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: