Evelyne Axell, ‘Valentine’ 1966
Evelyne Axell, Valentine 1966 . Tate . © ADAGP, Paris / DACS, London 2020

Room 12 in Media Networks

Beyond Pop

Whaam!

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!  1963

Whaam! is based on an image published in 1962 in the DC comic, All American Men of War. Lichtenstein often drew on commercial art sources such as comics and advertisements. He was interested how they depict highly emotional subject matter relating to love or war in a cool, impersonal way.

Gallery label, August 2018

© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

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Atlantic Civilisation

André Fougeron, Atlantic Civilisation  1953

Fougeron was the leading artist associated with the French Communist Party in the early 1950s. Here he caricatures the increasing Americanisation of Europe, then a major target of Communist Party propaganda. Fougeron’s style plays on the comic -strips associated with American culture. A businessman greeting an American car embodies capitalism. The composition is full of elements that imply criticism of the French colonial wars in Indo-China and North Africa, the continuing nuclear threat and the exploitation of the underprivileged. The electric chair on a pedestal refers to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, American citizens convicted of spying for the USSR.

Gallery label, February 2016

© The estate of the André Fougeron

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Valentine

Evelyne Axell, Valentine  1966

In Valentine Axell combines an idealised feminine silhouette with a spacesuit helmet. It was made during the 1960s space race, when the United States and the Soviet Union competed for dominance in space exploration. The title refers to Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Axell presents her as both a feminist heroine and a sexualised figure. Axell’s paintings have been described as a ‘sexual revolution in art’. They combat gender discrimination, linking women’s political and social freedom with female sexuality.

Gallery label, August 2018

© ADAGP, Paris / DACS, London 2020

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Untitled (Square 2)

Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Square 2)  2003

Polke’s paintings often combine printed images with expressive mark-making. He began using pictures from newspapers, magazines and books in the 1960s. Here he overlays a winged figure and a group of women with areas of free-flowing paint. Polke enlarges the imagery to show the black dots used to create tone. This emphasises its origins as an existing printed image. The original image, however, has been altered almost beyond recognition.

Gallery label, August 2019

© The estate of Sigmar Polke/ DACS 2020

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Wall Explosion II

Roy Lichtenstein, Wall Explosion II  1965

This wall-mounted sculpture turns an explosion into a stylish icon. There is no sense of any resulting destruction. Lichtenstein made this sculpture at a time when the USA was heavily involved in the Vietnam War. It is based on an illustration in a popular boys’ comic that focused on the Second World War. The blue steel mesh with its regularly punched holes relates to the Benday dots used in printing of comics and newspapers.

Gallery label, August 2018

© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

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This is Radio Moscow ...

Viktor Pivovarov, This is Radio Moscow ...  1992–6

This is Radio Moscow … 1992–6 is a painting in enamel on canvas mounted on fibreboard. It combines image and text, presented in a comic book style. The painting depicts an apartment room at twilight rendered primarily in dark blue. A door opens into the room, through which a view of the sun setting behind a neighbouring apartment building, painted in a bright yellow, is visible. On a table in the foreground are a lit lamp painted in a slightly darker yellow, an open book and a half-drunk glass of tea. The Russian text that runs along the bottom of the painting and gives the work its title provides an exact time for the scene, relaying an announcement on an unseen radio: ‘This is Radio Moscow. The time in Moscow is 19 hours 30 minutes. The next show is “Theatre at the Microphone”…’ The text and objects suggest the recent presence of the apartment’s resident. However, the human figure is absent, an omission accentuated by a partly obscured portrait hanging on the wall, which shows the outline of a male bust with a blank face. Despite the seemingly innocuous and tranquil setting, these absences suggest a sense of unease and menace.

© Viktor Pivovarov

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Study for Gates No. 4

Chryssa, Study for Gates No. 4  1967

Chryssa was one of the first artists to use neon, previously just an advertising tool. She moved to New York in the 1950s and said she was inspired by Times Square ‘with its light and letters’. This work is made of sixteen blue neon forms housed in a grey Plexiglass structure made to resemble the night sky. The repeated forms are fragments of the letter ‘S’. Chryssa said, ‘I have always felt that when things are spelled out they mean less, and when fragmented they mean more.’

