Over a few months in 1972 three songs appeared that would define a new era: T Rex’s Metal Guru, David Bowie’s Starman and Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain. Their self-conscious yet confident and poised style that became collectively known as Glam rock (though some hated this label) erupted from the hippy generation that preceded it. As Jon Savage writes, they ‘crashed the barriers between high and low culture, fine art and street style’. The key characters of this period in art, music and film from both Europe and the USA appear in Tate Liverpool’s Glam! The Performance of Style, the first exhibition of its kind on this subject.
A decade earlier there was a different kind of watershed moment, when American Pop art fully entered the minds of British artists. For Allen Jones, his ‘creative imagination was set free’ after seeing reproductions (in black and white) of Roy Lichtenstein’s work in 1962. He recalls the ‘culture shock’ that liberated his generation of artists (including fellow Europeans, as John-Paul Stonard explores), to explore ‘a new pictorial language consonant with our times’. These early works and many others will be on view in Tate Modern’s Lichtenstein retrospective.
One wonders if the residents of the Lake District would have experienced a comparative sense of revelation (or perhaps bafflement) on entering Kurt Schwitters’s Merz barn, the third of his Merzbau constructions, unfinished at the time of his death in 1948. Paul Farley, in his evocative celebration of the artist’s final decade spent in England, to coincide with Tate Britain’s ground-breaking exhibition Schwitters in Britain, likens entering the ruins of the barn to ‘coming across the image of a semiconductor on a cave wall’. Schwitters cast a long and influential shadow over the decades that followed. As Farley notes, there is a whole history of his impact on British culture, from the art school bands of the 1960s and 1970s to the look of Punk packaging. And the 1980s were ‘pure Schwitters, a sound collage’.
The German’s legacy continues across the globe. In Melanie Smith’s video work Xilitla (which entered Tate’s collection last year and is now on display), she subtly interweaves part of Schwitters’s Ursonate into her Mexican narrative, while Adam Chodzko and Laure Prouvost present two new commissioned works inspired by Schwitters which you can see in the Tate show.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
Tate’s online research project, The Camden Town Group in Context, brings together much new material on the artists in this short-lived but influential group. Here, Robert Bevan’s great-grandson pays homage to this early colourist and his lesser-known artist wife Stanislawa de Karlowska
America is often seen as the home of Pop Art, but many European artists were producing ground-breaking work, some of which made reference to Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings
Roy Lichtenstein was widely regarded as one of the key figures of American Pop Art. A pioneer of a new style of painting that looked industrially made but was done by hand, he became best known for his works based on comic strips and advertising images. Tate Modern’s exhibition includes his lesser-known early black-and-white Pop paintings, as well as seascapes and abstracts, sculptures in ceramic and brass and previously unseen drawings and collages
Whaam! has been described as one of the most powerful monuments of 1960s Pop Art, and remains one of Tate’s most popular works on display. But how was it made?
Fellow artist Allen Jones pays his respects to the late great American Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein
Sylvia Sleigh (1916–2010) was a Welsh-born realist painter who spent much of her life in New York with her husband, the art critic Lawrence Alloway. She was best known for her feministinspired nude portraits of men, often people she knew. They were depicted in poses taken from art history, with the aim of reversing the stereotypical portrayal of women in art. This is the first UK exhibition of her work
A basket of crayons, a colourful conch, a pile of berries, two blue buckets on the floor. Peter Fraser’s photographs of everyday objects, interiors and scenes, many of which will be included in Tate St Ives’s forthcoming exhibition, may look simple enough, but for one writer they are full of resonance
Was this the same Kurt Schwitters, founder of Merz, collaborator with Dadaists, Cubists and Constructivists, who won first, second and third prizes in the 1946 Ambleside flower show art competition? A new exhibition picks up where many accounts trail off, examining the final years of a major European modernist on the run, who made work from the detritus of wartime London and the Romantic landscapes of the Lake District
In the early 1970s, when T Rex, David Bowie and Roxy Music appeared on stage in wild costumes and with androgynous looks, Britain was witnessing the emergence of a new aesthetic that blended high and low culture. Glam had arrived. Tate Liverpool’s Glam! The Performance of Style is the first exhibition of its kind to trace this varied and colourful history that was widely embraced by both musicians and artists alike. But what was Glam, and what did it mean?
Caterina Albano, Hong Ling, Rosa Barba and Henry Holland reflect on works in the Tate collection, including a recent purchase by Tate Members
Mike Kelley’s Channel One, Channel Two and Channel Three 1994, now on display at Tate Modern, is a potent work filled with many seductive attributes of the late artist’s œuvre…
Melanie Smith’s video Xilitla, which focuses on Edward James’s extraordinary gothic Mexican garden Las Pozas de Xilitla, was purchased by Tate last year. Here, the artist reveals her ideas behind the work, now on display at Tate Modern
Tate Etc. introduces a recent purchase now on show at Tate Modern: Santu Mofokeng’s The Black Photo Album | Look at Me 1997
Wassily Kandinsky is generally regarded as the pioneer of abstract art. However, a Swedish woman called Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) might claim that title. On the eve of a retrospective of this little-known but fascinating artist, Tate Etc. looks at the evidence
William Scott (1913–1989) is known for his still lifes, landscapes and nudes produced over a 60-year period. A friend of Rothko and de Kooning, he deftly blended mid-twentieth-century American and more historic European influences in his paintings, which oscillate between figuration and abstraction. To coincide with the first retrospective of his work in more than twenty years, David Anfam reveals the complex emotional ambiguity in Scott’s art that aimed for ‘beauty in plainness’
In 1971 the Israeli artist Avital Geva took a lorry filled with second-hand books and dumped them in baskets on a strip of land that divided a kibbutz and a Palestinian village. Why?
The spectacular images created by an Englishman that first revealed the sights along the Nile for those back home
Works in focus
Many of us are familiar with Barbara Hepworth’s drawings of surgeons and staff in operating theatres, which were done in various hospitals over a number of years. But what did the sculptor think about the process? As this extract from a lecture she gave to a group of surgeons in c.1953, recently published for the first time, reveals, her experience taught her of the affinities between the artist and the surgeon, both of whom seek ‘to restore and to maintain the beauty and grace of the human mind and body’