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This is a very important Exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary , Nottingham’s foremost modern art gallery. ‘Monument should not be trusted’ is a display of how Art flourished in all forms during the period of the Stalinist Regime of Josef Tito in the late 70’s and 80’s before the Yugoslav republic was broken up by Imperialism and Stalinism.
The program notes give an indication on the development of art which at times was a critique of Stalinism by the modern artistic milieu. It is spread over 4 Galleries and each Gallery has a theme.
” Encompassing the period from the early 1960’s to the mid 1980’s ,the exhibition features over 100 artworks and artefacts which illuminate the key contradictions of this single party state”. .
This Exhibition features a number of artists who used different mediums to work in . The first Gallery is subtitled ‘ Utopian Consumerism’. The programme notes give a flavour of the time. ” Partisan ascetism inherited from the anti-fascist struggle was maintained in the rhetoric of the Yugoslav state”..
Many of the artists involved turned to collage using humorous Dada influenced collage technique with Pop arts brash commercial Imagery. Goran Djordjevic in his sites of Modernity 2 and Sanja Ivekovic were prominent artists who used collage and other Dada influenced material.
” The artist group Otto who were highly critical of consumer overload of the Vietnam War and western Imperialism”.. This exhibition takes on a political flavour with its critique of Imperialism.
The notes continue to point out the different and varied art forms mingling with different artists. ” Mutual influence of pop culture , film music and art resulted in the 1980’s boom of punk new wave performance art”. . Tomislav Gotovac’s Jazz 2964 is an example of this type of art”. .
Examples of this art were reflected in the work of Vera Fische (Slika) August Cernigog , Lozar Logar and Bogdan Pozanovic .
Many female artists wished to identify with a strong feminist movement and this is evident in the 2nd Gallery subtitled ” Comradess Superwoman”. As the notes indicate many women artists tried to get out of the straitjacket of Patriarchy . ” Yugoslav women found themselves negotiating between public patriarchy , the State and private patriarchy, with the proliferation of tabloid magazines Film and advertising had a new role the sex symbol”..
Showing the importance of Sanja Ivekovic’s work which sought to develop a feminist perspective. ” It was only in the early 1970’s with Sanja Ivekovic’s wrk that a female artist began to articulate issues pertinent to women from an explicit feminist perspective”. .
Ivekovic’s work included Tragedy of Venus 1975, Women in art, women in Yugoslav art 1975, and Tomislav’s Gotovacs Showing Elle 1962. Cindy Borghesia’s Tozi babe 1986 Katalyn Ludvik Dame in Revolutionary work 1979 and March for Partisan women 1979 .
The third gallery shows ” Socialism and class Difference”. In this gallery with its overt political title there is an attempt to form a critique of the Stalinist regime. The notes comment ” By the late 1960’s Yugoslavia experienced high levels of unemployment and rising inequality. Whilst the system did provide free healthcare , education , housing and even company sponsored holidays for the employees of its self managed enterprises and their families , by the mid 1960’s economic inequalities between the ruling elite and ordinary citizens had become obvious”. . ” Critical voices began to emerge amongst artists and intellectuals whose works criticized the Yugoslav system”..
Student protests emerged in 1968 and this is reflected in the art of the period. the programme notes identify this development. ” During the student protests in Yugoslavia’s larger cities in 1968 one of the key reasons for dissatisfaction was the League of Communists failure to embrace culture as a central element in the creation of Socialism”. .
Many students during this period started chanting slogans such as ” down with the Red Bourgeoise in reference to the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by the political elite who were seen to have betrayed the original promise of an egalitarian society”. . Many artists reflected opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy and artists and students demonstrated against this clique who had usurped power from the working class.
Zelimar Zilnik’s Unemployment and poverty in rural areas represents the feeling and opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy.” Mladen Stilnovic points to the discrepancies between the rhetoric of socialist ideology and the place of art in Yugoslav society”. .
Karpo Godina has shown in the images I have displayed Litany of Happy People Rasa Todosijevic and others have shown us a full critique of Yugoslavian society during the Stalinist years from 1945 until the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.
For a Revolutionary Communist perspective it is necessary to refer to the statement of the League for a Revolutionary Communist International , the Predecessor organisation of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency. The statement written in February 1999 is clear on the role of the Titoist Stalinist bureaucracy which ruled Yugoslavia for a number of years. ” For Fourty years the ” Communist” rulers of Yugoslavia , under the leadership of Tito held the country in a bureaucratic vice. The working class was excluded from political power and economic decision making. Stalinist policies fuelled national hatreds and helped fuel the murderous wars that have tormented the region throughout the 1990’s”. .
The weakness of the Exhibition has been its failure to appreciate that Tito’s so called ‘Market Socialism’ was nothing more than Stalinist counter revolution. As the LRCI correctly analysed in 1999 showing that Tito’s regime was not socialist or indeed revolutionary . ” Indeed Yugoslavia was the ‘ pioneer of market socialism’. The Yugoslav economic stagnation and breakdown which became critical in the mid 1980’s was the crisis of the system in extremis, rather than of the old Soviet model of ‘command planning’. Tito’s system could not survive his death because no Bonapartist arbiter could replace him”. .
