Pop Artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol divulge some of the influences and techniques to their work in this documentary by Lane Slate from 1966.
Artists are not always the best expositors on their art. There are the exceptions like David Hockney, who inclusively shares his knowledge through television documentaries, or Francis Bacon, who spent hours in conversation with David Sylvester discussing the influences and sources for his work. Here, we find Lichtenstein enthusiastic though slightly inconclusive, and Warhol being just Andy.
Roy Lichtenstein’s bold, bright, iconic paintings of comic book panels and advertisements offered an ironic commentary on sixties’ consumer society, while at the same time showed an artist attempting to make art viable in such a world. When Lichtenstein explains the ideas and intentions behind his work, his answers come spilling out like the contents of a shaken can of cola, the bubbles of information frothing over into long stream of consciousness answers, which never really come to a formal resolution.
Lichtenstein begins with a description of the modern landscape that inspired his work and influenced his style:
”I think we’re living in a society that is to a large extent is Pop, I think it’s one of the facets of our society, and it’s one of the facets of present society which is new, and is one of the facets which hasn’t existed before.
“It’s made in a way, partially, a new landscape for us. In the way of billboards, and neon signs, and all the stuff we’re familiar with, and also literature, and television, radio, almost all of the landscape, all of our environment seems to be made, partially, of a desire to sell products.
“This is the landscape that I am interested in portraying. I’m also not only portraying it, but I am working in the style of it, or a style which at least parodies the style of everyday art, everyday society.
“I am interested in portraying a sort of anti-sensibility that pervades the society and a maybe gross over-simplification. I use that more as style rather than actuality. I really don’t think art can be gross and over-simplified and remain art—it must have subtleties, and it must sort of yield to an aesthetic unity, otherwise it’s not in the realm of art, it’s something else probably. But I think using it as a style gives it a kind of brutality, and maybe hostility that is useful to me in an aesthetic way.”
Andy Warhol starts his interview with a renunciation of the reverence with which art and paintings are given.
”Why I don’t paint anything? Because I hate objects. I hate to go to museums to see pictures on walls that look so important because they don’t mean anything, I think.”
It’s a good start, as Warhol could give a masterclass in being inarticulate. Of course, it’s all deliberately elusive, and just watch how quickly he loses interest once the questions become about the personal rather than his work.
“You should just tell me the words and I’ll repeat them. I’m so empty today, I can’t think of anything.”
The interview ends with Warhol talking about The Velvet Underground, before he is seen inflating silver balloons as the band rehearse in the background.
Painters Painting is a definitive documentary history of the New York Art Scene 1940-1970. Directed by Emile de Antonio, the film focuses on American art movements from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. De Antonio was a Marxist film-maker who was once described as “…the most important political filmmaker in the United States during the Cold War.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, De Antonio established his reputation with a series of political documentaries including Point of Order (1964) on the Senate Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954; Rush to Judgment 91967) investigating the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination; Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971) which followed Richard Nixon’s political career; and as co-director, Underground (1976) on the Weathermen.
De Antonio claimed he was able to make Painters Painting (1972) as he knew all of the artists involved:
“I was probably the only filmmaker in the world who could [have made Painters Painting] because I knew all those people, from the time that they were poor, and unsuccessful and had no money. I knew Warhol and Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Stella before they ever sold a painting, and so it was interesting to [make this film].”
His close relationship with these artists allowed some incredibly candid interviews from the likes of Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Jules Olitski, Philip Pavia, Larry Poons, Robert Motherwell, and Kenneth Noland. Though, as ever, Andy Warhol deflected questions, claiming Brigid Berlin painted his pictures—though he had previously claimed everything he knew about painting he had learned from “De.”
Marko Mäetamm is a multimedia artist, who works within the mediums of video, photography, drawing, painting and the Internet. Over the past 2 decades, Marko has established himself as an original and provocative artist, and his work has been exhibited across Europe.
Born in South Estonia, Mäetamm ‘grew up without any artistic influences,’ and did not consider becoming an artist until he was 18.
‘The first time I thought doing something creative was through this friend, who was a great fan of Prog Rock and Heavy Metal,’ Marko explains. ‘And the first time I felt I really wanted to do something visual or artistic was when I was looking at the these Heavy Metal and Prog Rock album sleeves at his place.
