Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Portfolio and Conclusion

Just to round things off, here is the portfolio box in which the Z.E.E.P. prints were presented:

So that’s it.  In this blog I’ve covered all Paolozzi’s significant print media work of the Sixties.  I believe this has provided a view of a truly great artist at the peak of his powers – innovating, experimenting, challenging his own creative processes and the technical limits of the media. 

Paolozzi continued to create prints through the succeeding decades, but, to my mind never again with the success he achieved with his Sixties oeuvre.  Fifty years on I believe the work is as fresh and relevant as ever.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Human Fate and World Power

Last of the six prints in the Z.E.E.P. suite is Human Fate and World Power:

I find this one very forward-looking.  As the twentieth century drew to its conclusion, society radically – and quickly - changed, became fragmentary, as mass communications media and easily facilitated transportation eroded mono-cultural societies. 

And notice that in the blue background field two of the things – the car and the aeroplane - that have hastened the fragmentation of human experience are themselves rendered as fragments. 

Symbolising the ‘old’ model of the world, the Fitch vault key looks a bit pathetic – will such simple technology continue to enable the safekeeping/security of people, ideas, culture, information in the new world?  Clearly not.  Indeed by the twenty first century we will have laws forcing authorities to release information that previously was so closely guarded.

A parrot can speak and imitate human vocalisation, but – like a computer – not know why it’s doing it - discuss.

More of the day, rockets, submarines and fighter planes, (even comical ones), were reasonable images to portray the currency required for world power – how different today in the context of asymmetrical combat and the notion of ‘war on terror’. 

The Sixties and the Seventies were decades when human fate did seem to rest on the machinations of a ‘cold war’ between two world superpowers – the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.  Looking back they now appeal, ironically, as settled times – it was basically a stalemate and a related conflict, which would indeed decide the fate of the human race, was always unlikely.  How different today.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pacific Standard Time

(Back to Z.E.E.P.) Just some thoughts:

Two ziggurats in the top section.  The ziggurat temple format, with its ‘stepped’ profile, originated in the Middle East around 200–500 AD. Following a long wait, they suddenly became very trendy again in the Sixties!  Major exponent was Joe Tilson with a series of Ziggurat images during the course of the decade, e.g. Ziggurat 5, screenprint 1966:

Heart beating, watch ticking, cylinders firing.  In 1969 it was becoming possible to anticipate the reality of a blurring of lines between organic and mechanical/electronic functionalities. 

In the new world of funky science, will a leopard be able to change his spots? 

Yes, Man is in space, but, happily, children still like to play very simply.

The delightfully garish version of Pacific Standard Time shown below is an Artist’s Proof:

One of these is currently (Summer 2015) available at Goldmark for £1,850.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Home and Away

Here I am, the number one Paolozzi maniac in East Kent, and only by chance this morning did I discover the Home and Away exhibition at the Beaney in Canterbury.  I’m not sure how I missed being aware of this show – it’s been running since May 9th and features a fantastic array of the General Dynamic F.U.N. prints.  It’s especially good to see the prints at first hand again and their manner of display – they’re not formally framed and have the ‘look’ of something still being proofed.  From the ‘context’ exhibits I was also surprised by the fact that I’d forgotten about the original J G Ballard introduction to the Suite: 

The marriage of reason and fantasy which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an even more ambiguous world.  Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. In ‘Moonstrips Empire News’ Eduardo Paolozzi brilliantly explored the darker side of this mysterious continent. By contrast, in ‘General Dynamic F.U.N.’ he brings together the happiest fruits of a benevolent technology. The leitmotif is the California girl sunbathing on her car roof. The mood is idyllic, at times even domestic. Tactile values are emphasised, the surface pleasures to be found in confectionary, beauty parlours and haute couture fabrics. Children play in a garden pool, a circus elephant crushes a baby Fiat. Varieties of coleslaw are offered to our palates, far more exciting than the bared flesh of the muscle men and striptease queens. Mickey Mouse, elder statesman of Paolozzi’s imagination, presides over this taming of the machine. The only factories shown here are manufacturing dolls. Customised motorcycles and automobile radiator grills show an amiable technology on its vacation day. Despite this pleasant carnival air, a tour de force of charm and good humour, Paolozzi’s role in providing our most important visual abstracting service should not be overlooked. Here the familiar materials of our everyday lives, the jostling iconographies of mass advertising and consumer goods, are manipulated to reveal their true identities. For those who can read its pages, ‘General Dynamic F.U.N.’ is a unique guidebook to the electric garden of our mind. 

I think that’s brilliantly concise and illuminating. 

If you’re in the South East, and – as I was up to today – unaware that such an image-feast is on offer, get a move on – the show closes on 23rd August.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Busy and Brash

The next print is Agile Coin Gross Decision Logic. 

This image has a clear antecedent in an earlier series.  From 'Universal Electronic Vacuum', War Games Revised, is conceptually similar, as is the format and some of the componentry.  However, where War Games . . . is cool and sombre, Agile Coin . . . is busy and brash. 

All this weaponry repeatedly and banally depicted as goodies in a sales catalogue, yet capable of immense destruction and misery.  The simple, crude repetition of deadly imagery was a frequently visited theme in the Sixties.  Warhol in particular was fascinated by the idea that seeing something over and over again is desensitizing, eventually allowing horrific images to be viewed with indifference.  His Death and Disaster series from early in the decade thoroughly explored this concept. 

AGILE-COIN was a computer war game developed in the late Sixties.  It was an attempt to integrate a variety of types of conflict (rather than just a conventional battlefield scenario) to inform the development of new tactics relevant to the asymmetrical sort of warfare encountered by US forces in Vietnam.

Here is the print in two colourway versions, (the left hand version is an artist’s proof):

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Petersburg Press

As Is When, Moonstrips Empire News and General Dynamic F.U.N. had all been published by Editions Alecto.  Alecto’s co-founder, Paul Cornwall-Jones left to set up Petersburg Press in 1968 and ZEEP was one its first great issues.  Paolozzi, however, returned to Alecto for the publication of the subsequent print series, The Conditional Probability Machine (1970) and Cloud Atomic Laboratory 1971.
Petersburg Press published some of the very best print media contemporary art of the late Sixties/early Seventies, notably by: 

Richard Hamilton (I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas; Release)

Marcel Duchamp (The Ocultist Witnesses)

David Hockney (Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm)

Patrick Caulfield (Some Poems of Jules Laforgue)

Jim Dine (The Picture of Dorian Gray; Five Paintbrushes)

Frank Stella (Multi Coloured Squares; Jaspers Dilemma)

James Rosenquist (F-111)

Dieter Roth (Six Piccadillies)

Next Z.E.E.P. print is Will the Future Ruler of the Earth come from the Ranks of the Insects:

Four of the panels from this print featured in the very successful cover design for Diane Kirkpatrick's 1970 book,  Eduardo Paolozzi. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Pile itself and an explanation

Here, below, is a 1950 cutaway drawing of the Zero-Energy Experimental Pile (ZEEP), which on September 5, 1945, became the first nuclear reactor to initiate a self-sustaining chain reaction outside the United States, at Chalk River, Ontario, Canada:

Originally part of an effort to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, the reactor was designed by a team of Canadian, British and French scientists and engineers assembled in Montreal and in Ottawa in 1942-43 under the administration of the National Research Council. Named Zero Energy Experimental Pile because it was developed to produce only one watt of heat, the ZEEP reactor was used to provide data for the design of the powerful NRX (National Research Experimental) reactor. 

Next Z.E.E.P. print is Hollywood Wax Museum:

The Museum was opened in 1965 and thrives to this day – spawning 3 other such museums subsequently opened in Branson, Missouri, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Clearly, despite all today’s electronic media coverage, the public remains keen on viewing effigies of ‘celebrities’.  Paolozzi certainly enjoyed visiting the place when he was teaching at Berkeley.  The print is rich with several of his fave images – spaceflight hardware, robots, monkey, technology/medical cutaway drawing and a pin-up.  I imagine that on a walk around the Museum you would have the impression of a similar jumble of characters and dioramas.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Zero Energy Experimental Pile

This is the last of Paolozzi’s great 60s print suites, created whilst he was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.  Steeped in the contemporary American West Coast culture, the imagery is especially rich, complex and charismatic.  The title is derived from an atomic physics book – a typical piece of Paolozzi image/language magpie-ing.

Throughout the suite there is an underlying tension between the super-serious themes of the Cold War/The Space Race/Globalisation and the banality of popular consumer products/images/media outputs.  Pure pattern takes a bit more of a back seat, but is still used selectively to great effect.  Where written language had become progressively more central to Paolozzi's work in the preceding suites, Z.E.E.P. is a celebration of hectically assembled, maximum-impact visual imagery.

Z.E.E.P. was published in 1970 by Petersburg Press in an edition of 125; (some sources state 100).  Presented in a silver solander box, the prints are 860mm x 600mm.

As the 60s came to a close Paolozzi was seeking to maximise his use of the more photo-friendly lithography process.  However, creative demands intervened and in a letter dated 2nd February 1970 Paolozzi told Diane Kirkpatrick:
The new set of prints is called Zero Energy Experimental Pile is (sic) half-way through proofing, once again the original intention was to use photolitho exclusively but screen printing is beginning to appear.

First print glories in the title: Plus Cry on my Shoulder, No Sad Songs etc:

Saturday, 28 February 2015

More on cars and titles

Those new to Paolozzi may well find many of his titles pretty puzzling; General Dynamic F.U.N. includes some of the most arcane – e.g. Astute sizing up perfume trends, (EA # 706).  The following extract from a 1964 conversation between Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton (published in Robin Spencer’s Eduardo Paolozzi, Interviews and Writings) is pertinent both to cars and the creative relevance of a title.  Paolozzi was working on an aluminium sculpture, Lotus, which features some tubular elements reminiscent of a Formula One racing car’s exhaust manifold/pipe system: 

Hamilton: You have a very clear idea when you embark on a project, what it’s going to be.  In fact, you even have a title for it; in this case, ‘LOTUS’.  The word ‘Lotus’ is already helping to form the image for you, and taking you to a certain kind of structure.  This is the case with most things that you produce; that you have a thought, you have a word or a series of words which are associated with the object, and to which the object will be striving?

Paolozzi: Well, I think, of course, in England, what results is ‘racing car’; and without going back to the whole idea of irony in the use of words, I think when we’re talking about Diana, too, when I was a child, there was a bicycle called ‘Diana’.  I think there’s also an air gun called ‘Diana’; but working in the environment of a factory, one likes the idea that there also has to be a nomenclature for the manufactured object.    It runs all through manufactured objects . . . . But ‘Lotus’, for me, is the double meaning of the flower, and it has the symbolic meaning in the East; and also the racing car, I think a racing car that is called after a flower, is marvellous; but you also have battleships being called after Greek heroes, so are railway engines. 

Now for the other five ‘car’ prints from General Dynamic F.U.N. 

EA # 733 Pig or Person, it’s the same, Fortune plays a funny game:

EA # 737 Brainiac 5 no puede ganar contra tres maquinas:

EA # 729 Hermaphroditic Children from Transvestite Parents:   

EA # 718 Totems and Taboos of the Nine to Five Day:

EA # 705 Synthetic Sirens in the Pink Light District:

Monday, 23 February 2015

The car is the star

The rapid growth in the Fifties/Sixties of personal mobility courtesy of the motor car was a major factor in societal and cultural change.  Paolozzi was sensitive to this from the early Fifties – seen, for example in the collage/prints, Automobile Head, started in 1954. 

During the period of his fascination with American consumerist imagery, Paolozzi – as was Richard Hamilton – seems to have been particularly taken with the sculptural aspects of the more extreme examples of styling created by the U.S. manufacturers – especially the science fiction-like body panel fins, ornate chrome bumpers and light cluster detailing. 

Beyond these straightforward visual attractions, Paolozzi’s artistic practice was very much in tune with the concept of automotive mass production: relying on the assembling of a huge number of component parts and their availability, discretely, for the aftermarket – akin to Paolozzi’s continuous collecting/cropping of images and their use in endless collaged combinations. 

During his stays in the U.S. in the Sixties, Paolozzi apparently visited few art galleries or museums: "Instead he is reputed to have gone to Disneyland, to the wax museums of San Francisco and Los Angeles, to Frederick's lingerie showrooms and Paramount studios, the University of California computer centre, Stanford University's linear accelerator, the Douglas aircraft company in Santa Monica and the General Motors assembly line in Hayward." (Professor Sir Christopher Frayling). 

There’s possible homage too to Henry Ford in Paolozzi’s choice of Bunk! as the title of the 1972 print series, given Ford’s well known quote: ‘History is more or less bunk’. 

Here are the first five of ten General Dynamic F.U.N. prints featuring cars: 

EA # 713 Sex Crime Wave Rolling High:

EA # 736 Careers today. . . How children fail:

EA # 745 The accident syndrome, the Genesis of injury:

EA # 740 Risk-taking as a function of the Situation:

EA # 746 Smash hit, Good Loving, plus like a Rolling Stone, Slow Down etc.:

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Patterns repeating

As with Moonstrips, the General Dynamic F.U.N. suite includes some superb pattern-intense prints.  This is EA # 712, Becoming is Meaning like Nothing is Going.  It’s rather like Universal Electronic Vacuum’s Memory Matrix:

In EA # 717, Similar remarks apply to Uranium 235 the construction seems familiar from previous series, with electronic controls/lamps suggested, but the elements and the assembly are less uniform/precise:

EA # 725, The A B C of Z takes us back to As Is When’s Futurism at Lenabo:

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Great American Dream

Paolozzi was first subject to major external influencing artistic culture when he took himself to Paris in 1947.  There he became immersed in the traditional fine art milieu of the Twentieth Century, especially impressed by the works and concepts of the Dadaists and Surrealists.  However, by early the following decade, he had tuned in to transatlantic influence through his interest in mass media output, and then, certainly, nowhere was such imagery being generated in greater variety and volume than in the USA.  He was showing collages of this material at The Independent Group events as early as 1952.  This activity has given rise to Paolozzi’s and the Group’s branding as Pop Art pioneers, although Paolozzi’s ideas and sensibilities went way beyond those of the mainstream Pop masters of the Sixties.

Moonstrips and General Dynamic F.U.N. burst at their seams with images which typify the consumer society of Sixties America.  It’s likely that by the time Paolozzi was assembling these prints, his view of what the component imagery represented culturally had become jaded.  In the relative austerity of Fifties England we saw most things American as exciting and we aspired to have them here, to own the goodies, copy the styles.  Beyond that generality, Paolozzi was intrigued by the new information technologies developing in the USA.  He had a clear vision of how they could enhance the scope of his artistic practice.  He wrote:

. . . computer graphics in the UK remain on a primitive level. . . .In the case of the last series, Universal Electronic Vacuum, the images were based on ‘Ready-mades’ from various journals, in some cases the same image was enlarged and repeated. The final collage was re-adapted by photo-stencil into various colour combinations for screen printing.  Computer graphics offers much more sophistication than the above method.  The library of raw material to be scanned and stored – programming aimed at conversion combination technique assimilation.  (Extract from a letter to TRW Systems, California, 1969, reproduced in Eduardo Paolozzi Writings and Interviews, edited by Robin Spencer). 

However, by this point, outside purely artistic considerations, Paolozzi had no doubt come to see America in a less attractive light; in lefty England the perception of things like The Vietnam War, race relations and junk quality/disposable goods had taken the shine off the Great American Dream and many of Paolozzi’s image juxtapositions seem to express this, for example: 

EA # 724 Decency and Decorum in Production:

EA # 733 Pig or Person, it’s the same, Fortune plays a funny game:

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Some more on collage

Robin Spencer, in his Introduction to Eduardo Paolozzi, Writings and Interviews, expands on the Paolozzi quote in my last post: 

Paolozzi’s account of collage as a ‘symbolic art, like life itself – a tangle unravelled’ – describes not only its magical properties, but also the fundamental purpose of making art.  Collage, a ‘projection of experience denied’, enables both artist and viewer to make sense of themselves and of a world which is chaotic and meaningless.  Collage embodies the revisionary nature of art, because the artist has to destroy before he can create; he constantly reviews his material by adding to and subtracting from it.  The ‘damage, erasure, destruction, disfigurement and transformation’ process to which Paolozzi subjects things to make collage is necessary before new metaphors can be given life.  The creative act of collage, which embodies the destruction-creation myth, is ‘a method of taking the world apart and reassembling it in the order that one understands, and that order is ruled by one’s emotions, intuitions and intellect. That is Surrealism.  And that is perception’.

EA # 708 Why children commit suicide . . . read next month’s issue:

EA # 709 An Empire of Silly Statistics . . . A Fake War for Public Relations:

Friday, 16 January 2015

Paolozzi on collage and two more great examples from General Dynamic F.U.N.

For a 1977 exhibition catalogue Paolozzi wrote: 

Making collage can be a symbolic art, like life itself – a tangle unravelled.  Experience denied or an iconographic interpretation divorced from the niceties of formal analysis.  As in a painting by Carpaccio or Bosch improbable events can be frozen into peculiar assemblies by manipulation – time and space can be drawn together into new spatial strategy.  Dream and poetry can be fused without the usual concessions to graphic limitations.  Figures from a Turkish landscape trapped by cruelty may be released and find themselves perplexed and frightened in a French nursery flanked by the mechanical sphinx. 

I would hope that for anyone perhaps confused by the General Dynamic F.U.N. prints, that statement will help them understand the creative concepts. 
The Suite is an exemplar of the times – when the availability and broadcast of imagery from each and every cultural source was suddenly expanding exponentially.  General Dynamic F.U.N. showed how such diverse imagery could be utilised to evoke responses based on innovative, non-linear thinking, (that's you, the viewer, doing a lot of the work!). 

EA # 704 Calling Radio Free America:
EA # 707 Cary Grant as a male war bride:

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

General Dynamic F.U.N. - first two selected prints

The June 1968 issue of Studio International announced: Eduardo Paolozzi’s new series, General Dynamic F.U.N., given a recent preview at the ‘Obsessive Image’ exhibition at the I.C.A. will be issued in three editions: on film, as a paperback book and as a limited graphic edition.

The graphic edition – sometimes tagged as part 2 of Moonstrips – was published by Editions Alecto in 1970; it had been 5 years in the creating.  The suite included 50 image sheets collated into 5 version sets – 70 prints of each, making for a total edition size of 350.  Some prints were photo-litho, some screenprints. 

The first print, a photo-litho, with EA stamp # 700 is Transparent creatures hunting New Victims:

EA # 703, also photo-litho is Early mental traits of 300 geniuses: