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:
 
 

 

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