On Friday 17th January, I took at trip to the Barbican Gallery in London with my course cluster to see an exhibition called Pop Art Design.
“The exhibition presents the dynamic relationship between Pop Art and Design through a thematic kaleidoscope.”
The gallery introduced this exhibition as “[exploring ] and [analysing ]the origins and motives of this dialogue and [painting] a new picture of Pop: one that recognises the central role played by design.” It was interesting to see how Pop Art is used in design more than just looking at purely Pop Art. The exhibition took place on two levels: the first floor looked at Pop Beginnings before moving on to Pop Icons and the second floor looked at Pop Image and then From Pop to Postmodernism. The whole exhibition looked at bringing together all different specialism’s of art and design that come under the umbrella of Pop Art Design. There really was something for everyone.
I recognised a lot of artists names from the exhibition, in particular Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol who have two of the biggest names in this movement. It was exciting having the chance to view some of their work in a gallery as I haven’t before.
In The Car (1963) – Roy Lichtenstein
Flowers (1964) – Andy Warhol
Aside from these two artists, there was a lot of different pieces I was taken by. I thought Chair Thing and Table Thing by Peter Murdoch were intriguing as the chair and table were in fact made out of paper! They were really eye catching and I was amazed to find out they were in a sense giant origami! He created these pieces in the 1960’s and “captured the look” of the Pop Art movement . According to the V&A collection guide “The range of Chair Things, Stool Things and Table Things emphasised the multi-purpose, play-orientated function and reflected relaxing social attitudes towards children.” The 60’s was the continuation of a very laidback era that started in the 50’s, however now Britain was at the eve of Woodstock and Flower Power! Everything was starting to be more relaxed and especially for woman and children who were in some ways a minority before. Murdoch has tried to capture this idea in his artwork and show the more relaxed play and fun side of growing up. He has clearly thought about his idea and its link with a more innocent and childhood aspect of art.
Chair Thing, Table Thing (1968) – Peter Murdoch
I also loved Every Building on Sunset Strip, a photo sequence by previously studied artist Ed Ruscha. Although his piece is simple, it shows early motorized photography in which he mounted a motorized Nikon camera onto the back of a truck. I love how he captured the rawness of the street in 1966 and how at that time Sunset Strip was a gathering place of counter and commercial culture and was the scene of the winter riots involving police and beatniks. His piece shows something so incomplex as a street but has such a large story to tell. This piece was displayed on a white wall and it was the only piece on that wall however the extremities of the strip curved around to the other walls either side. This really showed the progression of the street and how it fitted in with the exhibition but being exhibited on its own and in translation with the other pieces.
Every Building on Sunset Strip (1966) – Ed Ruscha
The last piece that really caught my eye was called Table Setting and was created by Alexander Giraud. This piece is a strong graphic design piece whose bold colour immediately grabbed my attention. This design was placed next to an Andy Warhol textile piece and also a Roy Lichtenstein piece which helped it to grab the viewers attention. The artwork was actually created for Georg Jenson in which his commission was to create seven table settings for an exhibition in New York. All of the place setting were created around the “personalities and the situations of the company” of those who were seated at the table. He also designed the mats and dishes. I found this piece stood out in the exhibition not only because of its placing on the wall but also the fact its primary purpose is to catch the viewers attention being that is in an advertising design piece. that purpose. The design is bright and colourful and shows us a more graphic design side to the Pop Art movement.
Table Settings (1956) – Alexander Giraud
The curation was unique and also well achieved, it showed a progression that was smooth and methodological. It was pleasant to view, every piece was clearly labeled, it didn’t shock or have too many pieces in one place that would make it overcrowded and complicated for the viewer. It was easy to walk around and was not heavy or overdone. The spaces were never crowded and as photography was banned, people were not rushing to take photos. It was a simple but effective layout and therefore it was a strongly curated exhibition.
Personally I have been very inspired by this exhibition. It has made me not only want to look at Pop Art in greater detail but also I would like to use some of the pop art techniques in my practice. Although all of the pieces did not appeal to me, I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit this gallery and I hope that in the future I will be able to see more art exhibitions centered around Pop Art and Pop Art in Design.
Overall, I think the Pop Art Design show at the Barbican Gallery is a complete success. It not only captures the visitors attention but it also keeps them entertained and surprised throughout the whole gallery. The progression made it easy to follow and understand and I feel all elements of design were used which made it appeal to the general public and their wide spread interests. The open space of the Barbican lent itself to this exhibition as when you looked across the exhibition hall you were eager to see the pieces closer that were on the opposite side. I can see that the main Pop Artists are all shown in this exhibition and for that reason it does make a statement. I think this is a great show to go and see, not only for its solid collection but also for those who are not so interested in Pop Art because I feel it really does have something that appeals to everyone.