The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, but rather than veg out on the sofa over the holidays why not work off the stupor at Tate Modern where a plethora of rare Pop Art awaits?


Pop Art. The very phrase fills us with ennui now. Quite frankly we’d be happy if we never saw another Warhol soup tin or Lichtenstein comic scenario again. These overfamiliar images have saturated our brains to the point where their original impact and power has all but disappeared.

Luckily, ‘The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop’ at London's Tate Modern is a real breath of fresh air. The show explores how artists around the world contributed to the Pop Art phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s, producing works addressing much grittier subjects than the more recognised areas of consumerist culture and celebrity.

American Interior #1’ by Icelandic artist Erró imagines a typically surburban American bedroom being invaded by Maoist troops and armed soldiers from the Viet Cong. Painted in 1968, it’s a stylised comment on the Vietnam War and America’s role in the conflict. Its black-outlined, graphic style bears direct parallels with British painter Patrick Caulfield’s own illustrative studies of the home.

In the late Sixties, as people began to protest against the harsh dictatorships of the old world, violent street scenes became an almost everyday occurrence. Rafael Canogar’s ‘The Punishment,’ showing a man being beaten by a policeman in Franco’s Spain, is a powerful reminder of how things used to be in parts of Europe where freedom of speech is now taken for granted. The recent tragic events in France make Gérard Fromanger’s serigraphs ‘Album The Red’ both poignant and relevant with its depictions of pandemonium on the streets of Paris and national flags dripping with blood.

ABOVE: Erró, ‘American Interior #1’, 1968, oil on canvas. Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna 
ABOVE RIGHT: Rafael Canogar, 'The Punishment', 1969, polyester and wood. Private collection
BELOW: Gérard Fromanger, 'Album The Red', 1968-1970, serigraph. Collection of the artist

ABOVE: Nicola L, 'Red Coat', 1973, vinyl. Collection of the artist

It’s not all doom and gloom though. ‘Red Coat’ by Nicola L is a single garment designed to be worn by several people at the same time, and Kiki Kogelnik’s witty ‘Hanging’ installation hangs vinyl cut-outs of friends over wire hangers.

Finally, the only well known examples of Pop Art to be found here are in appropriations by other artists. In Equipo Crónica’s ‘Social Realism and Pop Art in the Battlefield’ that eponymous soup tin appears with Lichtenstein’s comical weapons and aircraft inside a speech bubble spewing from the mouth of Velázquez. Similarly, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid’s ‘Post Art 1’, ‘Post Art 2’ and ‘Post Art 3’ imagine what the remains of definitive works by Warhol, Lichtenstein and Indiana would look like after nuclear war, fire or earthquake.

BELOW FROM TOP: Kiki Kogelnik, 'Hanging', 1970, mixed media. Kiki Kogelnik Foundation, Vienna/New York; Equipo Crónica, 'Social Realism and Pop Art in the Battlefield', 1969, acrylic on canvas. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid. Deposito Temporal Colección de Manolo Valdes, 2010

So once you’ve had your fill of mince pies, turkey and Christmas pudding, put down the remote, detach yourself from the sofa and head over to Tate Modern for a shot of visual energy that’s guaranteed to get your grey matter working again. A show like this comes around once in a blue moon – miss it at your peril…
'The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop' is on now until 24 January 2016. Admission £16. Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1