Sunday, February 19, 2017

Local Art Seen: Pop Evolution Exhibit at the Tweed Is Worth Writing Home About

"Turning a Blind Eye" by Jerry Ott
"I am a deeply superficial person." --Andy Warhol

Sixties Pop had come of age when I was becoming an art student at Ohio University and, to be honest, I didn't like it. At the time I was immersed in the painterliness of the abstract expressionists and modern impressionists. Dada and surrealism captured my imagination, and Warhol's screen printed gaudiness did not. And I especially hated Lichtenstein's blown-up cartoon panels.

Despite my own feelings about the movement, which originated in New York with the likes of Andy Warhol (who I did feel was doing interesting things) and Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and James Rosenquist, the movement was highly influential, opening up new terrain for young artists and altering the landscape significantly by once again forcing the question, "What is art?"

All this to say that there is an exciting new exhibit in the Special Exhibitions Gallery at the Tweed Museum of Art through the end of March. The show is titled Pop Evolution, with works curated from the Tweed's permanent collection.

"Truck" by Warhol
What's impressive about the Tweed show is that it shows how widespread the Pop Art influence became. The superstars of this movement may have been the ones with top billing in New York, but the streaming colorwheel of their influence flowed everywhere. The ubiquitous Andy Warhol may have been the ringleader, but he hardly acted alone. Artists like Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Larry Rivers may have helped pave the way by knocking down some of the fences, but art wanted to be free... free from constraints, and to a large extent free from the galleries. (Warhol's art today is hardly free, though. Van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol works are among the most expensive a billionaire collector can own.)

When one reads about Pop Art today, the art history books make reference to the subject matter being one of its hallmarks. That is, instead of being about important subjects, the lens of the artists' eye was focused on the mundane, the ordinary, and in the case of soup cans or Brillo boxes, commodities. This later led eventually to installation-type shows that the general public would have yet greater difficulty appreciating or understanding. At least Warhol's Marilyn was interesting, even if gaudy. But what does one make of a dozen railroad ties lying in the middle of a gallery space?

"Love Cross" by Robert Indiana
Two pieces by Mildred Howard on collaged found papers.
"Sitting Bull" by S. Patricia McMahon
The dada movement that preceded Pop was anti-art and anti-capitalist. Andy Warhol emerged from an ad agency background that had Capitalism written all over it. In some ways Madison Avenue and Warhol's Factory were two peas in a pod.

Pop Art was in many respects a mirror of what was happening in the broader culture as values of all kinds were being brought into question. Here are some links about Pop Art that you may find informative:
What Is Pop Art?
Pop Art -- The Art of Popular Culture
The Emergence and Evolution of the Pop Art Movement

Pop Evolution is just one reason to get up to the Tweed. There's plenty more to see in the museum's various galleries. If you have not been there in a while (on the UMD campus) then you owe it to yourself to find a way.

EdNote: Bill Shipley, who spent most of his career in the Big Apple art scene, will be giving a gallery talk about this exhibition on March 11, from 2-3 p.m.

Jerry Ott, "Turning a Blind Eye"
Art is exciting, and there's a lot of it happening here in the Twin Ports. This Thursday will be the closing reception to the Duluth Art Institute Member Show and opening for Carla Hamilton's Gezielt (Targeted) and Elizabeth Kuth's "Rooted Expression." Also on display will be the Emerging Photographers exhibit in the corridor gallery.

And this coming Saturday the DAI Art Film Series begins, eight art films with discussions afterwards. The first film is "Frida" with UMD's Jamie Ratliff leading the post-show discussion. The films begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Zinema. (Admission is $5)

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

No comments: