Eduardo Paolozzi incorporated collage into his working practice in the winter of 1946, at the beginning of his final year at the Slade School of Art in London. In those early works images cut out from magazines were arranged in an unexpected but nonetheless spatially logical relation to one another. Thus in Real Gold 1949 (Tate T06934) a woman with a floor mop stands on the bonnet of the car while a couple on a motorbike ride over its roof. Around 1950, however, Paolozzi developed a new technique, which he used with One Man Track Team. He took covers from the Atlantic edition of the American weekly magazine Time, which were invariably faces of famous or powerful people, and cut them into narrow, predominantly horizontal, strips. Having dissected them in this way, he then created new faces by interchanging facial elements. From 1950 onwards the fragmented head was to become an important motif for Paolozzi and other Independent Group artists, among them Nigel Henderson (1917-1984), John McHale (1922-1978) and William Turnbull (b.1922). The use of Time as source material reflects an interest in American culture shared by many in the group.
One Man Track Team, which is created from fragments of Time covers published between 1952 and 1953, includes the facial features of two politicians, a bishop and a clean-cut American athlete. The hair is that of Sir Anthony Eden (1897-1977), at the time Foreign Secretary in Winston Churchill's Conservative government (1951-5). The eyes are Walter Ulbricht's (1893-1973), the leader of the German Democratic Republic, who was demonised in Time as a puppet of the Soviet Union and held responsible for the ruthless suppression of the uprising on 17 June 1953 in East Germany. The map to the left of Ulbricht's eyes shows East Germany surrounded by barbed wire with flames rising from East Berlin. The nose and ears are those of Bishop Fulton J Sheen (1895-1979), a highly prominent spokesman of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Through his radio broadcasts on The Catholic Hour (1930-52) and his television programme Life is Worth Living (1952-5) his conservative views on Communism, Freud, and evolution were well known in America and may have had some currency in Britain. In a well publicised address to the United States Congress in 1950 Sheen had warned, 'You ought to pray that God, the sovereign King of nations, who once used Assyria as the rod and staff of His anger, will not now use Russia as the instrument of His justice for the liquidation of a Western World that has forgotten God' (quoted in Time, vol. LIX, no 15, 14 April 1953, p.40). The chin is that of Bob Mathias (b.1930), one of the great American sporting celebrities to emerge at the London Olympics of 1948. Aged seventeen he won the decathlon gold medal a few months after leaving school and thus became the youngest athlete in Olympic history to win a track and field event. His extraordinary talent earned him the reputation of being a 'one-man track team'. In 1952 he retained his Olympic title in Helsinki and played in the Rosebowl as full-back for the Stanford University American Football team, making him the only person to compete in both events in the same year. During the Cold War (1945-89) sport was extremely politicised and such stars as Mathias were heavily exploited for propaganda purposes by their governments. While there is no recorded evidence of a specific political agenda underpinning One Man Track Team, the choice of people does imbue the work with a Cold War aura.
Paolozzi has stated that he was primarily attracted to collage by the immediacy of the technique and its conceptual function as a metaphor for the complex, fragmented nature of life and modernity. Writing in 1996 Paolozzi noted that, 'The reduction of skills and techniques paradoxically focuses the image by the potency of the content, the invention of the impossible is achieved by manipulation and jumping beyond pre-conception. Unlike the world of school where the universe was systematized in a certain order, the reassembly of this disparate material reflected a true state, both autobiographical and dynamic' (Eduardo Paolozzi, 'Artificial Horizons and Eccentric Ladders', Eduardo Paolozzi: Works on paper 1946-1995, exhibition catalogue, British Council, London 1996, p.11).
For some members of the British avant-garde, in particular those artists who were associated with the Independent Group, Paolozzi's use of mass-media imagery as art was a breakthrough for their own artistic development. A seminal event for many of them was his BUNK lecture given at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1952. Without commentary or clear sequential order, he projected various mass media images one after another, in way that might be described as a performed collage. The parochialism and idealism of much British art can, according to Paolozzi, explain the mix of excitement and shock with which the lecture was met at the time.
The title of the collage is taken from the strap-line that accompanied Time's cover photograph of Bob Mathias. The collage was probably made in London, possibly at Paultons Square, Chelsea, where Paolozzi and his wife Freda were living as tenants of the scholar and poet Kathleen Raine (b.1908), or at his studio in Radnor Walk, Chelsea, which he shared with William Turnbull. The discrepancy between the date of the magazine cover in the top left and Paolozzi's handwritten date in the bottom right suggests that he signed and dated the work at a later date.
Fiona Pearson, Eduardo Paolozzi, exhibition catalogue, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 1999, pp.20-31
Diane Kirkpatrick, Eduardo Paolozzi, London 1970, pp.19-46
David Robbins (ed.), The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty, pp.94-108