From THE INDEPENDENT GROUP: BRITISH AND AMERICAN POP ART,
A "PALIMPCESTUOUS" LEGACY
In 1956 This is Tomorrow took place - a show generally considered the culmination of those activities, exhibitions, and discussions that had preoccupied the Independent Group during the previous four years. I It was also the year of another landmark exhibition in British art history. Entitled Modern Art in the United States, and containing examples of the much discussed but hitherto unseen (in England) Abstract Expressionist painting, this show was held at the Tate Gallery, the national museum for the collection of both historical British and modern international art. (2) The two exhibitions could hardly have been more different. The first, staged at the Whitechapel Gallery, a noted venue for contemporary art in London's then impoverished East End, contained a dozen installations, which had the effect of turning the whole gallery into a vast environment. These had been devised by twelve separate groups, each of which notionally contained at least one artist and one architect among its three or four members. That each acted quite independently of the other enhanced the very different areas of concern they represented, so that, alongside much Constructivist-related work, references to popular culture of diverse kinds, as well as to primitivism, archeology, and anthropology could be discerned, especially in the two most memorable and prophetic installations. Both of these were by members of the Independent Group: one by the Richard Hamilton-John McHale-John Voelcker trio, and the other by the quartet comprising Eduardo Paolozzi, Nigel Henderson, and Alison and Peter Smithson. (3)
Near the entrance to the exhibition the visitor encountered the Hamilton-McHaleVoelcker construction with its perspectivally distorted architectural spaces crammed with contemporary visual material of the most diverse kinds and scales, culled from movies, astronomy, comics, food and consumer-goods advertisements. All of this intermingled with sounds from a juke box competing with the highly amplified recordings of the voices of previous visitors, as well as with different smells. The effect sought was something close to multisensory disorientation. The other historically significant installation, by contrast, comprised a kind of minimal living space, a rude lean-to patio-cumpavilion containing a variety of battered homely objects - a bicycle wheel, a trumpet, a TV set - symbols of a devastated past and/or future life lain out as an archeologist might display the material culture that had been unearthed during an excavation of some lost society. (4)
The Tate show was a far more conventional affair, in part because it was a straightforward survey of twentieth-century American painting and sculpture and in part because it contained few echoes of that avowedly populist and participatory spirit that animated most of the This is Tomorrow participants for whom, according to the press release, "The doors of the Ivory Tower are wide open." 5 The key to the excitement it generated lay in the fact that it provided local artists with their first direct exposure to Abstract Expressionist painting.
If both exhibitions attracted considerable public attention and media coverage, it may be supposed that in large part the audiences for the two were, notwithstanding some overlap from the younger art community, distinctively different. Certainly, the legacies attributed to each are quite separate - separate rather than conflicting.
The American show was followed three years later by another exhibition, held again at the Tate Gallery, this time devoted exclusively to Abstract Expressionism, loosely defined. (6) Stimulated by this example, a number of British artists began to make large-format color-field paintings, which they perceived to be radically abstract in configuration. Banding together, they presented their work in 1960 at the RBA Galleries in a polemical exhibition entitled Situation. A follow-up show was held the next year. The debt of these painters, who included John Hoyland, Robyn Denny, and Bernard Cohen among their number, to their American forebears was openly acknowledged. No ambiguity attends the transition of influence and inspiration from the most recent American works in the 1956 show to those that herald the debut of these British abstract artists coming to maturity in the early sixties, nor to their belief that the central strands of high modernism, as defined in the writings of critics like Clement Greenberg, were being actively carried forward in their art. (7)
The legacy of This is Tomorrow is altogether more complex and problematic. First, it is important to note that, although the most discussed sections of the show were provided by erstwhile members of the Independent Group, the group itself had by then formally disbanded. Nevertheless, in hindsight this show, rather than any of their other multifarious activities, has been deemed the inception of Pop Art and hence has been considered their most significant contribution to the history of art....
In 1961 a number of young painters, most of whom had trained at the Royal College of Art in London, were included together in an anthology exhibition at the I.C.A., called Young Contemporaries: notable among the participants were David Hockney, Derek Boshier, Patrick Caulfield, and Peter Phillips. They, too, were soon to become celebrated as Pop artists. The connections between the members of the Independent Group and the younger sixties Pop painters, are, however, difficult to determine precisely, being more circuitous than direct, more circumstantial than causal. At most, the former seem to have contributed to a cultural climate conducive to the development of a figurative art that drew for its imagery and spirit - in a free-wheeling, hedonistic, subjective way - on contemporary youth and media culture.
