language had run out of steam. Using urban imagery as source material revitalised figurative painting, without a doubt. And recently the main thrust of the avant-garde from Basquiat and Schnabel up to Koons and company has been figuration with a vengeance.’
Coinciding with Jones’s RA retrospective is a commercial show of his drawings at Thomas Gibson Fine Art, 39 St James’s Street, SW1 (11 November – 9 December). Drawing is clearly central to his art, so does he draw every day? ‘If I’m not painting, yes — I think through the pencil, really. What I like is to have a strong pictorial idea and then make a storyboard on one sheet, rather than working in notebooks. I like the idea that you can see an image developing; you can refer back and play with the possibilities.’ This suggests a habit of working in series which is, in fact, one of the strategies that Jones employs. ‘If I know I’ve got a sound structure, I always square it up. It becomes a kind of scaffolding to hang the painting on. The drawing has to take its chance then, and often what I call “the good bit” in the end just has to go.’Thus it is not before time that the Royal Academy is mounting a full-career Allen Jones retrospective (in Burlington Gardens, 13 November 2014 – 25 January 2015). The exhibition will be a revelation to many, not least for the amount of sculpture on view: more than 50 years of creativity will be represented by some 80 works, only half of which are paintings. ‘I’m very pleased that the Hirshhorn Museum [in Washington DC] is lending a big diptych which I painted at the Chelsea Hotel. It’s never been seen here. And there’s a very nice little painting called “Curious Woman” also coming from America.’ A big room of paintings will be followed by what he calls ‘The Ballroom’, filled with large steel and wooden dancing figures. In the third large gallery will be the fibreglass and wood single figures arranged on a diagonal (Jones calls this ‘The Chorus Line’), dating from 1964 to now. There will be a room of drawings and the infamous furniture sculpture will be there too, set within the context of a lifetime’s remarkable achievement.
He constantly goes ‘people watching’ in search of new ideas for his art. ‘I went into Soho yesterday — all those lives going on — everyone in some way presenting themselves to the world. What happens is that I see something, often in a restaurant or theatre. Suddenly people will lean in together or their faces overlap, or the way the jacket goes, introduces something new and stops one’s depiction becoming formulaic.’ Allen Jones is an immensely charming, erudite and sophisticated artist who uses colour, subject and form in inventive and intriguing ways. His career deserves to be properly reassessed, though quite clearly there is still a mass of prejudice against him in this country. But he has hope for the future in the response of a younger generation. ‘I find the attitude of people under 35 to sexuality and display is that it’s just a part of the spectrum of existence,’ he says. ‘In a way the feminist critique is a total red herring. It’s not what the work is about.’ In fact, Jones’s paintings and sculptures deliberately pose the question: ‘What is art?’ For him, it’s all about ways of seeing and states of perception. Finally, I ask him if he sees his work as provocative. ‘I hope it is — provocative as art, as all work of the avant-garde in its time must have been.’

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 1 November 2014

Tags: Allen Jones, British art, Feminism, Painting, Pop Art, Royal academy, Sculpture, Sexism, visual art       

Sigmar Polke, the radical subject of a new Tate Modern retrospective, was Dusseldorf's answer to Roy Lichtenstein, finds Alastair Sooke

By Alastair Sooke

"Witty. Sexy. Gimmicky. Glamorous. Big business.” That is how the British artist Richard Hamilton defined Pop art in a letter written in 1957. Most gallery-goers today would understand exactly what he meant: think of Warhol’s sexy visions of Marilyn and his glamorous portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy, or Lichtenstein’s gimmicky yet witty comic-book paintings, which parody warfare and gender stereotypes. As for “big business”, one only has to look at the prices achieved by canonical Pop artists in recent years: last November, Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963) sold for a record-breaking $105million (£65.5 million) at auction in America.
But the history of Pop art is not as familiar as you might think. Pop is often understood as a US phenomenon. We perceive it as an art form intimately bound up with the rampant consumer culture that emerged across the Atlantic in the aftermath of the Second World War. Even the Britons, including Hamilton, who supposedly anticipated by a decade the developments of Pop art in New York and Los Angeles in the early Sixties were responding with the enthusiasm of devotees to totems of American capitalism: Chrysler cars and Coke bottles, Playboy pin-ups and Minnie Mouse.
More recently, though, art historians have been investigating less-known aspects of Pop, such as the roles played by forgotten but important female artists – the likes of Rosalyn Drexler, Pauline Boty and Evelyne Axell. Next autumn, Tate Modern will mount a revelatory exhibition called The World Goes Pop, focusing on how the “spirit of Pop” flourished internationally, in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
Before that, though, another exhibition at the Tate, a full-scale retrospective for the maverick German artist Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), offers a reminder that Pop art was not an exclusively Anglo-American affair. Polke belonged to a generation of German artists, including his more famous contemporary Gerhard Richter, who launched their careers in Düsseldorf in the early Sixties with a movement known as “Capitalist Realism” – essentially, a Teutonic version of Pop.
Unlike Richter, a meticulous painter whose work has long enjoyed success on the art market, Polke is a tricky artist to characterise. Like Richter, he is known primarily as a painter, but his work is irrepressibly experimental and draws upon a bewildering jumble of inspirations, from philosophy and mineralogy to alchemy and hallucinogenic drugs.
What unifies his output is best described as a kind of anarchic and satirical attitude or world view, a tongue-in-cheek, subversive spirit that has little time for stuffy hierarchies or bourgeois conventions. Along with the slightly younger Martin Kippenberger, Polke is arguably the most avant-garde figure in post-war German art.
Born in the Lower Silesia town of Oels, Polke grew up in the Soviet zone of occupation before his family migrated to the West German city of Düsseldorf in 1953. Following an apprenticeship to a glass-painter when he was 18, he enrolled in 1961 at Düsseldorf’s Kunstakademie, where he met Richter, a fellow student, as well as an artist called Konrad Lueg, who later became the art dealer Konrad Fischer.
Two years later, inspired by examples of the new American Pop art that they had encountered in shows and magazines, the trio collaborated together with a fourth artist, Manfred Kuttner, on an exhibition in the window of an abandoned shop in Düsseldorf. Richter described it at the time as the “first exhibition of 'German Pop Art’. Little documentation of the show has survived, but supposedly Lueg took a branded tub of washing powder and turned it upside down, while Polke strung together several magazines and hung them up like a mobile sculpture.
Within a few months, Richter and Lueg had also staged a celebrated “happening” called “A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism” inside a furniture showroom in Düsseldorf. As well as presenting their own works, the pair displayed furniture on plinths, a papier mâché figure of John F Kennedy and offered themselves as living artworks. German Pop was up and running.
On the face of it, Capitalist Realism shares many affinities with American Pop. Just as Lichtenstein made a series of paintings of solitary objects, including a sponge, a tyre, a portable radio and a ball of twine, so Richter concentrated on banal, everyday things such as a table and a roll of lavatory paper. Like Warhol, he drew upon the mass-produced, commercial imagery of advertising, as in his paintings Folding Dryer (1962) and Ferrari (1964).
So did Polke. As well as early drawings in ballpoint pen of a bar of soap and folded shirts, he made paintings of socks, more folded shirts, a broken-off bar of partially unwrapped chocolate, and biscuits – all of them hijacking the visual strategies of advertising.
Comparisons between the Americans and their German contemporaries are often irresistible. In 1963, for instance, Lichtenstein created Hot Dog with Mustard. That same year, Polke produced The Sausage Eater, in which an eyeless, disembodied head in profile consumes a serpentine string of brown frankfurters.
Around the time that Lichtenstein became interested in replicating coloured patterns of so-called “Ben-Day dots”, which allowed publishers to reproduce pictures mechanically, Polke also began investigating commercial printing techniques. His Rasterbilder (“Screened Paintings”), which he began in 1963, borrowed the “raster” dots of halftone newspaper illustrations. These would become some of his best-known images, inevitably leading to talk about his distinctive “Polke dots”.
Yet for all the superficial similarities between what was happening in New York and Düsseldorf in the early Sixties, there are also some significant differences. According to Mark Godfrey, who has curated Tate’s forthcoming retrospective, the way that Lichtenstein and Polke each used dots is one of them.
“Polke first paints dots with the rubber on the back of a pencil, dipping it in ink, dotting it down,” he explains. “Later, he uses a screen. But when you look closely at them, they are very messy. When you look at Lichtenstein’s dots, they are pristine, sharp-edged. Lichtenstein’s work in those years is technically very proficient, whereas Polke’s looks casual: the perspective is wrong, the paint thickness varies, or the background drips into the foreground. There’s an amusing, clunky quality to it.”
Why did Polke want to make deliberate mistakes? To answer that, it is important to understand the context of the historical moment in which he grew up. As Godfrey explains, living in West Germany did not offer the same experience as capitalist America during that era.
“To be a consumer in America in the Sixties,” he says, “you just go and buy your Coke cans. But as a young artist in his 20s who was still pretty poor, Polke experienced consumer culture as objects of desire he couldn’t have. Warhol and Lichtenstein were surrounded by a glut of things, but in West Germany they were still living in austere times.”
“When I came to the West, I saw many, many things for the first time,” Polke once recalled. “But I also saw the prosperity of the West critically. It wasn’t really heaven.”
The style of his early work was also linked to the spectre of the Second World War and the toxic legacy of Nazism. “Polke was growing up after a moment when Germany had been obsessed with purity, with clarity, with the Nazi idea of a single truth – the truth of the Führer and Nazi policy,” explains Godfrey. “His critique of that was always to think about images in terms of their dissolution or corruption.” It has been suggested that his interest in swirls, squiggles and organic, kidney-shaped forms was a reaction against the angularity of the swastika and Nazi design.
German Pop is, says Godfrey, “often more political, to do with a society rebuilding itself. There was a more difficult set of circumstances that the Germans had to deal with when they were making these images of everyday things. Young German artists at the beginning of the Sixties were aware that their parents and people in authority had been part of a generation impacted upon by Nazism. The world around them was trying to forget the past – but their inquiring minds preferred to trouble that repression.”
One way that Polke interrogated the state of German society was through his use of humour and satire. His painting of socks, for instance, is deliberately humdrum and ironic. In The Sausage Eater, the endless frankfurters suggest both gluttony and coercion, as though the eyeless figure is being force-fed. “Sparkling Wine for Everyone”, a crude, watercolour-and-ballpoint doodle that punctures the hollow promises of prosperity uttered by West Germany’s leaders, looks like it could have come from the contemporary artist David Shrigley.
Why Can’t I Stop Smoking? (1964) adopts a similar tone. “You’ve got this man who looks a bit like [Mad Men’s] Donald Draper at the beginning of the Sixties,” says Godfrey, “but his eyes aren’t filled in. The sketchiness of the way he’s drawn: you’d never find that in American Pop.”
 He pauses. “I’d be hard-pressed to think of any point where Polke was merely a follower of American Pop art,” he says, “because his paintings of everyday things have a humour and a charm to them that you don’t often see in American Pop at that point. Some of the work may seem puerile, but it was puerile in a context where that was thoughtful and important, because one had to ask serious questions about the older generation. Polke’s clowning was always motivated by something deeply serious.”

