Peter Blake: Pop Pop


Peter Blake The Beatles 1963–8

Peter Blake
The Beatles 1963–8

© Peter Blake 2007. All rights reserved, DACS

Peter Blake Portrait of Sammy Davis Jnr 1960

Peter Blake
Portrait of Sammy Davis Jnr 1960

© Peter Blake 2007. All rights reserved, DACS

Blake’s work carries a distinct and uniquely British Pop aesthetic. The emergence in the 1960s of a proliferating youth culture meant that postcards, magazines and record sleeves became legitimate source materials for art-making. Blake regarded the mass produced products of the new pop culture as descendents of the popular arts of the past. Just as gaudy billboards defined the folk arts of yesteryear, the symbols of contemporary pop iconolatry enlivened the homes of fans and enthusiasts.

Blake’s series of girlie pin-up works registered the mass availability of printed media and the increasingly liberal society it serviced. The bedroom wall, refuge of the teenager, prompted a series of shrine-like montages, often depicting movie stars. An interest in the relationship between fans and idols, mediated through print, led Blake to create works using household doors that promise tantalising access to the world of fantasy and glamour, at the same time prohibiting entry.

From an early age Blake enjoyed weekly family outings to wrestling matches. His memories inspired a protracted and diverse series of works depicting wrestlers. Predominantly imaginary, each character is invested with a personal history invented by Blake and conveyed by the use of extravagant names and symbolic paraphernalia.

While Blake’s works often stylistically refer to fairground art, equally they often reference contemporary art trends – as in paintings such as Got a Girl 1960-1 and The First Real Target 1961 which alludes to American post-painterly abstraction. In the late 1980s he began a series of ‘déjà vu’ works, revitalised versions of his own classic 1960s Pop paintings. By taking the characteristic Pop art technique of appropriation - the use of real objects, print, ephemera – Blake’s approach in this series is a witty critique of Pop art using its own terms.