It is important to remember, too, that it was only in 1957 that Richard Hamilton executed the first of his paintings to incorporate motifs, techniques, and styles derived from the mass media. This was Hommage a Chrysler Corps, a painting he later described as
a compilation of themes derived from the glossies. The main motif, the vehicle,
breaks down into an anthology of presentation techniques. One passage, for exam-
ple, runs from a prim emulation of in-focus photographed gloss to out-of-focus
gloss to an artist's representation of chrome to an ad-man's sign meaning
"chrome." Pieces are taken from Chrysler's Plymouth and Imperial ads, there is
some General Motors material and a bit of a Pontiac.... The sex-symbol is, as so
often happens in the ads, engaged in a display of affection for the vehicle."
(Nonetheless, as Lawrence Alloway soon pointed out, there are significant traces in Hamilton's mode of composing, as well as in his manner of layering meaning, of Duchamp's art, and of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even in particular.) (9)
Equally telling is the fact the other leading artist to have been connected with the Independent Group, Eduardo Paolozzi was at that moment better termed a New Brutalist than a Pop artist, if any labeling is required. "I Although since the 1940s he bad made numerous small collages in which he incorporated barely modified material drawn from comics and down-market pin-ups, Paolozzi's main activity as an artist at this point was the creation of bronze sculptures of anthropomorphic hybrids. Closer to primeval monsters than to futuristic robots - given their fractured carapaces constructed by embedding into wax sheets myriad small objects of various kinds, and imbued with a quasiexistentialist angst - these battered figures were more redolent of Surrealist grotesquerie than of any contemporary fascination with the new ethos of the mass media and consumer consumption. In addition, most of the other key artists associated with the Independent Group, notably Nigel Henderson, John McHale and William Turnbull, were closer in their interests and concerns to Paolozzi than to Hamilton, whose painting up to then had principally involved questions relating to perception and in ways that, ultimately, could be traced back through Duchamp to Cézanne. (11)
While the proliferation of elements often associated with particularly low-grade forms of mass culture caused many to see in Hamilton and Co.'s installation for This is Tomorrow a Dadaist effect if not intent, the focus of their thought was very different. As demonstrated both by the catalogue (in the layout of Hamilton's collage opposite a blackand-white image that ambiguously hovered between positive and negative figure-ground readings), and by their juxtaposition in the show of admass imagery with effects generated by devices frequently used in the realm of fine art, such as perspectival distortions, they sought to render sensory, and especially visual, perception ambiguous. However, the lessons enshrined in this multimedia "high/low" cultural interplay were not presented didactically; what was understood by most participants was apprehended intuitively and experientially. (12)
Since Paolozzi's debts, by contrast, were more to Surrealism, which he had studied in Paris in the forties and to which thereafter he remained aligned, at least in his own eyes, his approach to mass culture was significantly different.':' While in his sculpture this involved the metamorphosis of popular-culture items into high art, in his contributions to Independent Group activities he betrayed a more ethnographic slant. (14) However, over the course of the fifties his fascination with low-grade mass culture gradually was overlain with a pessimistic, existentially inflected view of the contemporary world, a view that later drew him to the science-fiction writer J. G. Ballard, with whom he shares a mistrust of technology, or at least of modern man's responses to technology. (15)
Yet this New Brutalist ethos - as it manifested itself within the framework of the Independent Group - was perhaps best expressed not in This is Tomorrow but in the exhibition that that same quartet of Paolozzi, Henderson, and the Smithsons, together with Ronald Jenkins, had organized for the I.C.A. in London in 1953. Entitled Parallel of Life and Art, it comprised over one hundred images garnered from a wide variety of visual sources, rephotographed and then printed, often enlarged, on grainy paper. Divested of labels and captions, and thus often defying easy identification, these photographs were arranged in a labyrinthine installation that created a seamless, encompassing, heterarchical melange. Among the few fine-art images included alongside reproductions of children's drawings, hieroglyphs, and "primitive" art were photographs of works by Dubuffet, Pollock, and Klee; the majority, however, were images taken from other fields, especially from the sciences, technology, and photo-journalism - images that often resulted from the latest developments in the particular fields, such as microscopic photography, aerial photography, photo-finish cameras, and high-speed flash. Photography was seen to play a key role in this egalitarian view of the recently expanded visual world, in which, according to the catalogue statement, scientific and artistic information ought to be regarded as aspects of a single whole. (16) Yet for many critics the overall impression given by the show, which they deemed more attentive to the ugliness or horrors of everyday life than to its ostensible beauties, was disquieting - testimony to the effectiveness of what Reyner Banham, another member of the Independent Group and a leading writer on architecture and design, described as its subversive innovation, the flouting of "humanistic conventions of beauty in order to emphasize violence, distortion, obscurity, and a certain amount of 'humeur noir." (17)
The principal goals of this exhibition were therefore very similar to those that later underpinned This is Tomorrow, at least as outlined by Lawrence Alloway (the leading art critic within the Independent Group) in his catalogue introduction to that show: "A result of this exhibition is to oppose the specialization of the arts.... An exhibition like this ... is a lesson in spectatorship, which cuts across the learned responses of conventional reception." 18 Yet such goals were but the baseline of the Independent Group's endeavors: the implications they foresaw from a radical shift in cultural values were as important to them. In anticipation of the extensive social reconstruction they hoped would result from that shift, it was necessary, they believed, to begin to devise ways of studying the new phenomena that were rapidly overtaking and redefining the field of popular culture, both the novel technologies and the proliferating mass media.
