Catalogue entry

Eduardo Paolozzi 1924-2005

P03051P03058 Cloud Atomic Library 1971
Suite of etchings, each inscribed ‘Eduardo Paolozzi 1971 30/75’ b.r.

P03054 D. Top: Culture: Monkeys May be the Next Space Travellers on US Made Satellites. Bottom: X-15’s Maiden Flight

21 x 13¿ (53.5 x 35).
Presented by British Olivetti Ltd. 1971.
Repr: catalogue of Paolozzi retrospective, Tate Gallery, September–October 1971, pp. 36–41.

This suite was printed by Editions Alecto. The dimensions given above are those of the sheets. The artist wrote in the catalogue of his 1971 retrospective exhibition: ‘The original images were taken from a wide variety of sources and were often extremely small. They were retouched by a professional retoucher [see T01475 and T01476] and then photoetched.’ Page 36 of this catalogue reproduces the images in P03053 on the same page as the original images from which they were derived. Several of the images used in ‘Aloud Atomic Laboratory’ had been used by Paolozzi in earier work. For example P03057 used the same images as were employed in a collage dated 1952 of which the original was reproduced on p.57 of the catalogue of Paolozzi’s 1971 retrospective exhibition, and also as ‘Merry Xmas with T-I Space Suits’, No/29 in the suite of prints ‘Bunk’ 1972.

The suite ‘Cloud Atomic Laboratory’ is accompanied by a sheet in which the title of each etching is printed with supplementary information as to its source and/or content.

‘Cloud Atomic Laboratory’ was the second suite of etchings by Paolozzi to be published, having been preceded by a suite of twenty-four etchings, ‘The Conditional Probability Machine’ 1971. In the text of a monograph on Paolozzi, to be published in 1973, Frank Whitford writes: ‘Conditional Probability Machine and Cloud Atomic Laboratory…differ sharply from everything Paolozzi had produced before. They are the first etchings he had done and their subject-matter (again found imagery but manipulated much less than in earlier work) is at once thought-provoking and essentially pessimistic. Many of the images present men and animals as the victims of technology, show monkeys in space, for example, mice being experimented upon, or dummies demonstrating the effects of an automobile accident on the human frame. Their combined message is disturbing and has apocalyptic overtones.’

The artist told the compiler (conversation, 7 June 1972) that the images in ‘The Conditional Probability Machine’ were reproduced untreated. In this respect they contrast with those in ‘Cloud Atomic Laboratory’. Frank Whitford has written (op. cit.) that the way in which the ‘Cloud Atomic Laboratory’ etchings were produced ‘is further evidence of the artist’s need to experiment and of his desire to exploit the special skills of others. For the etching process employed here is usually only used in commercial printing and is basically photographic. In this kind of commercial etching the image is first adapted by a professional retoucher who emphasizes and eliminated parts of the original according to the characteristics of the etching process itself to ensure the best reproduction possible.
‘Paolozzi’s originals, most of them poor-quality newspaper photographs, were in any case impossible for straight reproduction, as several unsuccessful experiments proved. So the artist employed a retoucher who clarified some of the images to such an extent that the results look more like paintings than photographs. It is this ambiguity caused by the blurred line between “painted” passages and straight photography which gives the final etchings their strength.’

‘Once again, the transformation of reality by various methods of reproduction parallels much experience where the world is more often perceived at second or third hand through the filter of media than at first hand, directly. The subliminal effects of such a processed perception of reality frequently result in a blurring or deadening of the senses so that it can no longer be appreciated in its raw state. Paolozzi is anxious to heighten perception, to isolate and to high-light previously overlooked or undervalued areas of visual experience by processing it in a new way. By transforming the readymade, by pushing junk into a fine art context, he suggests ways in which they can be seen afresh or for the first time.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.