Marjorie Strider, Sly Pop Artist, Is Dead at 83


SEPT. 5, 2014

Marjorie Strider, a Pop artist who slyly subverted her male counterparts’ takes on consumerism and the female form, creating images of packages that oozed their contents and women whose curves jutted from the picture plane, died on Aug. 27 at her home in Saugerties, N.Y. She was 83.

Marjorie Virginia Strider

Linda Rattner Celle, a niece, confirmed her death but did not specify the cause.
Ms. Strider was among the first wave of New York Pop artists and was included in “The First International Girlie Show” at the Pace Gallery in 1964, along with several soon-to-be stars of the movement, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann. She said she did not initially think of her works as Pop, but had grown bored in the 1950s making paintings that were perspectivally flat and began adding things like cardboard and wood to the surface to make them more sculptural.

strider dg11206 jn21 1024x463 MARJORIE STRIDER, más allá del Pop y el feminismo.

She did this with paintings of plants and vegetables but also with bright triptychs of bikini-clad women, adding what she called “build-outs” to make the breasts and bottoms of the women emerge realistically out of the image, a challenge to the passive gaze.
She described her pinup paintings as “a satire of men’s magazines,” and they — along with “Girl With Radish,” a 1963 work showing a woman’s cartoonish face with her mouth suggestively open and a bright red radish clamped between her teeth — remain some of her best-known pieces. But Ms. Strider was stylistically and intellectually restless and quickly moved on to other kinds of work, which rarely received the attention of her early paintings.
Berta Walker, the owner of a gallery in Provincetown, Mass., who knew Ms. Strider for many years, said that she “refused to be a factory of art when her gallery asked her — her downfall and her saving.”
Marjorie Virginia Strider was born on Jan. 26, 1931, in Guthrie, Okla., the second of five children. Her father was a cement contractor and her mother was a secretary at an Air Force base near Oklahoma City and also led local campaigns to improve literacy.
Ms. Strider attended the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri and Oklahoma State University and worked designing shoe-store window displays before moving to New York in 1957. “I never wanted to be anything but an artist,” she said in a 2010 interview. “That’s why I never had children. I knew I couldn’t do both and do both well.”
In 1960 she married the artist and writer Michael Kirby, who later became a professor of theater and performance at New York University. They were divorced in 1969. She is survived by a sister, Nancy Rattner; a brother, James D. Strider; and 11 nieces and nephews.
She supported herself for many years teaching at the School of Visual Arts, living in SoHo when that neighborhood was just emerging as an artists’ neighborhood and later in TriBeCa. In 1969 she was one of the organizers of a group of artists and poets who staged an influential public performance over several months called “Street Works.”
In them, Vito Acconci followed random strangers, being photographed as he did so. Adrian Piper recorded street noise and replayed it later, at double speed, walking in the same area where she had recorded it. For her own work, Ms. Strider hung more than 30 empty gilded picture frames in various places on the streets: on a fire hydrant, on a tree, against a painted wall. She then returned to the idea over several months, making it more conceptual as she went; in the area where she had hung the frames, she returned and draped a large felt banner with the words “Picture Frame” written on it.
For many years in the 1970s she worked with urethane foam, creating huge, sinuous installations that seemed to flow out of building windows or down staircases. Later paintings returned to the female form but often used it to play with abstraction: a close-up of a jawline, hair and mouth dissolving into hard line and bright color; a bikini bottom and legs as a five-triangle composition exercise. From 1982 to 1985, a retrospective of her work that began at the SculptureCenter in New York toured several cities in the United States.
At a time when women struggled mightily for visibility in the art world, Ms. Strider was often fearless and pointedly droll with her public image. In the winter 1971 issue of the art magazine Avalanche, she took out a full-page ad showing herself topless, riding a horse, in a slightly blurry, off-kilter picture that looks as if it could be the basis for a Gerhard Richter painting. Her perseverance, she said in an interview with Jonathan Gams, in the 2004 book “Marjorie Strider: Dramatic Gestures,” was sometimes all that got her through.