Fundamental to any assessment of the legacy of the Independent Group as a whole (as well as to the problem of connecting the artists belonging to it with the Royal College Pop painters) is the fact that the Independent Group was not primarily engaged in making artworks. Discussion was its first concern, manifested most importantly in the series of seminars convened exclusively for its closely selected membership but also in certain public lectures devised for the I.C.A., its parent organization. Supplementary to that was the curating, designing, and installing of exhibitions. (19) Whether in debates or in exhibition making, the activities of the Independent Group were always collaborative. Both its vitality and the source of its historical significance lay in the flexibility and openness with which it accommodated the amiably competing, interdisciplinary interests of its leading protagonists. At no point, however, did it issue either joint statements or manifestoes, though many of its leading figures did publish articles on topics that had proved the focus of much discussion among the group. The artworks that a number of them made while members were, consequently, ancillary to its existence, no more influential on nor determined by the group activity than, say, the academic research on the pioneers of the early modern movement in architecture that concurrently preoccupied Reyner Banham as a postgraduate student at the Courtauld Institute, or the lectures Lawrence Alloway prepared on aspects of the historical collection as a temporary employee of the Tate Gallery.
The young artists emerging from the Royal College in the early sixties, by contrast, were painters tout court. They incorporated into their art imagery culled from the latest, most up-to-date aspects of their visual environment, its sites of leisure, pleasure, and desire. Theirs was an enthusiastic, personal, and uncritical response to an England in the first full flush of a newly won economic prosperity, a prosperity that, by the end of the fifties, had transformed the incipient consumerism of the mid-decade into an unprecedented boom in spending. But not only did these young sixties artists not share their predecessors' critical distance from the immediate environment, they did not engage in theoretical or cultural studies of the kind that were the hallmark of the Independent Group....
While the Pop Art that emerged in Britain in the sixties was widely, enthusiastically, and rapidly embraced, in the United States it was bitterly contested. (20) However, its various advocates and denunciators cannot be divided along the lines of radical and conservative, academic and avant-garde, for what Pop Art initially seemed to propose was a far greater challenge than that which was normally implied in the shift from one art movement to another, that is, by a change in subject and/or style. The situation in England was not comparable: neither the art objects made by members of the Independent Group nor the paintings of the sixties Pop artists offer equivalent challenges to those notions of originality, authorship, and innovation that lie at the heart of modernism, even to the very category of art qua art, that American Pop Art at its most rigorous and trenchant was believed to posit. In aesthetic terms, the British strains could be condemned, or celebrated, for being vulgar, tasteless, and jejeune; but in no sense did they present more fundamental assaults on normative categories. (21) And similarly in social terms: the Independent Group was expansionist and accumulative in its targets and only incidentally confrontational and contestatory, while British Pop of the sixties offered far less threat to the status quo than did either pop music or fashion. In fact, its ready acceptance at a general level could be ascribed in part to the ease with which it was assimilated into the new manifestations then sweeping the field of music, fashion, and design, manifestations that cumulatively became promoted as Pop culture, and hence as key elements in the scene soon known as " Swinging London."
The emergence of American Pop Art in 1962 aroused enormous controversy among the defenders of high culture, following as it did at least a decade of anxious defensiveness by those mandarins. (22) In their determination to safeguard high culture, certain strategies had been adopted to present Abstract Expressionism as a pinnacle of high-art achievement, one which had to be segregated from the incursions of all forms of kitsch. To this end, the degree to which de Kooning, for example, drew on both mass-cultural imagery and its themes was ignored or heavily underplayed. (23) Robert Rauschenberg's combines, which preserved unaltered the factuality, the "given" quality, of their preformed mass-cultural elements were, at least at first, able to be marginalized by being considered a form of Neo-Dada. Thus it was Jasper Johns's paintings that, in the late fifties, came to represent a major threat to the hegemony of Abstract Expressionism: for notwithstanding his virtuosity in handling paint, his overtly banal subject matter appeared highly provocative in the face of those transcendental ideals purportedly manifest in Abstract Expressionism.
