If you think Pop art is an American thing, well brace yourself, it is not!
Bringing together around 160 works from the 60s and 70s, The World Goes Pop sheds light on the global reach of what is wrongly considered to be an Anglo-American phenomenon only. From Latin America to Asia, from Europe to the Middle East; every culture contributed with its take on the subject.
Besides offering an overview of what Pop art looked like outside the US, the exhibition reveals how Pop was never just a mere praise of Western consumerism (or, in some cases, a blunt attack on this latter). While profiting from capitalist’s appeal and graphic power, it often represented a subversive language for criticism, a compelling weapon in the hands of artists to lay bare the many contradictions within the consumer society.
The show also dispels the myth of Pop art as a man’s business: there were in fact many women artists who contributed to the movement providing a vision of the female body which is openly antithetical to the dominant, idealised one that is so familiar to us. In this regard, the sculpture Glu, Glu, Glu (1966) by Brazilian Anna Maria Maiolino and the paintings of cut-up and isolated body parts by Slovakian Jana Zelibska are worth mentioning.
Another myth the exhibition wants to dismiss is the Pop artists’ fixation with the hyper-individualised consumer and the isolated celebrity icon. In such works as Erró’s American Interiors (1969), Claudio Tozzi’s Multitude (1968), Equipo Cronica’s Concentration or Quantity Becomes Quality (1966), Henri Cueco’s Les Hommes Rouges (1968-9), and Ushio Shinohara’s Doll Festival (1966) – the latter painting combining the Pop aesthetics with Japan’s folk tradition – we see how the energy and antagonism of the crowd serves as a more effective symbol of contemporary culture than a thousand silkscreens of Marilyn Monroe – no argument intended!
The World Goes Pop will be on display until January 24th 2016 at Tate Modern, Millbank, SW1P 4RG London
Words by Jacopo Nuvolari