By Rebecca Townesend
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The World Goes Pop

This article is over 6 years, 3 months old
Issue 406

This is a thrilling, colourful and challenging exhibition. It succeeds in demolishing any idea that the pop art movement of the 1960s and 1970s was a US and UK phenomenon produced largely by men.

In this show work by artists working across the world in countries as diverse as Iceland, Japan, Peru, Iran, Brazil, Poland and Cuba gives a completely new perspective on what pop art was and the themes it tackled.

This exciting new presentation of pop art, featuring paintings, sculpture, film, sound and a huge variety of other media, is strongly recommended to a socialist audience.

A thread of resistance runs through the show with artists who had racism, misogyny, imperialism, totalitarianism, war, commercialism and the hypocrisy of governments firmly in their sights.

For example Marcello Nitsche’s Kill Fly, a massive papier-mâché hand brandishing a fly swat, was produced to criticise the Brazilian military dictatorship.

The artist described it as “a reference to the dictatorship; it was the camouflaged way I found to speak out against the military regime.”

The potential of opposing Franco’s fascist regime in Spain is apparent in a work by the Spanish collective Equipo Crónica in which a sequence of manipulated photographs shows an increasingly large gathering of people and “celebrates the possibility of individual action solidifying into collective resistance to the regime”.

I especially enjoyed learning about the critical role women played in global pop art and being introduced to a number of lesser known names.

Much of their work challenges, in an explicit and exciting way, how women’s bodies were — and still are — depicted and used in mainstream media. A Martha Rosler photomontage shows a woman cleaning in a corridor filled with art by male pop artists.

Despite being sponsored by EY, “a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services”, according to the press release, this a great show that is a powerful reminder that art can inspire struggle and struggle can inspire art.

Part of the series by Gérard Fromanger called Album The Red (1968-1970) is on show, including a series of paintings depicting a number of national flags that have blood leaking from their red segments.

He was one of the founder members of the Atelier Populaire which produced posters in May 1968 to support the street protests in Paris.

This exhibition prompted me to remember one of their classic designs which has the slogan “La lutte continue” (“the struggle continues”).

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