‘This was at the beginning of the 1980s, when Estonia was part of Soviet Union and you couldn’t legally buy any Western music in stores. It was all smuggled in somehow, so you had to know people who knew people who knew other people to get access to original albums of any kind of Western music. It was more common to share tape-recorded copies of the albums rather than to have the original vinyl.
‘So, my first “serious drawings” were copies of all of these album covers and bands.’
Marko jokes that these were ‘terribly bad drawings,’ but it was still enough to inspire his interest, and after 2 compulsory years in the Soviet Army, he studied study printmaking at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn.
‘It was still the end of Soviet regime, so we didn’t get much information of what was happening in the world of contemporary art. My first influences were all these great modern artists we had to study—Rousseau, Matisse, Chagall, Picasso and so on. That was until I discovered Pop Art, at the end of my studies, and got really into it.
‘This was all happening around the same time the new wave of Young British Artists jumped on the stage, but then nobody was talking about it in Estonia. So it shows you how huge a gap there was between the art here in Estonia, and international art. It took the whole 90-s to cover this gap.’
Dangerous Minds: How would you describe yourself as an artist and how would you describe your art?
Marko Mäetamm: ‘It is always difficult to describe yourself. It is kind of a tricky thing. We never see ourselves the way like the other people do, even when we look in the mirror we actually see our image in a mirror – the eye that we think is our right eye is actually our left eye for other people and so on. And our voice we hear coming from inside us is totally different from the voice other people hear us talking with.
‘But to try to say something - I think I am quite obsessed by my work and I probably need it to keep myself in balance. I say, “I think” because I do think that it might be like that, I don’t really know. And I think that I may not function as good if I didn’t have that channel – art, to communicate with the world. I have come to recognize this by thinking of my own projects during my career. And how my ideas change. People have asked me if I have a therapeutic relationship with my work, and I have always answered that it is absolutely possible. But I really don’t know and I don’t even know if I would need to know it. I don’t know if that would make my work better.’
J. G. Ballard once said, if by some terrible calamity all art from the 20th century was destroyed except for the work of one artist, then it would be possible to recreate all of the century’s greatest artistic developments if that artist was Eduardo Paolozzi.
Deliberate hyperbole, but there is an essence of truth here, as Paolozzi produced such an incredible range and diversity of art that it has been difficult for critics and art historians to classify him. He began as a Surrealist, before becoming the first Pop Artist—a decade before Warhol put paint on canvas. He then moved on to print-making, design, sculpture and public art to international success.
Born in Edinburgh, to an Italian family in 1924, Paolozzi spent much of his childhood at his parent’s ice cream parlor, where he was surrounded by the packaging, wrapping and cigarette cards that later inspired his Pop Art. This early idyll of childhood was abruptly ended when Italy declared war on Britain in 1940. Paolozzi awoke one morning to find himself, along with his father and uncles, incarcerated, in the city’s Saughton Prison, as undesirables, or enemies of the state. Paolozzi was held for 3 months, but his father and uncles were deported to Canada on the ship HMS Arandora Star, which was torpedoed by a U-boat off the north-west coast of Ireland. The vessel sank with the loss of 630 lives.
Considered psychologically unsuitable for the army, the teenage Paolozzi studied at the Edinburgh School of Art, in 1943, before finishing at the Slade School in London, which he found disappointingly conservative in its approach to art.
After the war, Paolozzi moved briefly to Paris where he visited some of the century’s greatest artists, then resident in the city—Giacometti, Braque, Arp, Brâncuşi, and Léger. In his youthful boldness, Eduardo had telephoned each of these artists after discovering their numbers in the telephone directory. He was greeted as an equal, he later claimed, most probably because the war had just ended. The experience taught Paolozzi much, and emboldened his ideas. On his return to London, Paolozzi presented a slide show of adverts and packaging, which was the very first Pop Art.
Paolozzi developed his distinctive collages and multiple images of Marilyn Monroe long before Warhol and even Richard Hamilton, the artist with whom he showed at the now legendary This Is Tomorrow exhibition, at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1956.
Paolozzi eventually tired of his association with Pop Art, as it limited his incredibly diverse artistic vision. The same year as This Is Tomorrow, he played a deaf mute, with fellow artist Michael Andrews, in the first major Free Cinema movie Together by Lorenza Mazzetti.