The question of the relationship between high and low culture grew increasingly explosive with the steadily expanding proliferation of mass culture into all areas of daily life, a fact demonstrated first by the furor that surrounded the earliest show to bring together many of the American Pop protagonists, Sidney Janis's 1962 New Realists exhibition, and second, by the way that the greatest controversy centered around Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, painters whose work not only drew on advertising and media imagery for its subject matter but which, more importantly, utilized the conventions and techniques of mass reproduction in representing it. (24) Moreover, in addition to their seeming not to transform admass material, both artists presented it on a scale and in a format that directly challenged serious painting on its own ground. Unlike such patently avant-garde activity as "happenings," which adopted means, materials, and techniques, and even operated in venues, that were regarded as in some way alternative - nonart or antiart - American Pop Art sought to locate itself at the very heart of the mainstream. This was undoubtedly done highly consciously, for all its chief protagonists had, in their youth, flirted with or grown through phases of Abstract Expressionist painting. Moreover, since all had backgrounds in commercial art, they were thoroughly conversant with the normative distinctions that separated the two realms, their different codes, conventions, and values. (25) They therefore offered a challenge to prevailing concerns and larger cultural values of an order that the more conventional British artists emerging from the Royal College could not match. It was a kind of challenge that the Independent Group, operating in a quite different cultural matrix, did not seek to posit.
It is not surprising that no sustained parallels or significant connections can be drawn between the emergence of Pop Art in Britain and the United States. This involves more than the likelihood of local differences obscuring or modifying related impulses; rather it depends on the substantially different socio-cultural contexts in which each burgeoned. Such connections have nonetheless frequently been drawn largely because of the ways in which the history of Pop Art was first written. Were it not for the personal circumstances of Lawrence Alloway's life, the Independent Group might never have become a component integral to any discussion of Pop Art, nor might such weight have been given, at least in the early accounts, to its manifestations in Britain in the sixties. (26)
Alloway coined the term "Pop" initially to refer to the widespread interest in popular culture as it was expressed by the members of the Independent Group in their discussions, lectures, and other group activities. A particular interest of his, he fostered it wherever he was most active and influential, such as in the seminar series held at the I.C.A. during the winter Of 1953-54. He was then, almost predictably, attracted by the arrival of certain younger British artists, mostly from the Royal College, who used it as the source of imagery in their paintings; and he subsequently modified the meaning of the term to accommodate them, dubbing their work, collectively, Pop Art. In 1962 he moved to the United States, where he quickly became an influential curator of pioneering exhibitions devoted to the work of key participants in what had emerged there under several rubrics before it finally became definitively known as Pop Art.
In later writing a history of the postwar art in Britain that drew on popular culture for its imagery and, sometimes, style, Alloway cojoined Pop and Pop Art in a quasilinear unfolding, which conformed to the progressivist evolutionary models then prevailing in art history - and the Independent Group became the progenitors of Pop Art. (27) It is worth noting, however, that although Alloway had written extensively on various art and popular culture topics during the years of the Independent Group, and although at that time he also reviewed the work of its key artists Paolozzi and Hamilton in highly favorable terms, he never mentioned, let alone discussed, the group during its existence. (28) If it was in large part due to Alloway that the Independent Group came to have a recognized place in those histories of Pop Art written in the sixties, thereafter its stature waned as the preeminence of certain of its American principals grew and the careers of others elsewhere declined. By the beginning of the eighties, in general histories of twentieth-century art it was often reduced to little more than a cursory citation, a singular prefiguration, an obligatory footnote. (29)
British Pop Art of the sixties has with time suffered a similar eclipse, being increasingly seen as but one, local, manifestation among many, and arguably not a crucial one at that. The prodigious spread of the mass media and consumer culture throughout the Western world from the mid-fifties onward was rarely separable in most places from the infiltration of American influence - in the guise of both high and low cultural forms. This generated a range of reactions throughout Europe in which response to the former was inextricably linked to a response to the latter, and the results were deemed, collectively, manifestations of Pop Art. Overlooked then, and so never commandeered under that rubric, the works made during the 1960s by the German Capitalist Realists Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke now appear both more substantial and more significant, in the ways that they address the challenges offered by this proliferating mass culture than do those of any other non-New York "Pop" artists - the British included - with the singular exception of Richard Hamilton. (30) Only recently, however, has due attention begun to be accorded them in the English-speaking world: this will doubtless in turn contribute significantly to the rewriting of the standard histories of Pop Art, which to date are still largely determined by the perspectives taken by certain British and American authors of the sixties.
If by the later part of that decade (American) Pop Art seemed to have swept all before it, having been assimilated into mainstream accounts of the development of modern art as a parallel and counterpoint to contemporary abstraction, (31) developments in the seventies led to its being reconsidered in very different terms. In the wake of the Conceptualists' institutional critique and deconstruction of the art object, its languages and forms, Pop Art came under increasing attack, especially from the Left. (32) Far from offering a critique or even exposure of the dominant values of late capitalist consumer society as had formerly been argued, most notably in continental Europe, it was now seen to be thoroughly implicated in them, collusive and complicit. (33) Most historical accounts attempting, with the benefits of hindsight, to assess its contribution to modernism have henceforth concentrated on little else.
By contrast, those artists and writers who came to maturity in the late seventies had grown up in a media-saturated world and were therefore attuned, it is argued, to the dominating effects of the electronics media and information technologies not only on the current visual landscape and its languages but on all conscious thoughts and unconscious desires. To them there seems no possibility of offering any critique from outside this context, that is, of providing a critique that is not itself marked by some degree of complicity with the prevailing ideology. Framed by the new theoretical writing emerging from poststructuralist authors, most recent investigations of Pop Art have therefore taken a different course, and a somewhat more positive reading has ensued - or at least one that may be construed as positive within an increasingly negative overview of Western culture at large. Media-literate in new ways, interpretations of this kind have been particularly forthcoming from those influenced by the writing of Jean Baudrillard, who has played a seminal role in the United States throughout the eighties in the thinking and development of many younger artists and writers. (34)
Most of the advocates of American Pop in the later sixties sought to argue for its high quality in orthodox terms, that is, for its formal affinities with concurrent modes of vanguard abstraction, and thus for its place in the mainstream of modernist expression. In so doing, they masked or suppressed, at least for a time, consideration of what has recently, once again, been considered essential to the radicality of its challenge, namely, its fundamental assault on certain central tenets of modernism: originality, authenticity, and innovation. Congruent with this has been the realization, admittedly more dependent on the example of Warhol than of Pop Art as a whole, that it is inextricably caught within the operations of the culture industry at large and yet at best not fully subservient to them. As Benjamin Buchloh argues:
the contradictions evidenced in the work's consistently ambivalent relationship to both mass culture and high art ... [were crucial to] the way in which Warhol underlined at all times that the governing formal determination of his work was the distribution form of the commodity object and that the work obeyed the same principles that determine the objects of the cultural industry at large. (35)
This and related interpretations have given Warhol's art immense potency in the eighties, since even more than the issues pertaining to simulation and appropriation, the question of the commodification of the artwork has come to the fore. But the centrality of these questions to the postmodernist debate is such that Pop Art as a whole has gained renewed significance - so much so, in fact, that Paul Taylor was recently able to claim quite persuasively, in the introduction to an anthology of theoretical writings devoted to this subject: "Two and a half decades after the event, Pop Art has reemerged as the most influential movement in the contemporary art world." (36)
1. The exhibition was not organized by the Independent Group (hereafter referred to as IG) but by Theo Crosby, editor of Architectural Design. For a detailed study of the origin and form of the show, see Graham Whitham, "This is Tomorrow: Genesis of an Exhibition," in Modern Dreams, PP. 35-39.
2. Modern Art in the United States contained the work of Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still; about 110 artists were represented in all. Pollock's work had in fact already been shown in London, in a group exhibition entitled Opposing Forces held at the I.C.A. in 1953. Thomas Hess gave a lecture entitled "New Abstract Painters in America" at the I.C.A. in November 1951; at a series of lectures at the I.C.A. in the winter of 1953-54, Toni del Renzio, a member of the IG, discussed Action Painting under the title "NonFormal Painting." Reyner Banham argues that to the Smithsons, who first encountered Pollock's work at the Venice Biennale Of 1950, "he became a sort of patron saint even before his sensational and much publicized death"; Reyner Banham, The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic? (New York, 1966), p. 61. One of Hans Namuth's pictures of Pollock in his studio was included in Parallel of Life and Art (an exhibition at the I.C.A. in 1953); for the organizers he represented something that was very much in concert with the prevailing impulse of the show, a flouting of humanistic conventions of beauty in lieu of violence, distortion and obscurity.
3. For a detailed study of the formation and activities of the IG, see Anne Massey, "The Independent Group: Towards a Redefinition," Burlington Magazine, no. 1,009, April 1987, pp. 232-42(hereafter referred to as "Towards a Redefinition").
4. Kenneth Frampton described it acutely as a "symbolic temenos - a metaphorical backyard, an ironic interpretation of Laugier's primitive hut Of 1753 in terms of the backyard reality of Bethnal Green"; Kenneth Frampton, "New Brutalism and the Welfare State: 1949-59," in Modern Dreams, P. 48. Paolozzi had stayed with the Nigel Hendersons, who lived in Bethnal Green; an anthropologist, Nigel's wife, Judy, was working on a project that involved a study of backyards in that community.
5. Lawrence Alloway, introduction to This is Tomorrow, catalogue of an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1956, n.pag.
6. Entitled The New American Painting, this exhibition contained the work of James Brooks, Sam Francis, Philip Guston, and Grace Hartigan, in addition to that of Pollock, de Kooning, and other "First Generation" Abstract Expressionists.
7. The continuity of this initial impetus was maintained especially through the figure of Anthony Caro, the sole sculptor invited to participate. Greenberg's advocacy of his sculpture and the continuing influence of Greenberg's theories in Britain are well documented.
8. Hamilton, quoted in Richard Morphet, introduction to Richard Hamilton, catalogue of an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London, 1971, PP. 32-33.
