Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Monday, 22 September 2014

21a. North Dakota's Lone Sky Scraper

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, 21a. North Dakota's Lone Sky Scraper, 1972, screenprint and lithograph on paper, Tate.

I've looked at Paolozzi before, but it's always worth delving into the Tate's holdings of his works as they have a lot of it, and much of it is very interesting.
   This is from his Bunk! series, collages of popular culture he made in the late '40s, intended as research rather than art, then recycled as screenprints in 1972, by which time he had decided they were art after all, what with them being pretty much the beginning of the Pop Art movement if he chose to think of them that way.
   As a whole, the series is a witty distillation of the American post-war race to the future, with ray guns, TV dinners and streamlined white goods rubbing up against each other.  Here, the past of the pioneers and the high-rise future uneasily vie for space, the sky scraper looming, ready to swallow up the lives of the earnest teenagers in the foreground.  The romantic figures of the pioneers look on helplessly from stone captivity, knowing they've already lost them.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

21. The Same as the Last, But Darker at the Bottom Than the Top - Alexander Cozens

Alexander Cozens, 21. The Same as the Last, but Darker at the Bottom than the Top, date not known, etching on paper, 111 x 160 mm, Tate.

Alexander Cozens was an eighteenth century painter who also specialized in somewhat eccentric instructional drawings for artists.  His series on constructing landscapes out of blots, the beauty of the human head, and the one from which this comes, in which slightly different cloud forms are depicted, are all part of the Tate collection and are well worth perusing.  Divorced from their intended educational use, they are endearingly odd, resembling some intentionally absurd conceptual art project.  The fact that it all made sense to Cozens, although his work's usefulness was questioned even at the time, adds to the appeal.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

1. Caricature. A Woman Seated on a Two-Legged Ass-Headed Monster Straddling a Man in Military Uniform - George Dance

George Dance, 1. Caricature. A Woman Seated on a Two-Legged Ass-Headed Monster Straddling a Man in Military Uniform, 1809, ink, watercolour and graphite on paper, 200 x 193 mm, Tate.

George Dance is primarily known as an architect, and secondarily as a portraitist, and hardly at all as the creator of weird-ass drawings.  Nevertheless, this work of insanity is part of a larger portfolio, mostly of more easily-digestible caricatures of his contemporaries.
   Exactly what possessed him to do this, I don't know.  I'm guessing it's some sort of social satire, possibly relating to a play on words, hence the 'He wadled over a Duk' handwritten at the bottom.  But I actually don't want to know.  I'd rather treasure the mystery of this slightly deranged-looking woman, sitting on half a moth-eaten dragon, while a man shelters under his hat, as if waiting for the shit to hit it.

Monday, 23 June 2014

...and Chewing Gum - Pierre Ayot

Pierre Ayot, ...and Chewing Gum, 1971, lithograph on paper, 705 x 483 mm, Tate.

Intriguing slab of Canadian pop art lithography.  The image of the chewing gum dispenser in the top half of the image gives figurative meaning to the bottom, which otherwise would be a Larry Poons-style abstraction.  The chewing gum balls tumble out merrily, and there's a tension between reading them as that and simply as circles of colour.  Maybe not achieving Warhol-levels of ambiguity and cultural resonance, but a great piece of graphic-work, crying out to be turned into a book cover.