“I believed those men who either outright said or alluded to the fact that women weren’t good enough to compete in the real art world,” she said. “But thank God it didn’t stop me from working. I’ve always worked intensely.”

Right at Home: Pop art packs decor punch


Mid-century modern style is now firmly planted in the home décor landscape. And one of its elements, pop art, is cultivating a 21st century following. 
Eye-catching, graphic, often tongue-in-cheek or sassily whimsical, pop art décor plays well off the vintage vibe and yet also makes contemporary furnishings, well, pop.
In the 1950s, Abstract Expressionism dominated the art world, with Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock among its superstars. The canvas served as an arena for aggressive applications of paint. Conceptual, nonfigurative art found a strong following in the art world, if not always with average Americans, at least at first.
In the effervescent, culture-obsessed 1960s, artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney created collages, mixed media art and lithographs that depicted the talismans of popular culture. They took inspiration from consumer culture, from soap boxes to soup cans, flags to the funny papers, Marilyn Monroe to Mao. While some critics derided it as jokey, low-brow or too focused on materialism, the approachable imagery connected easily with mainstream America. It was hip, fun and relatable.
“I consider pop art a classic,” says Jennifer DeLonge, an interior and product designer in Carlsbad, California. “It was such an important time in design and it continues to withstand so many fleeting trends. As a designer, I'm always drawn to pop first because I appreciate graphic lines and very obvious color.”
DeLonge has launched a social marketplace app called Reissued that brings lovers of vintage, one-of-a-kind and hard-to-find items together to buy and sell. A bright yellow 1960s Coke bottle crate was recently up for grabs.'s pop art décor includes Quinze + Milan's giant Brillo box pouf. Also of note: Karlsson's minimalist wall clock made of two oversize red hands; Finnish designer Jonna Saarinen's abstract, printed birch tray in vivid tangerine and red; and lithographs in the Masters of Pop Art collection that includes Warhol's portrait of Muhammad Ali, Keith Haring's “Untitled” series, and Roy Lichtenstein's “Blonde Waiting.”
Biaugust's whimsical little black upholstered chairs shaped like ponies, lambs and buffalo are available at Mollaspace. Here too is a vivid bubble-gum-pink and Slushie-blue map of the world, as well as acrylic coasters printed with blank cartoon-speech bubbles that can be written on with a reusable pen, and a series of canvas storage bins printed with old-school boom boxes, radios and TV sets. 
A few pop art accessories in a room make a statement for a modest price. Creative Motion's cylindrical table lamp printed with comic-strip imagery is under $50. A collection of kicky, '70s-style graphic print pillows from notNeutral pack pop punch. 
Canvases and throw pillows from the Los Angeles art decor studio Maxwell Dickson feature some arresting, edgy designs, including a photorealistic image of a tableful of empty liquor bottles, a typographic traffic jam of color-blocked letters, and the word “POP” exploding like a cartoon graphic. 
The Museum of Modern Art's store has lots of pop art items from which to choose: Damien Hirst's white wall clock with colorful polka dots would be terrific in a child's room. Verner Panton's black and white Optik pillow features a dizzying kaleidoscope of circles and stripes that's as much “op” as “pop.” There's also a wide range of prints and postcards that you can frame yourself. 
Check for fabric yardage and wallpaper with pop art prints from new designers. There are psychedelic-inspired patterns, and even a chicken print that riffs off of the now- famous screen-printing technique that Warhol used for portraits.