Paolozzi exhibition a ShowPopper at Greenham Base
General Dynamic F.U.N.: prints by Eduardo Paolozzi at The Base, Greenham. Review by LIN WILKINSON
The Base is currently hosting a Hayward Gallery touring exhibition of 50 screenprints and photolithographs by Eduardo Paolozzi, a pioneer of the UK Pop Art movement.
Working in the mid-20th century, Paolozzi and other Pop artists appropriated images and techniques from mass media, the consumer society and popular culture, including advertising, film, posters, magazines and comics, with American culture very influential.
The non-sequential prints on show, made between 1965-70, share a strong sense of graphic design, their provenance in Cubist collage and the work of Hannah Hoch.
Their enigmatic titles owe a debt to Surrealism. They are printed from collages of often unrelated material, a kaleidoscope of colour from an image-saturated age: Disney characters, American icons, some classical images.
Some works are playful, others have a political or satirical edge, often created by accompanying text, which can be random and disconnected. These fractured images feel very relevant today.
Presley and Taylor are framed by lines, blocks and squares of strong colour, pre-dating Warhol’s more famous images. Calling Radio Free America is a collision of images of 50s and 60s America; gleaming labour-saving appliances, an oversized forkful of a Betty Crocker ready-mixed cake (they tasted like glue), and a TV pundit. Sex Crime Wave Rolling High teams an American car (redolent of forbidden pre-marital sex) topped by a bikini-clad woman, with two phallic rockets and an early circuit-board; a composite image of shiny, modern American life and its promise of dream fulfilment.
Some compositions are formal, highly-coloured arrangements of individual elements. The Impossible Dream: It’s All the Same pairs stamp-sized images of film icons with popular song titles or classical music references. Some arrangements are of mechanistic elements or geometrical shapes, their small scale intensified by vivid colour.
Some works prefigure Paolozzi’s tapestries. Similar Remarks Apply to Uranium 235 is a dizzying pattern of squares and lines, which somehow also suggests a mathematical formula. There is an interest in mechanistic figures, as in Synthetic Sirens in the Pink Light, which recall Paolozzi’s assemblages, and Jesus Colour By Numbers juxtaposes the sacred and the secular; the approach needs no explanation.
Paolozzi, like many artists of his time, was not interested in the fine-art concept of “originality” and the traditional significance of the artist’s hand. He utilised the mass-media, just as contemporary artists now work with digital and internet content. His work feels very pertinent to today’s shifting art world, where creative demarcations are not only blurred, but actively pursued and celebrated.
The show runs to July 24 (Wed to Sun 10-5pm; tickets £6.50; concessions).