6 July – 13 October 2013
Pallant House Gallery is delighted to present a major retrospective of the work of Eduardo Paolozzi (1924–2005), one of the most inventive and prolific of the British artists to come to prominence after the Second World War. Paolozzi’s legacy ranges from Pop Art to monumental public works and the exhibition features around 150 works in a variety of media including drawings, collage, textiles, sculpture and prints, and rare early pieces that have not been seen in public for many years.
The exhibition will explore the relationship between Paolozzi's sculpture and his graphic work, and his key preoccupations such as popular culture, science-fiction and the machine. Central to the exhibition is the importance of collage as a working process within Paolozzi's career, not only in the traditional sense of paper collage, but also in terms of sculptural assemblage, printmaking and film-making.
Paolozzi is often described as one of the founders of British Pop art, but the exhibition also considers his position as a bridge between Surrealism and European Modernists such as Giacometti and Dubuffet, and the post-war cultures of Britain and America. It also explore the relationship between Paolozzi's work and the existential anxieties of the post-war age through exhibits such as his unrealised competition maquette for the ‘Monument for the Unknown Political Prisoner' (1952), marking him out as an important commentator on British and American culture in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The exhibition opens with a selection of early drawings and sculptures including the bronze 'Bull' (1946) and related drawings such as 'Picador' (1946) which bear the influence of Pablo Picasso and the collections of ethnographic art which Paolozzi encountered at the Pitt Rivers Museum whilst a student at the Slade School of Art. The influence of the ‘readymade' principles of Dada and the collage methods of continental Surrealism are also evident in a selection of his collages marrying antique sculpture and modern machine forms, created following an extended period in Paris where he met artists such as Giacometti and Brancusi and encountered Dubuffet's Art Brut.
The exhibition includes a significant group of figurative sculptures, developed using his distinctive lost-wax casting technique, which express what Paolozzi called ‘the metamorphosis of rubbish'. These works represent the figure as brutalised and anguished in contrast to the humanist formalism of sculptors like Henry Moore in the same period.
Paolozzi described the relationship between his sculptures and his graphic work as 'the constant tension' and the exhibition presents related works side-by-side, such as the collage 'Frog' (1958) and the bronze ‘Large Frog' (1958), and his remarkable screenprints of robotic heads, alongside their sculptural equivalents. It also includes a screening of his experimental 12-minute film 'A History of Nothing' (1963) shown alongside the collaged stills such as ‘James Joyce and Dancer' (1960).
Parallel to his interest in Europe, Paolozzi had a prevailing preoccupation with American consumer culture, fuelled by a childhood love of cinema and a fascination for collecting ephemera such as cigarette cards, and he pioneered the inclusion of many of these elements in his work. The exhibition includes a group of his celebrated ‘Bunk' collages featuring consumer advertising from American magazines that he first showed at the ICA in the inaugural meeting of the Independent Group in 1951. The collages suggested a radically new aesthetic, which, before the end of the decade, was to form the basis of Pop Art.
The exhibition also includes examples of his experimental screenprint portfolios such as ‘As is When' (1965), ‘Moonstrips Empire News' (1967) and ‘Universal Electronic Vacuum' (1967). Essentially created as a series of printed collages, these works juxtapose references to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, popular entertainment, art, politics and science fiction films and the novels of JD Ballard in a fusion of high art and mass culture. These are displayed together with his ‘Aubesson Tapestry' (1966) and aluminium sculpture ‘Artificial Sun' (1964) whose themes and geometric forms relate closely to the ‘As is When' prints.
A key element of the exhibition is Paolozzi's friendship and collaborations with fellow Independent Group member Nigel Henderson. It includes their collaborative work ‘Untitled (Study for Parallel of Art and Life)' (1952) as well as Paolozzi's organic ‘Contemplative Object' (c.1951) that featured in the ‘Patio and Pavilion' exhibit created with Alison and Peter Smithson and Nigel Henderson for ‘This is Tomorrow' at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956. In 1954 Paolozzi and Henderson founded a short-lived company called Hammer Prints, which made and sold textiles, wallpaper and tiles, and the exhibition features examples of the designs which explore Paolozzi's interest in the tensions between notions of organic growth and the machine-made.
In the latter part of his career Paolozzi increasingly began to explore a multimedia approach to making and design. The exhibition includes examples of the ceramics he designed for Wedgwood Ltd and Rosenthal while tutor of Ceramics at the Royal College of Art in the 1970s, his renowned designs for mosaics at Tottenham Court Underground Station, and maquettes for other public schemes such as the sculpture Newton after Blake commissioned for the British Library.
Simon Martin, Curator of the exhibition says: "Paolozzi is widely celebrated as one of the leading sculptors of the post-war age, but with this exhibition we aim to present the extraordinary versatility of his approach to making art by also including textiles, printmaking, film, and ceramics. Paolozzi memorably said that ‘all human experience is one big collage'. For him collage was not just a technique, but an approach to the wider culture that surrounded him: consumerism, the space race, fashion, the machine and man's place in a changing world."
Notes to Editors:
The exhibition is drawn from the Gallery's own collection of over 350 works, one of the most significant collections of Paolozzi's work in the world, many donated by the artist's lifelong friend and patron the architect Colin St John Wilson and his wife MJ Long. It also features loans from a range of public and private collections including Tate, British Council Collection and the Arts Council Collection.
A fully-illustrated catalogue will be produced to coincide with the exhibition, written by Simon Martin, and including texts by Eduardo Paolozzi and Colin St John Wilson.
Alongside, there will be a related exhibition of Collage by other Modern British artists in the Pallant House Gallery collection including Ben Nicholson, John Piper, Julian Trevelyan, Paul Nash, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake and John Stezaker.