Moonstrips Empire News – introduction

The quality of Bob Dylan’s creativity and his productivity were outstanding in the mid-Sixties. The three LPs, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, ’65-’66, constitute his very best work. Compare Eduardo Paolozzi and his printmaking, ’64-’67: As Is When, Moonstrips Empire News and Universal Electronic Vacuum – masterworks all, embodying quality and quantity.

Moonstrips is a portfolio of 98 screenprints- 8 of which are signed/numbered – presented in a Perspex box. The prints are 380mm x 254mm. Additional sheets included in the box are a title page, colophon and introduction by Christopher Finch. Printing was by Kelpra Studio and the box was made by Herault Studios. The Portfolio was published in 1967 in an edition of 500 by Editions Alecto.

In As Is When Paolozzi invited the viewer to make both visual and linguistic connections, based on their own unique experience and knowledge, between many disparate component images and text. Here Paolozzi was developing the ideas of Marcel Duchamp, an early pioneer of shifting the balance of activity from the artist towards the viewer. Duchamp classified most art as being intended only to please the eye (‘retinal art’); his mission was to ‘put art back in the service of the mind’. In Moonstrips we can enjoy this latter objective being achieved whilst being fully indulged retinally at the same time.

ContentsLaidOut

In http://paolozzi.blogspot.co.uk  I look in great detail at the major Paolozzi series of the Sixties, including full coverage of Moonstrips Empire News.

Large Bus

Jones has said of the Bus images, “I did about five or six and then thought I was getting a bit locked into it and so wilfully stopped, although these days I wish I had another 10 in the cupboard”.

In the Fifties/Sixties buses were a living symbol of the times whereby the cosily familiar was co-existing with the exciting new era characterised by Harold Wilson’s phrase, ‘the white heat of technology’; (uttered at the 1963 Labour Party Conference at Scarborough.) In and around London a midpoint change on a journey might involve alighting from an RT bus, of which production had started just prior to World War II, and getting on one of the sexy new Routemasters. The contrast could be even more marked with single deckers – here below you have the ‘friendly’ old pre-War high roofed Bedford OB, left, and the futuristic Bedford Duple Viceroy of 1966, right:

 BusesCol

Large Bus is a stand-alone lithograph printed on two sheets, 72cms x 108cms and 30cms x 51.5cms, in an edition of 20; printed at Tamarind Litho Workshop, Los Angeles:

LargeBussmall

 

Real Glamour – the Allure of the Omnibus!

A Fleet of Buses was published by Editions Alecto in 1966/7. Printed by Kelpra Studio, it consists of a screen-printed title page and five lithographs, 64cms x 57cms, presented in a solander box. As for the New Perspective on Floors, the edition size was just 20.

The bus theme is first seen in Jones’s 1961 painting, You’ll Have to Run to Catch This Bus. The composition of this suggests a row of windows as typical in such a vehicle. Meanwhile there is a play on words around the physical idea of ‘catching’ a bus and the concept of the ‘prosumer’ spectator of an artwork, whereby both artist and viewer work together to derive ‘meaning’ from the marks on the canvas.

Subsequent paintings which lead progressively to the style of the lithographs are: 2nd Bus (1962), 4th Bus/Slow Red and Green (1962) and Buses (1964).

This is the pick of the lithographs:

d__images_P1969092226

Next post will be of the related, multi-sheet, Large Bus.

Colin Self

This should have been a print!  Had it been, I’d have a least two copies decorating rooms in my house.

Guard Dog on a Missile Base, No 1 (1965):

ColinSelfGuardDogOnAMissile

This one is a print, just! – etching, edition of 5 – Bomber No 1 (1963):

CS Bomber No 1

‘This was and is (remains) a terribly important little etching and IS the world’s first Multiple Plate etching.’ The insignia, from model-kit transfers, were added to subvert orthodox printing practice and, as they were different in each case, ‘not to blame any one Nation for the fearful state of the political world’.  The plates were found on a rubbish dump at University College; Self sawed one in half to make the wings.  Using popular art, ‘people’s art’, such as transfers or found components ‘waiting to be printed’, was an important part of the concept of this and other works of this date ,(and later).  (The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986).

