‘The exhibition will reveal how pop was never just a celebration of western consumer culture, but was often a subversive international language of protest – a language that is more relevant today than ever’.
One of the greatest pleasures of coming back to visit London is that I can take full advantage of all the incredible exhibitions that are on at the moment. Within my first full week of being back home I was eager to visit the Tate Modern for their interesting take on pop art.
Often associated with being a western art movement, with British and American artists rising to prominence in the 1950s and 60s (most notably Andy Warhol, who everyone either knows or has heard of), The World Goes Pop shows a very different side to this ‘artistic and cultural phenomenon’. Instead of focusing solely on British or American artists, this exhibition draws in and gives space to more unknown artists who were expanding or exploding the framework of pop art during this period. With artists ranging from Poland and Slovakia to Japan and Brazil, it was intriguing to see how pop art was used to subvert popular culture and instil overt or covert messages on politics, the body, consumption and public protest.
One of the artists whose work I was particularly eager to see was Judy Chicago. She is most known for her feminist work, ‘The Dinner Party‘ (1979), where she reimagines the history of Western civilisation by adding notable female figures from the past that are often under-represented or ignored altogether. Although this wasn’t a pop art piece, so wasn’t included in the exhibition, I was still eager to see the three pieces from her car hood series, where she sculpted and painted car hoods in bright, psychedelic colours with allusions to the female sex. As she states in an interview:
‘My images are impaled on the hoods (or bonnets) of cars, which have always been a venerable icon of masculinity. They are a perfect symbol for my lifelong efforts to fuse masculine forms with feminine values’.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see a couple of artists from Slovakia included in the exhibition. As I will be moving to Bratislava in the new year I have been trying to find out as much as I can about the country’s art and culture. One of the artists that immediately struck my attention was Jana Želibská and her work entitled, Kandarya – Mahadeva (1969), which refers to an Indian temple of the same name and draws on tantric Hinduism and erotic rituals. In the room where this installation is placed, there are outlines of larger-than-life female dancers on the walls and in place of their private parts are mirrors, which completely subverts the gaze of the viewer. Apparently Želibská originally wanted the work to be shown in the street but was prohibited from doing so and a lot of her work shows similar ‘environments with fragmented female bodies’. You can see a Vine video of the Kandarya – Mahadeva at the Tate Modern here.
Here are some postcard replications of some of the pop art in the exhibition that I put together in my scrap book. Clockwise from top left, ‘Self-Distraction’ by Ángela Garcia, ‘Birth Hood’ by Judy Chicago and ‘The Pretty Month of May’ by Evelyne Axell.