Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Pop Life : Art in a material world....

....Tate Modern until 17th Jan.

This is the one I really wanted to see. Largely, nay, solely due to the presence of Keith Haring as part of the exhibition. It is the Tate's blockbuster - a show so singing and dancing, blinging and in your face, it can't fail to get people through the door. But, once they are, I'm afraid they may be a little disappointed. Pop Art is the art of the mass produced. Art that uses popular culture as it's point of reference and rams it down your throat until you have to take notice, or buy it.

Andy Warhol - Self Portrait (with fright wig)

To be honest, I don't have a problem with that. I know lots of people do - in particular the 'selling out' so to speak of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and certainly more recently Damien Hirst. (For the record I don't really consider Hirst a Pop Artist, more a savvy business man who has made a fortune out of unoriginal, bad art). But there-in lies the fine line, maybe Pop Art is about business, making money - rather than the art itself. If that is the case, then Hirst is the champion of champions.

Damien Hirst : False Idol, 2008

So, I visited Pop Life knowing what I had let myself in for, but it immediately became apparent how limited the show is. Opening with Warhol, his work, his ads, his complete and utter over exposure, I get a little sick, (literally), of his face. But I am saved by the Pop that I am really there for. Keith Haring. For me, he is the real hero of this movement.

Keith Haring: 'tag' examples

Rather than his face adorning everything, (ok, so it does a little bit), he let's his art do the talking - it is his slogans, his symbols that are mass produced - still as prevalent today as they were in his pomp in the 80s. In one of the rooms, Haring's 'Pop Shop' has been recreated. This stood for several years in New York, his graffiti was mural-like on the floors and walls, and his art, t-shirts, badges and the rest could be bought. This recreation is so precise as to have the same mix-tape playing, (loudly), throughout. I even loved that, but on enquiry, only the Haring Estate can divulge the track list should they be so kind!

Keith Haring: Pop Shop, NYC.

After that room, I started to lose interest - but that is because the artists on show seemed so loosely related to the movement. For example, many of the YBA's have been included in this show. Why? In the context of Pop Art, I can't understand it and the work seems weak, (when in reality it is largely anything but). The only other contemporary artists that seemed to fit in are Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami - their work is straight out of popular culture, sickly sweet and everywhere. But in a good way.

Jeff Koons: Rabbit, 1986

It is a shame though how Murakami is exhibited in the final room. The in your face gesture is so great it leaves me a little bit cold. I have to get out.

Takashi Murakami: Hiropon, 2001

For me Pop Life is trying too hard -but then, so does Pop Art. The show does everything it says on the (Campbell's Soup) tin, but what's inside just isn't filling enough.

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