The World Goes Pop
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Over 200 works by artists from Latin America to Asia celebrates the many faces of pop art.
This show isn’t about the pop art you know, it’s about the pop art that escaped the history books. And it certainly packs a punch. It’s fun, engaging, colourful, revelatory, opinionated, racy and stunning. Most importantly the show illuminates how pop wasn’t confined to Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York or Richard Hamilton’s studio in London – it was a phenomenon that reached much further, practiced by artists in Peru, Israel, Argentina, Japan, Brazil and Eastern Europe.
In an opening gallery painted scintillating red, the work quite literally pops off the walls. Here, traditional techniques are turned on their head, such as Japanese woodblock printing in Ushio Shinohara’s ‘Doll Festival’, (1966) which is reinvigorated with the use of industrial materials like Perspex.
Moving on, you’ll find the mimicry of media and the language of mass production, the repetition of advertising strategies and consumerist logos, the appropriation of icons from popular culture, the re-evaluation of the role of women and the subversion of political symbolism. It makes for a riveting, eye-opening group exhibition that re-educates us on a movement that really reached out to embrace us – and continues to do so.
The Brazilian military dictatorship of the 1960s is confronted in Marcello Nitsche’s giant flyswatter, ready and waiting to squish the tyrannical regime. Pop stars from western magazines are reimagined as the friends of Romanian artist Cornel Brudaşcu in his exquisite paintings. Basically everywhere you turn, the work is assessing the social, cultural and political terrain in which it was created.
Women artists have been most notably omitted from the canon of pop art, so it’s reassuring that the two female curators have made sure to rebalance the status quo. Naked women become domestic white goods in Martha Rosler’s brilliantly critical photomontages. Judy Chicago’s electric car hoods, emblazoned with female anatomy, are concisely hung in a small gallery dedicated to ‘folk pop’, though it’s a category the show perhaps could have done without.
The voice of the people is heard most loudly in a large gallery near the end of the show given over to the ‘pop crowd’. Here the energy of political disillusionment ricochets around the walls, especially in Henri Cueco’s ‘Large Protest’ (1969) whose cut-out abstracted figures stride towards revolution.
Pop proves to be a truly universal language, one that gave artists the impetus to create works that are as stimulating intellectually as they are visually. No longer will these artists be footnotes to the Anglo-American pop art story because here, rightly, they take centre stage.
RECOMMENDED: Read our full guide to 'The World Goes Pop' at Tate Modern