9. Of the related Pop Art $he, which grew out of an investigation Hamilton undertook into consumer goods for an IG lecture, Lawrence Alloway wrote: "$he extends the most elliptical sign language of the art world (minted by Marcel Duchamp) to consumer goods. The painting is characterised by the cool, clean hygienic surface of kitchen equipment and the detailing has the crisp, fine points of ads or explanatory booklets on the products that Hamilton is painting"; "Artists as Consumers," Image, no. 3. c. February 1961, pp. 14-Ig. Later he added, equally validly. "The twentieth century experience of overlapping and clustered sign systems is Hamilton's organising principle"; Lawrence Alloway, "Pop Culture and Pop Art," Art International, July 1969, p. 19.
10. "New Brutalism" is a term that was applied more often to the architecture of the Smithsons. For further discussion, see Frampton, "New Brutalism," PP. 47-51. Some years later, Paolozzi and the Smithsons attempted to disassociate themselves from the IG.
11. For a detailed examination of Hamilton's early work, see Morphet, Introduction to Richard Hamilton. Certain of these differences should also be attributed to the markedly contrasting temperaments and sensibilities of Paolozzi and Hamilton. Whereas the former is prolix, the latter is terse; whereas the former is anti-academic, the latter demonstrates a spare intellectualism; whereas the former mined tawdry pulp publications - often cheap and nasty, violent and sexist - the latter admired industrial design, the glossies, and other sophisticated products essential to the manufacturing of consumer dreams; and whereas the former found an element of fantasy and horror inherent in actuality, the latter regarded its latest forms of expression with what has been aptly termed "an irony of affirmation." Their differences in attitude could perhaps be compared to the difference between perceiving something receptively and thinking critically abo tit it.
12. Lawrence Alloway later summarized their collective approach: "Any lessons in consumption or in style must occur inside the patterns of entertainment ... and not weigh it down like a pigeon with The Naked and the Dead tied to its leg" "; Lawrence Alloway, "The Long Front of Culture" (1959), reprinted in John Russell and Suzi Gablik, Pop Art Redefined (London, 1969), P. 42 (hereafter referred to as Pop Art Redefined).
13. See "Speculative Illustrations: Eduardo Paolozzi in Conversation with J.G. Ballard and Frank Whitford," Studio International, vol. 183, no. 937 (October 1971), p. 136.
14. Paolozzi has had a greater interest than most of the IG members in the products of indigenous cultures and preindustrial societies. Whereas in his art of the fifties his aim was to metamorphose his found material into bronzes (rather than leave it in a preformed state, as occurs in assemblage work), in the activities he undertook as a member of the IG - such as his famous lecture Of 1952), Paolozzi's attitude to his sources was what might be called ethnographic surrealism. In that pioneering lecture, Paolozzi presented under an epidiascope a large number of tear sheets without recognizable order, logical connection, or commentary; the material included painted covers from Amazing Science Fiction, advertisements for Cadillac and Chevrolet cars, a page of drawings from the Disney film Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood, and sheets of United States Army aircraft insignia as well as robots performing various tasks, usually with the help of humans. It was not until a decade later that he incorporated some of this material into his art, in the graphic suite Bunk.
15. For a more detailed discussion of the relation between Ballard and Paolozzi, see Eugenie Tsai, "The Sci-Fi Connection: The IG, J.G. Ballard, and Robert Smithson," in Modern Dreams, pp. 71-75. Note should be taken of the influential role played by certain celebrated photo books, including Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's Vision in Motion (1947), D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's Growth and Form (1916; 1st American edn. 1942), Amédée Ozenfant's Foundations of Modern Art (1931), and Sigfried Giedion's Mechanization Takes Command (1948), on the thinking of the IG. According to Diane Kirkpatrick (Eduardo Paolozzi [London, 1970], p. jig), these books, together with "Gutkind's Our World From The Air, and Kepes's The Ne- w Landscape each presented different aspects of the new visual frontiers which Kepes described as 'magnification of optical data, expansion and compression of events in time, expansion of the eye's sensitivity range, and modulations of signals."'
17. Banham, NewBrutalism, p.62.
18. Alloway, Introduction to This is Tomorrow, n.pag.
19. For a detailed discussion of the exhibitions organized by members of the IG, see Judith Barry, "Designed Aesthetic: Exhibition Design and the Independent Group," in Modern Dreams, pp. 41-45.
20. For a fuller discussion of the critics of American Pop Art, see Carol Anne Mahsun, Pop Art and the Critics (1981), dissertation, Ann Arbor, Mich., and London, 1987.
21. The British 1960s Pop artists, whose effect upon the aesthetic status quo was little more than stylistic, were so rapidly assimilated that comparisons have been drawn with the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood. These are apt in a number of respects: as regards the speed with which each group became celebrated; as regards their mutual interest in what might be called exotic subject matter; and as regards the fundamentally provincial character of their concerns, at least as realized in their art.