Back in the Sixties, it was a received wisdom that Hockney was a most marvellous draughtsman.  I believe that Colin Self was better – and his subject matter a whole lot more palatable!

Like many of his contemporaries, Self had a sojourn in the U.S. early in his career.  Unlike most, he was glad to get back to England and closely identified with his Norfolk surroundings.

A major series in the Sixties was the Power and Beauty set of screenprints.  Although the subject matter is quite different, the visual impact of these prints is to me similar to that created by Warhol’s Death and Disaster series; they are pretty sinister.  This is No 2 (1968):

CS P&B 2

Joe Tilson and the Ziggurats, (never released a single!)

Born in 1928, Tilson studied at St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art from 1949 to 1955.  At the RCA he won the Rome prize and the opportunity to live in Italy for 2 years.  On his return to England he began teaching in 1958, initially at St Martin’s.  Through the Sixties he was a major player on the Pop scene – in the British top three on my assessment: I’m not alone – The Daily Telegraph headlined an April 2009 article thus: Joe Tilson: the forgotten king of British Pop art. That piece included the following passage:

“In the Sixties, I thought the question, ‘What is an original print?’ was totally irrelevant,” Tilson recalls. “My aim was to make things that corresponded to my feelings and thoughts – not to pre-established categories.” He made a list of things you were not supposed to do in printmaking: “Make each print different; paint on prints; tear the paper; crumple and fold the paper; make holes in the print; make three-dimensional prints; glue objects to the print…”, and so on. One by one, he broke each rule.

I’m featuring here two examples from the screenprint series, Ziggurat, based on a run of wood reliefs.  As we have seen with several Sixties artists, Tilson’s optimum creativity was unleashed by collaboration with the magnificent Chris Prater at Kelpra Studio, beginning in 1961.  A variety of ziggurats emerged from Tilson’s studio from 1964 through to 1970.  These are simple, high impact images, a great pleasure just to view and have around the place.  Subsequently I will also showcase more conceptually complex Tilsons, in which there are similarities with Paolozzi and Kitaj – no wonder I like these too, very much!

Pat Gilmour in referring to the ‘sister’ series, Geometry, commented about Tilson’s artistic practice where there was a:

. . . close relationship between ideas in sculpture and in the printed work and the way both were able to feed each other.  (This) is typical of the artists who were able to take the screen process furthest.  By the time the brouhaha broke out over the ‘originality’ question in 1965, Tilson had moved into an area he was to make very much his own, fashioning three-dimensional prints.

1/2 Ziggurat:

1 2 Zigguratcropped

Ziggurat 6:

Ziggurat 6cropped

More Kitaj, more Mahler: The Gay Science

Kitaj’s situation as a displaced person, which he has called ‘utterly American, longingly Jewish, School of London, no doubt gave him an empathy for Mahler who described himself as ‘thrice homeless – as a Bohemian among Austrians, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world’. Hitler’s banning of Mahler’s music as ‘Jewish trash’ must have increased Kitaj’s fellow feeling. In the light of Mahler’s pantheism* (but Kitaj’s lack of interest in landscape painting), The Gay Science invokes nature by a partly opened window, saturated with the blues and greens of grass and sky, and covered with textual ‘panes’ of poetic writing about the natural world.  By Pat Gilmour, from Critical Kitaj (Issues in Art History Series) by James Aulich and John Lynch Manchester University Press 2000 (ISBN 0 7190 5525 3)

The literary reference is to The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche, published in 1882. As translated by Walter Kaufmann from the German: Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, the meaning is of ‘the art of poetry’. This concept/expression stems from 13th Century Provence, home to a free spirited type of knight for whom creativity was of much more interest than mortal combat!