Gallery label, August 2018

© Chryssa Vardea

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The Poet and the Beloved of the King

Parviz Tanavoli, The Poet and the Beloved of the King  1964–6

Motifs taken from Iranian religious folk art recur in Tanavoli’s work, especially the saqqakhaneh, a sacred fountain protected by metal grills. Here he reappropriates the grill, extracted from its original function and applied to robot-like figures made out of brightly coloured, pop-inspired materials. The two figures relate to characters from a love story which forms part of Shahnameh (977–1010), the national epic of Iran. Shirin, a princess, and Farhad, a stone cutter given the impossible task of carving a passage through Mount Bisotoon to win Shirin’s hand.

Gallery label, March 2019

© Parviz Tanavoli

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The City of the Circle and the Square

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, The City of the Circle and the Square  1963 and 1966

Paolozzi describes this sculpture, part cityscape, part elaborate machine, as an ‘urban image’. The wheel, a recurring motif in his work, symbolises technology. Instead of using existing pieces of scrap metal, as he had in earlier sculptures, he started from scratch with this work. He designed a series of geometric units made from wax, then a team of assistants cast them in aluminium, before welding and painting them according to his instructions. This process, in which the artist is removed from the actual manufacturing, has been called ‘industrial collage’.

Gallery label, February 2016

© The Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation

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Hot Dog Sculpture

Colin Self, Hot Dog Sculpture  1965

Fast food was a typical subject for pop art in the 1960s. It represented consumerism and a new fast-paced society. Many artists in the 1960s celebrated consumption. But Self’s Hot Dog Sculpture focuses on the darker side of the decade. The blackened hot dog relates to military conflict. Its charred appearance reflects Self’s anxiety about a possible nuclear war.

Gallery label, August 2019

© Colin Self. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020

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Bouquet in Imperial Style

Boris Orlov, Bouquet in Imperial Style  1988

The sculpture incorporates an array of communist symbols, including the red star, hammer and sickle and military banners and medals. Made when the Soviet Union was on the point of dissolution, it celebrates an empire that does not exist with deliberate irony. Orlov has investigated the idea of ‘imperial style’ in several works. It is, he says, the ‘showy façade,’ masking darker, dirtier historical realities; the play between the two is, in his words, ‘the essence of empire’.

Gallery label, February 2016

© Boris Orlov

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Mechaniks Bench

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Mechaniks Bench  1963

Paolozzi began making machine-like structures in the early 1960s. He said he wanted to eliminate ‘arty’ qualities from his work. Instead he aimed for an impersonal, engineered feel. The elements in this work are a mixture of castings from ordinary machine parts with castings from forms designed by the artist. He described his raw materials as ‘things that nobody would give a second glance... Part of the battle is to try, and resolve these anonymous materials into ... a poetic idea’.

Gallery label, August 2018

© The Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation

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(He) Hit Me with a Hammer and Burst into Tears

Viktor Pivovarov, (He) Hit Me with a Hammer and Burst into Tears  1992

(He) Hit Me with a Hammer and Burst into Tears 1992 is a painting in enamel on canvas mounted on fibreboard. It combines image and text, presented in a comic book style. Two women sit drinking tea at a dining table, one listening attentively as the other laments her husband’s violent behaviour. Her words (which give the work its title) are presented in Russian script in a text box in the top right hand corner of the painting. A bed in the background locates the scene in a Russian communal apartment, where a single room often served as bedroom, dining room and lounge. The muted colours and bichromatic design enhance the resigned postures of the two women, imbuing the work with a sense of ennui that conflicts with the drama of the situation they are discussing.

© Viktor Pivovarov

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Military Person

Boris Orlov, Military Person  1979

For most of the 1970s and 80s, Orlov worked at the heart of Moscow’s non-conformist cultural scene. This relief depicts a military hero in profile, highly simplified and dwarfed by medals displayed across his torso. The absurd exaggeration of the scale of these military decorations, which overwhelm and almost obscure the ‘military person’ himself, comments on the inflated status of Soviet officials. Orlov drew on various visual references including totem poles, early Russian portraiture in which the nobility were portrayed as secular icons, and the Russian avant-garde.

Gallery label, February 2016

© Boris Orlov

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14/14
artworks in Beyond Pop

Art in this room

Whaam!
Roy Lichtenstein Whaam! 1963
Atlantic Civilisation
André Fougeron Atlantic Civilisation 1953
Valentine
Evelyne Axell Valentine 1966
Untitled (Square 2)
Sigmar Polke Untitled (Square 2) 2003
Wall Explosion II
Roy Lichtenstein Wall Explosion II 1965
This is Radio Moscow ...
Viktor Pivovarov This is Radio Moscow ... 1992–6

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