Today we were viewing British and American prints from the collection with the students of Prof. Cathy Zerner’s class for an upcoming exhibition they are curating. Amongst the Jim Dines and Patrick Caulfields, we came across a discreet group of prints by Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005). Paolozzi is somewhat less well known than his pop contemporaries, perhaps due to his own disavowing of his pop influences, often preferring to discuss his connections and continuities with the Surrealists.
While popularly known for his distinctive, almost Cubist, public sculptures, Paolozzi’s heady, dense and electric screen prints reveal an impassioned engagement with color, pattern, and form and their transformation through the developing socio-cultural visual mechanics of the 20th century. Paolozzi’s complex image overlays and juxtapositions are often bound together by an almost weaved texture of proto-pixels deployed almost as a reckoning between British and American pop styles or a deresolution of the promises of 20th century modern cultural progress.
In the print pictured above “Donald Duck meets Mondrian” from his Moonstrips Empire News series (1967), we can see Paolozzi juxtaposing “high” art (a stereotypical Mondrian-style work in the bottom right) and Western popular culture (represented in Walt Disney’s character Donald Duck in the bottom left). Set underneath a “glossy magazine-style” image of a happy child playing with toys, this work perhaps questions mid-20th century expectations of cultural and childhood development within the clash of images competing for representation of increasingly globalized cultural forms. A provocative element of this work is that through the necessary use of shared color tones in the printing process, Paolozzi has offered something of a shared (yet dissonant) cultural space – where both Donald Duck and Mondrian exist in shared shades of yellow, blue, violet and red.
In the David Winton Bell Gallery’s permanent collection, we are fortunate to have a selection of Paolozzi’s screen prints from his Moonstrips Empire News (1967) portfolio (such as “Donald Duck Meets Mondrian” pictured above) as well as a few individual lithographs, all of which offer an insight into the vibrant visual tensions and influences Paolozzi negotiated in his work, making him a uniquely distinctive pop artist of the 20th century.
Read a tribute to and interesting discussion of the then recently departed Paolozzi by writer, critic and curator Rick Poynor here: http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=3287