The Gay Science1

* From the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:  The term ‘pantheism’ is a modern one, possibly first appearing in the writing of the Irish freethinker John Toland (1705) and constructed from the Greek roots pan (all) and theos (God). At its most general, pantheism may be understood positively as the view that God is identical with the cosmos, the view that there exists nothing which is outside of God, or else negatively as the rejection of any view that considers God as distinct from the universe.

Gerald Laing

Gerald Laing 

Laing worked briefly in high Pop style in the mid–late Sixties whilst living in New York. He had special facility with the silkscreen medium, creating expertly distilled images from subjects such as drag racers, space flight and bikini-clad cuties.

After returning to the UK in 1973 Laing produced very little 2D work for 30 years. Then, for a few years until his death in 2011, he re-adopted a Pop aesthetic/working practice, using appropriate contemporary subjects – e.g. Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse – to create fresh new prints of great distinction.

Here is CCT Strokers from 1968; screenprint in an edition of 150, 585 x 890 mm (sheet):

CCT Strokers

And, from 2009, Domestic Perspective:

Laing-Domestic-Perspective-web

 

Harold Cohen

Harold Cohen’s first one-man exhibition was as long ago as 1951, (Ashmolean, Oxford). Today he is best known for his computer program, AARON, which creates original works of art. Have a look here for further information about this fascinating application of ‘artificial intelligence’ http://www.kurzweilcyberart.com/aaron/hi_cohenbio.html

Prior to relocating to the USA in 1968, Harold was a major figure on the London arts scene, a Situationist whose work was very highly regarded – enough so to be selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, 1966. At that time Eddie Wolfram commented: ‘Harold Cohen’s pictures do not operate on the simple plane of reciprocal visual pleasure, but the reward that his work can offer the diligent onlooker, is an extended knowledge of visual possibilities.’

In the mid-Sixties, alongside his paintings, Harold was producing prints in the silkscreen and litho media. Characteristic of the time are images which on first sight look like organic matter seen under high magnification.

Shown here is a portrait of fellow artist, Richard Hamilton. This is an exemplary exploration of dynamic visual perception as the viewer’s brain processes the image, shifting between its componentry as pattern, the detail of the components themselves and the composite picture/representation. This is Richard V:

hamilton_5

 Here, below, is a detail illustrating how, close up, one’s perception is of a completely new layer of (now abstract) imagery:

cohen-richard5cropped

Published by Marlborough Fine Art as a set of eight screenprints with a frontispiece, in an edition of 40, the dimensions are 649mm x 737mm. A single print was recently on offer by a London dealer for £550 – pretty good value considering the quality of the work and the association with the iconic Hamilton. The complete set can be seen at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/search?aid=925&page=2&sort=date&type=artwork

Gillian Ayres

Gillian in 1968 at La Galleria, Milan:

Gillian Ayres

I look upon Gillian’s prints as very pleasing hybrids of the Paolozzi and Kitaj styles.

Having been born in 1930, Gillian’s career was well established by the mid-Sixties and her large, colourful paintings had drawn a good deal of critical acclaim. Encouraged by Paul Cornwall-Jones, Gillian created 5 excellent screenprints for Editions Alecto in 1967, including:

Crivelli’s Room:

Crivelli's I

Crivelli’s Room II:

Crivelli's II

Of this, Gillian said: I love the Crivelli in the National Gallery – http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/carlo-crivelli -, it is such a rich and exotic painting. This is a rare time when I was figurative . . . my paintings at this time were tonally flattened out . . . I told Chris Prater that I wanted the colour to be as vulgar as possible.

Lorenzo the Magnificent and Niccolo the Gear:

Lorenzo the Magnificent

 

Gillian featured in a BBC2 documentary earlier this month about Harley Street – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05rdgtp/inside-harley-street-1-make-me-better