"The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection"

Art, Pop art
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"The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection"
Photograph: Michal Raz-Russo

This archival Pop Art collection lacks cohesion, but includes plenty of Warhol pieces.

While the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Pop Art Design” exhibition actively seeks to showcase artists who are not named Andy Warhol, companion exhibition “The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen” embraces the Pop Art icon wholeheartedly. You’ll find multiple examples of Warhol’s work strewn throughout the exhibit, which focus on pieces from the MCA’s permanent collection that draw inspiration from urban streets, the era’s burgeoning consumerism and the celebrity culture of Hollywood.

Those looking for Warhol’s most recognizable works should start off in “the store” section of the exhibit, which hosts eight of the artist’s Campbell’s Soup Cans—including a hot dog bean variant. Nearby, a rack filled with painted shards of metal fabricated by Swedish artist Claes Oldenburg seeks to replicate the sensation of looking at packaged sweets at a candy store, distilling the act of consumption to the base desires that drive it.

A section centered around “the silver screen” is almost entirely devoted to Warhol’s work, including his repetitious screen print of actor Troy Donahue, which acts as a commentary on the nature of being a celebrity whose visage is endlessly duplicated for public consumption. The display also includes two Warhol pieces that incorporate images of Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao, accentuating the rise of politicians as celebrities in their own right during the late ’60s and early ’70s. 

Perhaps the most interesting section of the exhibit is the one that surveys Pop Art inspired by urban settings. You won’t find much from Warhol here, but you will be able to see Ed Ruscha’s striking black and white photos of the buildings that lined Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip in the ’60s and ’70s, including popular clubs like Whiskey A Go-Go and Filthy McNasty’s. Other notable works in this section include Christo’s conceptual sketches of his wrapping of the MCA in 1968 and vibrant paintings of flamboyant characters by Chicago native Ed Paschke.

Though it is filled with compelling works, “The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen” is never as cohesive as MCA’s companion exhibit, “Pop Art Design,” which offers a more thorough and engaging overview of the artistic movement. Those interested in seeing rarely displayed pieces from the MCA’s permanent collection will enjoy what’s on view—everyone else will likely see this as a sparsely populated supplement to the exhibition next door.

By: Zach Long

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