Eduardo Paolozzi was a Scottish artist and prominent influence on what became the Pop Art movement. He produced large-scale figurative sculptures, prints, and collages made from magazines and other found objects.
Paolozzi is most known for his marriage of Surrealism's early principles with brave new elements of popular culture, modern machinery and technology. He was raised in the shadows of World War II in a family deeply affected by the divisive nature of a country involved in conflict, which birthed his lifelong exploration into the many ways humans are influenced by external, uncontrollable forces.
This exploration would come to inform a vast and various body of work that vacillated between the darker and lighter consequences of society's advancements and its so-called progress.
The individual image, and imaginative eye that seizes it, is a point of ordonnance in such a universe. It is not only verbal, or visual, or emotional, although it is all these. It is not in the elements, but in their coming together at a particular moment, that the magical potency lies.
On the one hand, he would create abstract sculptures, which were dark and brutal in both material and form, portraying the idea of humans as a mere assemblage of parts in an overall machine.
On the other hand, he would create collages, brighter in nature that reflected the way contemporary culture and mass media influenced individual identity. Some of these collages, with their appropriation of American advertising's look and feel would inspire the future Pop art movement.
Paolozzi has obsessively collected vast quantities of printed ephemera—from pulp books and magazines to engineering diagrams and weaving patterns—which served as the basis for his many collages. Although he has worked in nearly all of the printmaking techniques, and completed several hundred printed works as well as some illustrated books, he has made a particular contribution in the screenprint medium, which he revolutionized in his translations of these collages into printed art.
"I suppose I am interested, above all, in investigating the golden ability of the artist to achieve a metamorphosis of quite ordinary things into something wonderful and extraordinary."
Editions Alecto were pioneering print publishers who produced contemporary artists' prints in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, and promoted the idea of painters and sculptors being given the freedom to originate and realize ideas in multiple form.
Paolozzi's early love of American culture and the collecting of its paraphernalia would lead him to make collages that were credited for launching the Pop art movement. He was the first to appropriate images from advertisements to create work representative of the shinier, happier lifestyles that were touted in American magazines and media.
Paolozzi was fascinated by the relationship between humans and machinery and often depicted biomorphic forms in his work as demonstrative of both. He incorporated metal parts such as nuts, bolts and bits of scrap into figurative forms to create rudimentary albeit cohesive new representations of the body, demonstrating the influences of progress and technology, subliminally enforced upon an individual's identity. The figures reflected a communal inner angst.
Surrealism and Cubism influenced Paolozzi greatly and strains of each can be seen throughout his work, regardless of medium, in the way he continued to pair disparate imagery, disjointed forms, and subconscious ephemera.
These are pictures without a focal point. They cannot be seen by a static eye, for to look at the whole surface simultaneously, arranged about its center - or any other point which at first seems a possible focal point - is to encounter an attractive chaos.
Paolozzi’s interests in printmaking and design were, in 1954, directed into a formal creative partnership with Nigel Henderson when they set up Hammer Prints, a decorative arts company which produced boldly-designed ceramics, wallpaper and textiles.
Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road are one of the most spectacular examples of public art in London. Completed in 1986, the glass mosaics cover 950 sq metres featuring prominently on the Northern line and Central line platforms and an array of interconnecting spaces.
The eye must not rest, it must allow itself to be forced away from the center to find a point at which it can enter the composition
The mosaics reflect Paolozzi’s interpretation of the local area and his wider interest in mechanisation, urbanisation, popular culture and everyday life.
The history of painting, the history of the object, the history of humans can be written with objects. All sculpture is a man-made object.
Universal Electronic Vacuum is a series of ten collages created as templates for a series of prints. Composed of bits of paper cut from screenprints made by the artist using high-concentrate dyes, the majority of these works have motifs that read horizontally across the sheet, as if they were a dot-matrix computer printout, although each has a unique composition and was made by hand.
Moonstrips Empire News is a set of 100 photo-lithographs and screenprints.
The work was conceived as a giant file of text- and image-collages from the artist's huge collection, a "terrestrial image bank" related not just to one work of art but to many paths of human activity. One hundred prints are boxed in a formed acrylic container. Each viewer is invited to "edit" the book by experimenting with various arrangements of the sheets in the box. The box came in three colors: bright yellow, bright green, and day-glo pink. The images include movie strips and stills, scientific, industrial, weather, and news photography, art reproductions, graphs, pattern papers, Disney cartoons, and advertising slogans.
"It should not be imagined that Moonstrips is an entirely random product; it is, rather, a complex mechanism in which choice and chance are pitted against one another. Images are organised sometimes by class--visual or linguistic; sometimes by a process random or simply convenient. The fact that the sheets are loose in their box transfers to the owner of Moonstrips the function of editor, but all the possible language patterns are predetermined by the conceptual decisions of the programmer."
Marcel Duchamp's 'La Boite en Valise', a facsimile of Duchamp's collection of randomly ordered notes on 'The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (Large Glass)', was an important inspiration for Paolozzi's format. Paolozzi was only the second artist to make fine-art prints at Kelpra Studio with master screenprinter Chris Prater. In an experimental and open-ended approach, Paolozzi allowed tremendous input from his printers and incorporated accidents that occurred during the printing process into the work.
The Independent Group (IG) met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, England, from 1952 to 1955. The IG consisted of painters, sculptors, architects, writers and critics who wanted to challenge prevailing modernist approaches to culture. They introduced mass culture into debates about high culture, re-evaluated modernism and created the "as found" or "found object" aesthetic. The Independent Group is regarded as the precursor to the Pop Art movement in Britain and the United States.
The Independent Group had its first meeting early in 1952 which consisted of artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi feeding a mass of colourful images from American magazines through an epidiascope. Paolozzi's seminal 1947 collage I was a Rich Man's Plaything was the first such "found object" material to contain the word ″pop″ and is considered the initial standard bearer of “Pop Art”.
The rest of the first Independent Group session concentrated on philosophy and technology during September 1952 to June 1953, and was chaired by design critic and historian, Reyner Banham. Key members at this stage included Paolozzi, the artist Richard Hamilton, surrealist and magazine art director Toni del Renzio, sculptor William Turnbull, the photographer Nigel Henderson and fine artist John McHale, along with the art critic Lawrence Alloway.
In 1956 the group came to wider public attention with its participation in the exhibition This Is Tomorrow. The IG ceased to meet formally by 1955, but the IG members continued to meet informally right up to 1962/63, and the connections between the various members continued to bear fruit in the subsequent years of their creative practice.
This is Tomorrow was a seminal collaborative art exhibition that opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on 9 August 1956 and featured 12 exhibits within the show that featured collaborations between a variety of architects, painters, sculptors, and other artists. While each using their own style, they built pieces that represented their version of contemporary art. The result of the twelve groups was the attempt to evoke a variety of external environment through theories that were inspired by communications guru Marshall McLuhan, as well as symbols of pop culture.
Crosby writes on 8 June 1955 that the discussions… are really the point of the collaboration… the exhibition will not be a collection of miscellaneous art works. The This Is Tomorrow exhibition included artists, architects, musicians and graphic designers working together in 12 teams — referred to as "groups" — an example of multi-disciplinary collaboration that was still unusual. Each group took as their starting point the human senses and the theme of habitation.
As Banham stated in his documentary:This is modern art to entertain people, modern art as a game people will want to play. The sense of involvement and fun carries through in the press clippings; journalists were most taken by the fact that the show was opened by Robby the Robot, star of the sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet and easier to book than Marilyn Monroe.
This is Tomorrow is now considered a watershed in post-war British Art and in some respects kick started the development of the British arm of Pop Art. The 1977 song "This is Tomorrow" from In Your Mind by Bryan Ferry, a student of Richard Hamilton's, took its title from the name of the show.
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