22. Opponents ranged from those on (or formerly on) the Left, such as Clement Greenberg, Irving Howe, and Dwight MacDonald, to conservatives such as Jose Ortega y Gasser and T.S. Eliot. Greenberg's most notable essay on the subject of "high/low" was "Avant-Garde and Kitsch," first published in 1939, and reprinted many times. But see also Greenberg's "The Present Prospects of American Painting and Sculpture," Horizon, nos. 93-94, October 1947. See also Dwight MacDonald, "A Theory of Mass Culture," Diogenes, vol. 3 (1953). Typical of these defenders of high culture (though he tended to overstate his arguments) was Erle Loran, who castigated the Pop artists (especially Roy Lichtenstein, who borrowed from his Cézanne compositional diagrams), while viewing Abstract Expressionism as a demonstration of the "true meaning of free democracy ... in America." For Loran, the N ew York School paintings were the "most advanced products of the human mind, comparable in some ways to achievements in physics and chemistry." For Erle Loran, see "Cézanne and Lichtenstein: Problems of Transformation," Artforum, vol. 2 (September 1963), PP. 34-35; "Pop Artists or Copy Cats," Art News, September 1963- PP. 48-49, 61. The statements by Loran quoted in this note are from "Cézanne and Lichtenstein," P. 35. There was a general difference in approach to much mass culture between writers in the United States and the IG. Among the first American books to survey the subject in any detail was an anthology entitled Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America, edited by Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White and published in 1957. It contained the work of fifty-one writers concerned with the social effects of the media on American life. In their introduction to the texts, the editors commented that when they were seeking representative viewpoints they found many more excoriators than defenders of mass culture. Moreover, most of the defenders, including White himself, argued in favor of mass culture on the grounds it spread high culture to new audiences, instancing the presentation of Shakespeare, ballet, and opera on TV and the boom in paperback publishing, which had led to the reprinting of Dostoevsky as well as pulp writers. Unlike the IG, they did not value it in itself, on its own account. That the IG was aware of at least some of these debates is indicated by the fact that in a 1958 article, "The Arts and the Mass Media," Lawrence Alloway attacked Greenberg's essay "Avant-Garde and Kirsch," objecting to his reduction of the mass media to "ersatz culture ... destined for those who are insensible to the value of genuine culture"; reprinted in Michael Compton, Pop Art, London, New York, Sydney, and Toronto, 1970- P. 154. Marshall McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride, published in 1951, was also discussed at IG meetings. More than half the book was given over to reproductions of advertisements and other manifestations of popular culture; the other half was devoted to a commentary on their significance.
23. De Kooning's interest in, say, the pinup and Mom-ism was only first studied in 1972, in Thomas B. Hess's "Pinup and Icon," Art News Annual, vol. 38 (1972), pp. 223-37. Note that de Kooning had been trained in commercial-art techniques in Rotterdam, had worked in that field in New York in the interwar years, and maintained a lifelong interest in popular art forms - an interest expressed in his art in diverse ways.
24. The New Realists show at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, contained the works of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, and Rosenquist, among the fourteen artists exhibited. For a range of early responses to (American) Pop Art, see the symposium held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on December 13, 1962, in which the participants included Peter Selz, Henry Geldzahler, Hilton Kramer, Dore Ashton, Leo Steinberg, and Stanley Kunitz. This was later published in Arts Magazine, April 1963, PP. 36-45.
25. Because they were graphic in nature, Lichtenstein's sources at this moment did not even have the degree of respectability that certain types of photographic reproduction had. They were consequently considered that much more shocking at first. Similarly, in his paintings Andy Warhol simulated a style of advertising copy very different from the chic high-style advertisements he made as an award-winning designer for such up-market clients as 1. Miller and Vogue.
26. Among the more substantial early publications on Pop Art, a considerable number were by English authors. See, in addition to Alloway, for example, "The Development of British Pop," in Lucy Lippard, ed., Pop Art (New York, 1966), pp. 27-68; John Russell, "British Art," in Pop Art Redefined,- and Compton, Pop Art. One of the first and most important shows curated by Alloway was Six Painters and the Object, which included work by Jim Dine, Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, and Warhol. It opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1963 and then traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Alloway added a companion, West-Coast-based show, Six More.
27. Alloway published his history on several occasions; the most influential account appeared in Lippard, ed., Pop Art.
28. See Anne Massey and Penny Sparke, "The Myth of the Independent Group," Block, no. to, 1985, P. 48. They point out that Banham, whose writing was also being published widely at this time, did not mention the IG in print until the winter of 1962-63, in an article published in Motif entitled "Who Is This Pop?" in which he argued that all subsequent manifestations of Pop sensibility were indebted to the IG.