By the late 1950s, he had moved on to industrial print-making, before producing an incredibly awe-inspiring range of designs for buildings, sculptures and public art—from his mosaic for Tottenham Court Road tube station to the cover of Paul McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway, through to such epic sculptures Newton, outside of the British Library, Vulcan, Edinburgh, and Head of Invention, Design Museum, London.
In 1984, Paolozzi conceived and produced a brief strange and surreal animation 1984: Music for Modern Americans, which was animated and directed by Emma Calder, Susan Young and Isabelle Perrichon, and based photocopies of Paolozzi’s original drawings.
Pop Goes the Easel was Ken Russell’s first full-length documentary for the BBC’s arts series Monitor. It focused on 4 British Pop Artists - Peter Blake, Peter Philips, Pauline Boty and Derek Boshier.
Russell was revolutionary in his approach to making this film, he developed a whole range of new techniques to capture and reflect the excitement and energy of these young artists, which was cutting edge back in 1962, but are now part of the very heart of documentary-making (you’ll may also note clues to some of Russell’s later works). It’s a beautiful wee film that captures these artists, their work and the start of the swinging sixties perfectly - though I only wish it was in color.
Born in London in 1922, Hamilton was determined to become an artist an early age, he quit school at 15, and studied art at night before entering the Royal Academy at 16. His studies were cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which he worked as a draughtsman with engineers and scientists at EMI. After the war returned to the Royal Academy, but was expelled for “not profiting from the instruction”. He then attended the Slade College of Art for 2 years, from which he started working at the ICA, where he produced posters, leaflets and exhibit work.
In 1951, Hamilton curated his first exhibition, Growth and Form. This was followed in 1955 with the seminal Man, Machine and Motion, which examined human interaction with machine and environment, and how “the need to cope with technology provokes great art.”
It was at this time Hamilton met with Eduardo Paolozzi, who was already working on the collages which are now best associated with Pop Art. Hamilton joined Paolozzi in the loose grouping of artists known as the Independent Group, who gathered around the ICA.
In 1956, the Independent Group mounted This Is Tomorrow, an exhibition that is now seen as one of the most influential of the past sixty years - its resonance is still with us today. This was the show that announced Pop Art to the world - long before Warhol, who was then window dressing. As described by the Daily Telegraph:
This Is Tomorrow, a quasi-anthropological, partly ironic exhibition embracing the imagery of the embryonic mass media. In Hamilton’s words, the idea was to examine “our new visual environment — cinema, the jukebox, Marilyn Monroe, and comics — all these games with sound, optical illusion and imagery”.
His own small, dense, prophetic work Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? not only introduced the word “pop” into art (emblazoned on the muscleman’s phallic lollipop) but also anticipated many of the key images of the genre: the television; the Warner Bros billboard; the comic poster (Lichtenstein); the packaged ham (Rosenquist); the Motel bed (Oldenburg); and the Ford logo — Hamilton’s obsession with car design and engineering culminated in Hommage à Chrysler (1957). This was Pop Art, but not populist art. Hamilton called it “a new landscape of secondary, filtered material” – sophisticated art to be devoured by a mass audience.
The exhibition’s success gained him a teaching post at the Royal College of Art, where he influenced David Hockney and Peter Blake. He produced works such as Hers Is A Lush Situation (1958), in which automotive and female design are commingled; Pin-up (1961), with its mixed idioms, classical, modern, vulgar; and the sketchy, painterly collage-like rapture of $he (1962) – it was, he suggested, “a sieved reflection of the adman’s paraphrase of the consumer’s dream”.
In 1962, Hamilton’s wife, Terry, was tragically killed in a automobile accident. Hamilton quit Britain for the USA, where he became close friends with Marcel Duchamp. The friendship led to Hamilton curating a retrospective of Duchamp’s work at the Tate Gallery, London.
The association with Pop Art, led Hamilton to be hailed the “Father of Pop Art” a title he loathed. The association continued in the mid-sixties after he returned to England, and produced two of his most famous works Swingeing London 67, a portrait of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser under arrest, which became one of the defining images of the 1960s. The following year Hamilton designed the cover for the Beatles White Album, which became his best known work.
