The World Goes POP is the latest celebration of Pop Art showcased at the Tate Modern galleries. The exhibition is split into ten rooms, each focusing on the 67 different artists and sectors the pop art exhibition has to offer. It is an insight into how varying cultures and countries contributed to the movement in the 1960s and 70s and how they tackle central themes such as feminism, war and social identity. Allow yourself to be transformed by this explosion of colour and creativity, paint and rubber; video and print, all combined to keep you fascinated at this often dismissed artistic movement.
The first room shares the collection of work by the two artists Eulalia Grau and Joe Tilson. At first you are hit by the repeated image of faceless figures, large prints of women with 3D tongues tumbling out of the walls and their eyes painted as green birds. In style the room is cartoonish, bold and brash. The walls are washed in fuchsia and lime so that the canvases are illuminated. Grau’s series entitled Ethnographies uses cut up pieces of adverts to address certain political issues such as celebrity, femininity and inequality. Tilson’s work includes cushions with typed print on them, reminiscent of 1960’s newspaper articles. Pictures of women in black bras staring down at the camera points at a deeper message about how women are perceived in the media.
Other memorable works include a large sculpture called ‘Kill fly 1942’ by Marcello Nitsche. A large yellow hand looms just below the ceiling. It holds a blue spatula and ordains red, garish nails. This is a piece that belittles the viewer, making them think that they are the fly under the gaze of an ever-present spatula. But this has a deeper meaning that initially anticipated. It is a reference to the Brazilian military dictatorship. Pop art now lends itself to address much bigger political controversies. Art is subverting the social norm.
This is also seen in the punishment, an art instillation by artist Rafael Canogar. We see an outline of man dressed in all black struggling on the floor. On top of him, beating him is the watery splodge of a policeman. For Canogar, he ‘desired to adopt a critical reading into Spanish reality.’ His need for truthfulness drove him to create such works as The Punishment. He felt it his right to shine a light onto stories and images that were left in the shadows.
Joe Overstreet’s piece called The New Jemima 1993 is a haunting look into the American commercial industry. On a three dimensional cuboid is a painting of the pancake brand Aunt Jemima. But instead of holding a plate of syrupy pancakes, she wields a large gun and smiles. This is Overstreet’s symbol of black pride. It is a dominating piece, sitting profoundly in the corner. Overstreet liked the idea that ‘she would be cooking with the gun and if anybody started messing with her she would be shooting them with the machine gun.’
Room four is a tribute to Cornel Brudascu’s work. Counter culture was experienced through western magazines He would transform images of his friends by transporting their heads onto famous rock stars, giving them the impression of fame and heightened status. The edges of his figures are blurred and fuzzy giving a dream like quality. His photographic experiments allow the common man to have a taste of public image. This is seen specifically in Gutarist.
Room five is marked as Pop at Home stemming from the idea to transform your domestic home and reimagining its decor. Much of the artwork in this work is a magnify glass on the role of the woman. The 1960s and 70s saw these pressures subvert and alter what it means to have sex and provide for family. The female body is manipulated as if it were an object such as Bernard Rancillac 1931 Pilules capsules conciliabules. In this image the canvas is split. On the right half one-woman whispers to another, on the lefts a small foetus floats in an egg. It is a painting remarking on the legalisation of the contraception pill. The two women represent the arguments brought about by the Catholic church at this form of contraception.
Evelyne Axell – Permis dans les deux sens
The other rooms are called Pop Bodies Jana Zelibska, pop crowd, folk pop and consuming pop. Works that really stands out are those by Evelyne Axell. Permis dans les deux sens is a large orange circle with three smaller images inside it. The top is a green watching eye and the bottom two a close up of a woman putting on or taking off a stocking. This peephole insight is a wider message of voyeurism and the sexual obsession that comes with it.
In keeping with this style is Nicola L’s Little TV woman 1969. A dummy propped up with a television for a stomach. She has no facial detail and her mouth is a perfect o like a blow up doll. The woman is restricted as a piece of entertainment for those around her more important. The Tate gallery is enabling women to have a platform of expression and the majority of the time the thing they want to express is what it is like to be a woman. Female identity. Sexuality and the problems they have faced because of their gender. Natalia LL’s film on loop continues in this trend. A black and white video of women eating food erotically is tucked away in the last room of the exhibition.
The whole exhibition is a feast for a grand scope of audiences. There is so much content to sift through, you will be wandering around for a good few hours to take it all in. On the surface each piece is an impressive dedication of artistic discipline and craft but upon further research they underscore deeper meanings and fight against particular movements. Situated on London’s embankment, it is far too convenient to miss.
‘The World Goes Pop’ is at Tate Modern, 17 Sept to 24 Jan, tate.org.uk