Jann Haworth

Beads and Background


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Jann Haworth born 1942
Screenprint on plastic, 5 printed plastic beads, synthetic material and nylon rope
Overall display dimensions variable
Purchased 2012


Beads and Background consists of five soft floor-based sculptures made of screen-printed vinyl stuffed with fibre and threaded onto a rope to appear like a giant bracelet of enlarged millefiore glass beads. The beads themselves are as they were first exhibited at the Robert Fraser Gallery, London in 1966, although the original rope has been replaced. Haworth treated such works as adaptable into different configurations for display and at various times the beads have been separated. At a later date, the artist showed the bracelet with the backdrop of a clear vinyl sheet onto which were printed the coloured segments of a further, unrealised bead. This backdrop is included here. The vinyl used in the work was printed by the artist’s mother, Miriam Haworth, who taught at the Central School of Art. The backdrop shows how the printed vinyl appeared before being cut into segments which were then stitched together and stuffed to produce the three-dimensional forms of the beads. These were then threaded on to a single rope. The work was made in London between 1963 and 1964.

Haworth’s work of the 1960s displays the aesthetics of pop art and she was one of a small number of women associated with the movement in Britain. Adopting the traditional female activities of sewing and upholstery as an ideological statement, she made images and life-size figures of film stars and such typical figures as a surfer, a cowboy and an old lady knitting, as well as replicas of everyday objects, both actual size (such as an upholstered china tea set and a vase of flowers) and enlarged. The historian Marco Livingstone has noted the affinity between Haworth’s use of soft materials and the work of the American pop artist Claes Oldenberg (see Marco Livingstone, ‘The Mom of Pop, Unpacking her Baggage’, in Mayor Gallery 2006, unpaginated). However, art historian Christopher Finch has pointed out that Haworth made her first such work, Old Lady I 1962, before Oldenberg’s first exhibition of work using such material (see Christopher Finch, ‘Jann Haworth: Stitches in Space and Time’, in Mayor Gallery 2006, unpaginated). In addition, Livingstone observed that:

By choosing to work exclusively in such material herself, then considered outside the domain of fine art and even (in masculine terms) as unworthy of it, Haworth reclaimed – specifically and proudly as “woman’s work” – the worth of a huge area of aesthetic activity written out of most male-dominated histories.
(Marco Livingstone, ‘The Mom of Pop, Unpacking her Baggage’, in Mayor Gallery 2006, unpaginated.)

Beads and Background was shown at the prestigious and fashionable Robert Fraser Gallery in London in Haworth’s first solo exhibition there in 1966. Her production of art lessened in the 1970s, when she concentrated on raising her family, only resuming her career in the 1990s with shows at Gimpel Fils in 1993 and 1996. Consequently, Beads and Background was not seen for many years, but has been exhibited more recently in solo exhibitions in London and Wolverhampton, as well as in a number of group exhibitions of pop art.

Haworth is perhaps best known as the co-creator, with her first husband Peter Blake, of the cover for The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Born in California, she moved to London as a student and attended the Courtauld Institute and the Slade School of Art. To distinguish her work from her largely male contemporaries, she adopted traditionally female activities to develop a language of soft figurative sculpture. In common with other pop artists, she made work on themes taken from popular culture including everyday objects and typical or famous figures.

Further reading
Christopher Finch, Image as Language, Harmondsworth 1969.
Marco Livingstone, British Pop, exhibition catalogue, Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao 2005.
Jann Haworth: Artist’s Cut, exhibition catalogue, Mayor Gallery, London 2006.

Chris Stephens
October 2011

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Display caption

Jann Haworth came from California to study at the Slade School of Art, where she adopted sewing and upholstery to create soft figurative sculpture as a way to explore popular culture while still asserting the value of traditional female artisinal activities. This is one of several soft sculptures of oversized pieces of jewellery that Haworth made at the time and was exhibited in her first solo exhibition at the Robert Fraser gallery in 1966. She and her first husband Peter Blake collaborated in 1967 on the cut-outs of famous figures for The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Gallery label, October 2013

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