As the cheer of Christmas fades and the guilt of gluttony sets in, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s Improved Beans 1972 plucks on our gut strings and prompts us to think about the simpler (food)stuffs in life.
Born in 1924 in Leith near Edinburgh Paolozzi grew up above the ice cream shop his Italian parents owned. Influenced by childhood experiences of technology and popular culture, throughout his artistic career Paolozzi was interested mass media, modern machinery and science. In the late 1940s and 1950s he made a series of collages using images gathered mainly from magazines given to him by American ex-servicemen. Cans of fruit flank pin-up girls and men in space suits abut kids at Christmas with toy rocket guns awaiting a jet-propelled Santa Claus.
Mixing the absurd juxtapositions of Surrealism with his interest in modern mechanisms, glamour is met head-on with survival and the intricate meaning behind consumer culture is explored.
Paolozzi was a key member of the Independent Group who pioneered the Pop Art movement in Britain. At the end of 1951 he decorated the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London for their New Year’s Eve party. Here the group’s first year was announced and he presented the pages of his scrapbooks in what has become a seminal lecture in the history of Pop Art. In 1972 Paolozzi grouped together the collages and reproduced them into a portfolio of 46 prints entitled BUNK.
This title echoes his belief that his work should respond to contemporary culture and refers to the famous statement of the American car manufacturer Henry Ford:
‘History is more or less bunk…. We want to live in the present’.
As we too celebrate the dawn of a New Year, perhaps steps can be made to practice temperance and break new personal ground this January. Much like the Improved Beans illustrated we can open our lids, pour the contents, gently melt away our neuroses and hope to improve ourselves.