You might have noticed a slight shift in emphasis regarding our recent acquisitions in the gallery of late. Well you’re not imagining it, we have indeed been broadening our horizons, to include a whole raft of current and popular artists who have firmly established themselves in a growing movement of contemporary urban art, including genre’s such as Graffiti and pop art styles.
Don’t be mistaken though, if you think we are attempting to introduce a new era in art, we are most definitely not. I would like to write a little about how this current wave draws from the rich history of abstract expressionism and pop art, and has been growing stronger and stronger by the day to the point where it is accepted by the mainstream audience in a way it has never been before.
And if you think I’m going to write an intellectual critique worthy of a Uni assignment you’ve got another thing coming too. Just so you know!
But let’s talk about the big boys, from Robert Rauschenberg to Andy Warhol, for a moment. Credit where it’s due and all that. I have to thank the BBC and Alastair Sooke for reminding us about how wonderful Robert Rauschenberg was in their programme, Robert Rauschenberg pop-art pioneer.
It’s a must watch if possible. I first discovered Rauschenberg as a student and it opened up a whole new world to me of using found objects in an interactive way and combining striking images with textures and objects that were considered the detritus of modern life. Elevating the household to the level of high art was a hugely significant mark that he left for us.
I can never decide whether to call him an abstract expressionist or a pop-artist and that is because he was the link between the two. More commonly associated with Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol and the fact that he continued to work until 2008 when he died, it is easy to forget how long he had been creating work.
Quite rightly the programme celebrates his collaborative style and his fearless nature and to coin an all too used phrase his ability to ‘think outside of the box’ Well, that was his speciality.
Jasper Johns also used everyday items that could be found around the home. Such items included beer cans, light bulbs, and paint brushes. But he was famous for his use of maps and flags. These images became household images particularly ones depicting the American flag, engraved onto our retina as a symbol of bold American modern pop-art.
I don’t really feel the need to talk about Andy Warhol as such as, well, he was Andy Warhol! All I might need to mention is soup perhaps, right? That’s it, you are getting the idea.
Over the 50’s and 60’s artists were discovering the ability to reproduce. The innovations which were found in screen printing, lithography, and etching, would completely revolutionize this field of art. Why produce an image from scratch when perfectly good ones already exist? And why produce only one image which can be sold only once when you could produce many. This medium would also allow for much greater experimentation than before as well, endless permutations and variations could be created allowing greater expression.
To be an artist you have to give up everything, including the desire to be a good artist.”
There was a sort of anti-art going around which appealed to young people and took away the elitist stigma associated with high art.
That sentiment links in with the growing frenzy for graffiti art over the next few decades from both sides of the Atlantic. Accessible to all and drawing from our heros of pop art.
Of course, graffiti art has it’s own heros such as Jean-Michel Basquiat. The New York artist whose work reflected hip hop culture, post punk and street art, bringing everything into the mix.
Here in the Silver Star Gallery, Chester we have amongst others, the work of SR47, Mr Sly, Sage Barnes, and most recently Dan Pearce, whose work features people and iconic images that evolve from the world of celebrity and fame.
If I listed the artwork we have in stock it might seem to some like reading from a guest list for a red carpet event in Hollywood. Such is the magnetism our icons have for us.
It is no coincidence or chance that we as a culture are slightly obsessed with the idea of fame. It is not also surprising that we keep returning to images of Marylin Monroe or the Queen for instance. They are buried in our psyche as much as our own face in the mirror.
Will we ever tire of Audrey Hepburn or Jonny Rotten? I think not. The Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes? never. Miss out on the opportunity to constantly remake and reinvent, experiment and push the boundaries, tweek and alter? No, definitely not.
These works as with many before reflect the music, the film and popular culture that we all can associate with, they pay homage to, offer tributes to, immortalise, and express but most of all they reflect us.
We all need to mix it up, push boundaries, celebrate our similarities and our differences, and even plagiarise, so I’ll leave you with this: “You gotta ask yourself one question, Do I feel lucky?, well do ya, punk?”