This concludes my review of this very important Exhibition showing the varied artistic practices of art during the period from 1968 – Tito’s death in 1980. A revolutionary communist perspective is required to understand the demise and break up of Yugoslavia into various republic which led to Western Imperialist intervention , but the responsibility lies with the Stalinist bureaucratic henchman who together with reactionary Nationalist perspectives aided by Imperialist intervention led to the destruction of Yugoslavia.
If anyone can visit this Exhibition in the centre of Nottingham it is worthwhile a visit. It will remain open until 4th March 2016.
1) MONUMENTS SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED EXHIBITION NOTES
El matrimonio de la Virgen de Raffaello Sanzio es la primera obra fechada y firmada, de los cuales el pintor, de unos veinte años, reconoció la paternidad. La composición es una idea original de Perugino : un grupo de caracteres, divididos en dos grupos, en frente de un gran espacio abierto en la parte inferior cerrada por un gran templo con un plan central.
This is my final and concluding part to my retrospective on Pop Art. Continuing with the comments of David McCarty. “Indeed it seemed that the American dream was no longer defined by political freedom but instead was measured by the number of commodities citizens could acquire”. .
McCarthy shows that Pop art was truly the art of the masses and it could traverse class barriers and be appreciated by anyone never mind what their income status was.
“The things represented within the paintings were available for people of most classes while the paintings themselves which proved to be highly marketable as art commodities especially when produced as prints, posters and postcards”. .
” Roy Lichenstein mimicked the look of cheap mass-produced images through the use of Benday dots”. . What Lichenstein was doing was copying the art of Georges Seurat and his use of Pointillism . The similarities are quite obvious.
Pointing to Warhol’s great ability was his recognition of using the mass media to achieve recognisable fame. ” Perhaps more than any other pop artist Warhol understood the necessity of easily recognisable and endlessly repeatable images for establishing fame through the mass media”. .
” several pop artists examined the academic subjects of History, portraiture , landscape and still life as well as the utterly traditional subject of the reclining nude”. .
As McCarthy suggests many pop artists including Ramos and Warhol used or copied images from other art periods.Lichenstein would often in his later work use images from Cubism and the art of the Destyll movement of Mondrian and Van Doesburg.
” Mel Ramos and Roy Lichenstein made their fully pop statement by using heroic male characters from the comics first introduced in the decade before the War”. .
” Although pop imagery was frequently mass produced and therefore widely available it was subject to highly personal consumption and interpretation “. .
Warhol’s disaster pictures particularly of car crashes ,Race riots and the Electric Chair resonated with a number of people and are seen by Warhol as a critique of that culture. ” Not simply commodities resold as works of art Warhol’s silkscreens are also bitter condemnation of a culture of abundance and violence of hedonism and death”. .
” Here was an art understandable on the surface yet deeply resonant to those viewers willing to contemplate the images and contexts selected by the artist”. .
Showing its critique of the past particularly Greenbergian Modernism McCarthy offers the following comment .” Pop proposed a new art open to the many. In doing so it helped relegate a narrow definition of Modernism (Greenberg and Fried) to the past by proposing that the present needed something more”. .
Jamie Jones in his review of Pop artists shows how Pop art would use any form of written materials in the media to satirise.
” Thus commercial products , advertising newspaper clippings even comic books and pornography are fair game for the pop artist”. 
” For the first time icons from popular culture seemed to have gained a power in society that rivalled that of politicians and businessmen “. .
Jones shows how pop art rejected completely the notion of artistic style. ” For pop not only rejected the subject matter of traditional art it scorned its ethos. what distinguished Pop art from previous schools of painting was its rejection of the very notion of an artistic style”. .
” The Pop artists were born in an era when American pop culture epitomised by the fabulous success of Hollywood was enjoying a complete global triumph”. .
Jones shows how in 1963 Warhol turned to the medium which was important to him Film. ” In 1963 he (Warhol) turned to the medium which more than any others traffics in Fame Film”. .
Jones depicts the Film Actor who personifies Warhol’s activity in Filmaking Joe Dallesandro .
Commenting on Lichenstein Jones has this to say . ” Lichenstein who was a real artist in the sense that he was being exhibited in Art Galleries deliberately gave his paintings the appearance of having been reproduced”. .
” Lichenstein was even more subversive transferring to his paintings found texts (Whaam) that had been lucked from the middle of a story unknown to the viewer. Yet it might be worth recalling that this is a device of epic poetry known as in Medics RE:”. .
This then completes my series on Pop Art . For my next postings I will be discussing 14th and 15th Century art by looking at two artists who I admire Jan Van Eyck the great Burgundian Artist and Caravaggio the great and notorious 15th century artist.
1) POP ART [MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART] DAVID McCARTHY PG. 28
2) DITTO PG.31
3) DITTO PG.33
4) DITTO PG.41
5) DITTO PG.58
6) DITTO PG. 63
7) DITTO PG. 64
8) DITTO PG. 68
9) DITTO PG. 75-6
10) DITTO PG. 76
11) POP ART PHAIDON JAMIE JONES PG. 5
12) DITTO PG. 6
13) DITTO PG.11
14) DITTO PG. 13
15) DITTO PG. 16
16) DITTO PG. 70
17) DITTO PG. 78.
In this third part of my retrospective of Pop art I will continue to show how Art critics and commentators commented on the explosion of Pop art.
Klaus Honnef for instance highlights the importance of Lichenstein. ” And Roy Lichenstein another American despite his exploitation of the visual impact of popular comic strips in his art, denied any artistic affinity with their makers instead citing experimental forms of art as his source of inspiration”..
” Art for Art’s sake and pure poetry and subject matter or content becomes something to be avoided like the plague”. . What Honnef is showing here is pop arts rejection of Modernism particularly Greenberg’s and Fried’s mantra ‘Art for Art’s sake’.
” Not that Pop artists threw space , plane form and colour wayside -in the beginning they attempted to transcend this self referential system”. .
Showing how Lichenstein from the beginning used cartoons Honnef comments that Lichenstein paintings are full of Disney’s Mickey mouse images.
” Lichenstein voted for the visual schemata of cartoons. Warhol abandoned comics as soon as he saw Lichenstein’s pictures , turning instead to the compelling emblems on soup cans”. .
If you look at some of Lichenstein’s work you will notice the influence of his design and semi production work. ” A further point of agreement consisted of an impersonal artistic treatment of visual motifs and the cultivation of the smooth perfect paint application of professional commissioned work”. .
” Lichenstein condensed the narrative line of cartoona and its rapid progression from frame to frame into single characteristic image. He united the image honed it to appoint”. .
Honnef correctly points out that this way of portraying images alters the relationship between viewer and artist. ” The relationship between picture and viewer suddenly seems based on false premises”. .
” Lichenstein always emphasized that he aesthetically improved the vulgar aesthetic of cartoons. His first step in making a painting was to project the original onto canvass with the aid of a projector thus creating an analogy on the technical level between mechanical production and the world of trivial feelings”. .
Honnef shows how in yellow and green brushstrokes Lichenstein was heavily influenced by Jackson Pollock and the abstract expressionists.
” Lichenstein shed iconic light on the cult of the brushstroke , prompted by the work of Jackson Pollock and others. At the same time he undermined the very definition of Modern art, which rests on artistic originality. Lichenstein has isolated the brushstroke from its painterly context enlarged and simplified it by means of projection and reproduced the result in the standardised language of the mass-produced cartoon”..
Honnef recognising Warhol’s greatness as an innovator and the destruction of the Modernist canon comments . ” no artist before him more mercilessly exposed the fiction of the incompatibility of intellectual and material values in the sphere of art than Warhol”..
” In other words the value of a work of art is not measured by its aesthetic quality alone , whatever that might be but equally by the price it can command”.
Honnef correctly points out the importance of the art market and how much a work of art is valued in commercial terms.
” For Warhol , the social context in which a work of art is presented was just as important as its specific subject and the subject itself invariably reflected its social background”. .
David McCarthy another art critic confirms my prognosis that Pop art would critique the role of Modernism that preceded it .” Pop art would continue the critique of Modernist , that is non-objective art as unnecescarily removed from life”..
” American pop artists they were united through a very loosely shared style of bright colour and simplified design as well as sometimes commonly held subject matter”. .
McCarthy shows how this interest in the mass media and consumer style attraction of the masses would influence the importance of Pop art and the mass media. ” With the development of pop in the United states it became clear that a willingness to look at and learn from the visual culture of the mass media and commercial environment constituted a significant trend in Western art”. .
Commenting on this culture McCarthy comments. ” Another point of convergence in the interest in comic books , mass circulation magazines and Hollywood cinema which constituted a major component of the visual culture that nourished the artists in their formative years”. .
” By 1965 Roy Lichenstein could celebrate and dismiss general abstraction in a series of parodies including brushstroke that treated abstract expressionist painting as a giant mass produced cartoon image”. .
McCarthy shows that although Revolutionary pop art was it was still firmly anchored in the Sixties. ” For all its historical indebtness Pop was- and remains a movement inextricably intertwined with the sixties”. .
” The subject matter frequently derives from pre-existent sources originally manufactured for mass consumption”. .
This concludes this continuing commentary of Pop art in the sixties . in my fourth part I will consider further comments from Art Historians on its continuing importance today.
1 POP ART TASCHEN KLAUS HONNEF PG.11
2) DITTO PG.14
3 DITTO PG.14
4 DITTO PG.23
5 DITTO PG.24
6 DITTO PG.24
7 DITTO PG. 52
8 DITTO PG.52
9 DITTO PG. 54
10 DITTO PG.86
11 DITTO PG. 86
12 DITTO PG. 88
13 POP ART (MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART SERIES) DAVID McCARTHY PG.10
14 DITTO PG. 13
15 DITTO PG. 14
16 DITTO PG. 14
17 DITTO PG. 24
18 DITTO PG. 24
19 DITTO PG.25