This year, The Whitechapel Gallery celebrates the life and work of Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), who was one of the most influential post-war artists and a unique figure of the 20th century. He is considered as the ‘godfather of Pop Art’, and his powerful collages, sculptures and prints challenged artistic convention from the 1950s to the 1990s. We were able to attend the press view of the exhibition, which is now open until the 14th May 2017. It features over 250 pieces by the awe-inspiring Paolozzi, including unique bronzes, screen-prints, textiles and fashion designs - we couldn't get enough! It was an absolute feast for the eyes...
Paolozzi grew up as the child of immigrants in Edinburgh and held his first solo exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, London in 1947 aged 23. It was from there that Paolozzi found major success, and was known to defy categorisation: he moved from painting to collage to textiles with such a fast pace, that he could not classed as a specific type of artist!
"The city is packed full of a variety of his work, from his Tottenham Court Road tube mosaics which are now fully restored and more vibrant than ever, to his major public sculptures."
The exhibition spans over five decades and is presented in four chronological sections, beginning with Paolozzi’s groundbreaking early brutalist concrete sculptures. This section demonstrates Paolozzi’s willingness to reject established artistic practices, expanding the traditional boundaries of art into the realm of popular culture. In his famous ‘Bunk!’ lecture, which is part-recreated using wall projections for this show, he presented clippings of Coca-Cola adverts, ’50s pin ups and sci-fi illustrations, analysing their artistic merit. These were the founding days of pop art, and exemplify why Paolozzi is referred to as a major pop art influencer.
The exhibition finishes with Paolozzis work in the late 1980’s to 90’s with key sculptures that demonstrate the artists returning interest in figuration, as well as his subversive approach to conventional notions to the multiple art object. Within this final section, Paolozzi pokes fun at the work he created in his early life, and this peevishness moved him to create ‘Calcium Night Light’, a lively series of prints inspired by the composer Charles Ives. The Whitechapel has curated this beautifully, flooding the room with music to complement the synaesthetic shapes and colours.
Towards the end of his life, Paolozzi donated much of his art, thus it can be said he made his mark in London - literally. The city is packed full of a variety of his work, from his Tottenham Court Road tube mosaics which are now fully restored and more vibrant than ever, to his major public sculptures. For example, The Squatting Newton outside the British Library is a well-know Paolozzi piece, as well as a giant dissected head outside the old Design Museum. But, if you've already seen these works around London, then we would definitely recommend you visit The Whitechapel Gallery to see the rest of Eduardo Paolozzi's vast retrospective!
The Whitechapel Gallery
16 February – 14 May 2017
Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St
London, E1 7QX