Wednesday, 31 December 2014

EXHIBIT: MEETING THROUGH POP ART | PART I

Before Christmas I took a trip to visit Saatchi's 'East meets West' and the Royal Academy's Anslem Keifer exhibition.
Celebrating the multitude of art in China, the former Soviet Union, Taiwan, the UK and the USA, some 250 works in the Saatchi reflect the individuality and vibrancy of the 20th c. Pop Art movement.

Split into 6 themes, spread over different floor spaces and rooms, there was a real sense of an understanding of the culture of the time.  Habitat; Advertising and Consumerism; Celebrity and Mass Media; Art History; Religion and Ideology; Sex and the Body - it seemed no element of society was left unrepresented!

Considering Pop Art is such an iconic contemporary movement with the works of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, mass produced in every form of consumer goods and studied in schools, they have become the epitome of everyday culture.   Typically when I think of Pop Art, I immediately imagine soup cans, comic strips, celebrity icons all repeated in a series of bold colours.  Yet the exhibition displayed the diversity of the movement, examining Western art with its Eastern counterpart 'Sots Art'.  From my overall experience at the exhibition, I felt it intriguing to see how the art from bipolar nations during the Cold War shared similarities; exploiting familiar imagery to connect with the viewer, generating influential movements paving the way for a new generations of artists.
Political Activist Ai Weiwei's 'appropriated' 2,000 year old Han dynasty Urn's dipped in industrial paint, serves to critique the Chinese State's destruction of the historical during the 'Cultural Revoultion'.
'Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank' by Jeff Koons is part of the series 'Equilibrium' underpinning the commercial value and commodification of objects into art.

On first view, Koon's piece seems it has been similarly composed to Damien Hirst's 'Natural History' collection, using a solution of formaldehyde to preserve the basketballs within the centre of the tank.  Surprisingly, this is not the case.  Using the laws of physics and chemistry - with the aide of physicist Richard P. Feynman, the basketballs are floating in the centre of nothing less than distilled water.  Due to the nature of water as a fluid, the basketballs will slowly move around.  Initially created with equal distance between each ball, over time they gradually move to sink to the bottom.  No doubt if you were to visit them now, they would be in completely different positions, reflecting the inability as humans to control their constant state.
It was only after researching Xu Zhen, did I realise I had seen the name before.  A few years back I had visited the Hayward Gallery, London to see the 'Art of Change' exhibition, displaying the 'new direction' of China's art.  Leading the show, Xu's work 'Performa' was mind-boggling impressive, presenting the illusion of people frozen in gravity-defying tilted positions.

Just as impressive but in a completely different form, Xu Zhen's 'Made-In Company' mixed media canvases were particular works which captured my attention.  Textile mixed media develops bold and textural compositions which Xu's application of embroidery and layers have achieved through the creation of overcrowded collages mapping society.  Having incorporated elements of textiles into my own work, I can just imagine the attention to detail in stitching must have been incredibly time consuming! Leaving absolutely no negative space, the chaos created by the plethora of actions occurring in the scene, means there's always something new to discover - reminiscent of 'Where's Wally' books or those impossible puzzles you receive at Xmas!
Walking into a room overwhelmed by 188 national flags lit in ambient light, was a stark contrast to the other Pop Art works displayed around the gallery.  Created by Chinese artist Gu Wenda, the 'United Nations - Man and Space' installation is an astonishing sight, completely made out of human hair. An ambitious project, Gu's piece used hair from around four million people, to demonstrate his interpretation of humanity united.

Artist's reworkings and homages to Duchamp's 'Fountain' and Warhol's 'Soup Can' were also displayed in dedicated rooms.  Vitaly Komar & Alexander Melmaid's Post Art series involving Warhol's iconic can, displays his work as if it had survived a war.  Both Russian artists who helped establish 'Sots Art'; a wave of Soviet noncomformist art, I felt this piece also reflected the repression and degredation of the people living under the Iron Curtain.


Kat 

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