29. See, for example, Robert Hughes, The Shock of the Neu) (New York, 1980). Norbert Lynton, in his The Story of Modern Art (0xford, 1980), mentions brief ly the This is Tomorrow exhibition without, however, naming the IG. John Russell omitted all mention of the IG. Pop, and British Pop from his account of twentieth-century art, The Meanings of Modern Art (New York, 1981).
30. Gerhard Richter and Richard Hamilton, in particular, would repay closer comparison, given that both are modernist artists committed to bringing a critical, articulate, contestatory address to painting. Although their interests in the usage of various types of popular-culture imagery and styles converge, neither has confined himself to a conventional Pop Art approach. For example, during the 1960s, Hamilton executed a series of works inspired by the "classical Braun products" designed by Dieter Rams, which, according to the artist, "attempted to introduce a contradiction into the lexicon of source material of Pop. They posed the question: does the subject-matter in most American Pop Art significantly exclude those products of mass culture which might be the choice of a New York Museum of Modern Art 'Good Design' committee from our scrutiny?" ("concept/technology > artwork," in Richard Hamilton, catalogue of an exhibition at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1989, p. 22). Recently Richter has drawn on news photographs from the popular press for his series of works based on the Baader-Meinhof gang, a series that raises the possibility of a contemporary history painting.
31. Robert Rosenblum, for example ("Pop Art and Non-Pop Art," Art and Literature, vol. 5 [Summer 19641, reprinted in Pop Art Redefined, PP. 53-56), argued that "the initially unsettling imagery of Pop Art will quickly be dispelled by the numbing effects of iconographic familiarity and ephemeral or enduring pictorial values will become explicit ... this boundary between Pop and abstract art is an illusory one," an argument that John Russell and Suzi Gablik sought to second in Pop Art Redefined. In doing so, they reinforced statements that many of the artists, most notably Lichtenstein, were then making about their work. But, as Lisa Tickner has pointed out in a discussion of Allen Jones's art ("Allen Jones in Retrospect: A Serpentine Review," Block, no. 1 (1979), the problem with trying to focus on form and formal issues alone is that images are not nonhierarchical, interchangeable, and equitable. She continues (P. 41), "It has seemed crudely philistine to talk about the social and psychological relevance of the material - but any understanding of art as a signifying practice must break with the form/content distinction (with the accompanying implication that the 'art' lies in the 'form'), and must attempt to comprehend both the specificities of art as a particular kind of activity, and the way in which this activity transforms or endorses meanings that lie both within and beyond it." It is just this which certain of the more doctrinaire analysts of Pop signally fail to do; see, for example, Donald Kuspit, "Pop Art: A Reactionary Realism," Art Journal, Fall 1976, PP- 31-38.
32. Typical of these analyses, which focus on the commodity character of art in capitalist societies, is the argument advanced by Donald Kuspit, in "Pop Art: A Reactionary Realism."
33. Andreas Huyssen has analysed the reasons why in West Germany Pop was taken to be a subcultural, indigenous underground statement, at once critical of capitalist consumer society and yet emancipatory in its effects; see Andreas Huyssen, "The Cultural Politics of Pop" (1975), reprinted in Taylor, Post-Pop Art (MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.: 1989), PP. 45-78.
34. The most prolific and well known of the theorists who, informed by Marxist and linguistic theories, have examined late capitalism as a society of consumption, Jean Baudrillard ("Pop: An Art of Consumption?" 119701, reprinted in Taylor) argues that the (American) Pop artists cannot be "reproached for their commercial success, and for accepting it without shame.... It is logical for an art that does not oppose the world of objects but explores its system, to enter itself into the system. It is even the end of a certain hypocrisy and radical illogically... Yet it is difficult to accuse either Warhol or the Pop artists of bad faith: their exacting logic collides with a certain sociological and cultural status of art, about which they can do nothing. It is this powerlessness which their ideology conveys. When they try to desacrilize their practice, society sacrilizes them all the more. Added to which is the fact that their attempt - however radical it might be - to secularize art, in its themes and its practice, leads to an exaltation and an unprecedented manifestation of the sacred in art.... [T] he author's content or intentions are not enough: it is the structures of culture production which are decisive ... in Pop Art.... [I]ts smile epitomizes its whole ambiguity: it is not the smile of critical distance, it is the smile of collusion." (Taylor, PP. 36, 40-41, 44.) For recent exhibitions that feature art indebted to Baudrillard's and related ideas, see A Forest of Signs, catalogue of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Air, Los Angeles, 1989; and Image World.- Art and Media Culture, catalogue of an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1989.
35. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, "The Andy Warhol Line," in The Work of Andy Warhol, ed. Gary Garrels (Seattle, 1989), P. 55.
36. Introduction to Paul Taylor, op.cit., p. it.
Excerpt, Modern Art and Popular Culture: Readings in High and Low, edited by Kirk Varnedoe and Adam Gopnik, New York: Museum of Modern Art/ Harry N. Abrams, 1990:193 ff.