The sixties also saw Hamilton influence another, younger generation of artists and musicians, most famously one of his pupils, Bryan Ferry and his band Roxy Music.
In the the 1970s, Hamilton had retrospectives at the Tate (1970) and the Guggenheim in New York (1973), both exhibitions subsequently toured Europe.
I saw one retrospective of his work during this decade at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, which mixed his famous line drawings for James Joyce’s Ulysses, with his Pop Art, and silk screens. It was highly impressive, but more because of the intelligence on display, rather than any shared emotion inspired by the work. This may explain why Hamilton never really made the cross-over from critical acclaim to populist success.
The seventies saw Hamilton produce some of his most political work:
Hamilton had always been politically engaged, vociferously supporting the CND. In the 1980s he began a “Northern Ireland” trilogy: The Citizen (1981-83) depicted a “dirty protest” prisoner in the Maze; The Subject (1988-89), a self-righteous Orangeman; and The State (1993), a British soldier on patrol. Inevitably such politicised subject matter attracted criticism, though many considered the works merely naive oversimplifications.
Despite his advancing years, Hamilton continued to reinvent himself. In the 1980s he began working with computers: “I initially ventured into working with computers because I didn’t want to get left behind. I was approaching old age and aware of it, and I thought ‘I’m going to keep up with this’ and found out that I was ahead of everybody.” He designed two computers, the OHIO and the Diab DS-101, and increasingly used digital devices to manipulate images and create a dialogue between technique, technology and aesthetics.
The attraction of computers, he claimed, was that “you have the possibility of perfection. I’m after beauty — of composition, colour and tone.” It did not seem ironic that a man in his eighth decade was exploring technology with greater vivacity than almost any other artist: throughout his long career, Hamilton’s work anticipated almost every interpretative cultural theory, from Marshall McLuhan to the “Young British Artists”, and provided the most thorough engagement with mass media and technology this side of the Atlantic. Damien Hirst referred to Hamilton as “the greatest”.
Hamilton was appointed Companion of Honour in 2000; in 2006 he received the Max Beckmann Prize for Painting. A major retrospective of his work is due to travel to tour America and Europe from 2013.
Richard Hamilton married Terry O’Reilly in 1947; they had a son and a daughter. Rita Donagh, whom he married in 1991, survives him with the son of his first marriage.
Bonus clip, Richard Hamilton on Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, after the jump…
To commemorate Andy Warhol’s 83rd birthday on August 6th, the McDermott Galleries in Birmingham, England, are exhibiting a sculpture of what the 83-year-old might have looked like had he lived.
The sculpture is by Edgar Askelovic, a 23-year-old artists based in Birmingham, who spent 3 months working on it, and while the result may be incredibly “life-like”, it looks less like Andy Warhol and more like one of the two aged hecklers, Waldorf and Statler, from The Muppet Show.
“The pose of the piece is taken from a photograph of Warhol in the 60s. He is a huge inspiration to me and I wanted to make sure that I did him justice with my work.”
“I thought long and hard about what he might look like today, which led me to sculpt him without his teeth and with the wrinkles that reflect the years that have now passed. Although maybe there should also be a botox version – after all, he was a pioneer of all things new”
“I remember reading about Andy’s humble beginnings – his first film, titled Sleep, was an epic 6 hours long and all about one of his friends sleeping. 9 people attended the premiere apparently and only 7 stayed until the end – he was a true creative.” I also love this quote from Andy, it sort of sums up how I try to approach my own work:
“An artist is someone who produces things that people don’t need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them.”
—Andy Warhol on Art and Artists
Gallery owner Terence McDermott said: “The idea is that on Saturday if he was still alive he would have been 83-years-old so what Edgar has done is to use some artistic license to create his own interpretation of Warhol as an 83 year old. This wig is just as he would have worn it – a simple substitute for a cap.”
“It’s tragic to think about the life, art and advances Warhol missed out on. I wonder what he would have done with the internet, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube…reality TV?! Maybe there would even be a Warhol App?
“The thought of Andy Warhol in the digital age is mind blowing. The world was always one step behind him and it’s such a shame he is not here with us.”
The sculpture is called Andy Walking, Andy tired, Andy take a little snooze, after a line from the David Bowie “Andy Warhol”, and is on sale for $16,355 (£9,995).