Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky: Pop Art 1957–67 at Tate Modern

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This Autumn, the Tate Modern will be opening its exhibition The World Goes Pop, which will look at the global story of Pop art. So often seen as a Western phenomenon, with artists such as Warhol, Lichtenstein and David Hockney, this new show will demonstrate how different cultures and countries, from Latin America to Asia, responded to the movement.

However, in advance of this, the Tate has curated together some of the most instantly familiar Pop Art pieces from these Western artists together in a free display, Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky: Pop 1957–67.

No orthodox Pop Art display would be complete without Warhol and the Tate has his Marilyn Diptych from their permanent collection on show here. Completed in the months after her death, this famous piece of work takes a still from the film Niagara and repeats the image both in vivid colour and, more potently, in a fading black and white copy that echoes mortality.

Whaam! 1963 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Purchased 1966 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00897

There’s also a self-portrait from Warhol included in this display, a print where his facial features have been obfuscated to such a degree as to minimise recognition and individuality. And instead the image is layered with dense shades of red and a smattering of blue to anonymise, commoditise himself almost completely.

Also on show is Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam!, which is one of his famous works that used comic book imagery to interrogate difficult, emotive subjects such as, in this instance, war and death.

Most of the big names are, impressively, included in this small display, with a couple of Richard Hamilton’s, a David Hockney, a piece from Jasper Johns and Peter Blake also. But the Tate has also taken the opportunity to showcase some less familiar Pop artists alongside these household names.

The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg 1960 R.B. Kitaj 1932-2007 Purchased 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03082

A stand out piece was, for me, The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg by RB Kitaj. The 1919 murder of this German political activist may not seem the most obvious subject for a piece of 1960s Pop art but Kitaj was a very influential and innovative figure in Pop Art, often overlapping multiple images in a single piece, the result resembling a collage – as with this painting.

He also incorporated politics and history into his work, in particular, Jewish history, such as here, reflecting on the murder of Rosa alongside an image of his grandmother who was forced to flee Austria in the 1930s.

There are also a couple of sculptural pieces included in the display – Claes Oldenburg’s Counter and Plates with Potato and Ham, and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s The City of the Circle and the Square. Both of these pieces are bright and colourful, but both also examine consumerism through discarded objects, whether it be leftover food or pieces of scrap metal.

Tate Modern, London

Admission Free

Image Credits:

  1. Andy Warhol Marilyn Diptych 1962 © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
  2. Roy Lichtenstein Whaam! 1963 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
  3. R.B. Kitaj The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg 1960 © The estate of R. B. Kitaj

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