Tate Modern Finally Gives Pop Art’s Long-Ignored Female and Global Artists Their Due
Tate Modern’s show “The World Goes Pop,” opening to the public on Thursday, makes a case for adding “globalized” to that list.
“This Pop Art is quite different,” says Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, speaking at the exhibition’s preview on Monday. “It’s the language of Pop telling another story: the story of politics, feminism.” According to the director, many of the artists on show were relatively unknown in their native countries, and this exhibition stands to reevaluate their significance.
The show is split into 10 rooms, with most of the art sourced from Pop’s apotheosis in the 1960s and ’70s. Recurring themes in the work—which varies dramatically in quality and taste—are the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil rights issues, commerce, mass media, and protest. According to curator Jessica Morgan, director of Dia Art Foundation, these artists were often “unaware of what was happening in the U.S.,” and were addressing “a shift in the media and culture worldwide,” particularly the rising ubiquity of television and commercial art. In the work exhibited, they embraced the latter through subversion and replication as opposed to the vocabularies of their domestic avant-garde.
The Western counterpart to this is well known: in the U.S., Pop was a conceptual alternative to
The first room serves as an introduction to the show, in which gimmickry and obviousness abounds. Jerzy Ryszard “Jurry” Zieliński’s Bez Buntu (Without Rebellion) (1970) shows a stylized face, its eyes eagles representing Polish national emblems, its fabric tongue extended out into three dimensions and nailed, silenced, to the floor. Nearby, Spanish collective
If Pop speaks to people in their own language, then its artists are most true to the movement’s ideals when appropriating the media. A room dedicated to Catalan Eulàlia Grau and Brit
The show’s undoubted highlight is its strong women, showcased partly in a dedicated room exploring “Domestic Revolution.” These include the Argentine
So is the show a success? For readdressing the U.S.- and U.K.-centric views of Pop Art, then undoubtedly it is. But due to the (over)abundance of material and its sheer density, some viewers may struggle to unite the nuanced concerns of the many competing nations here without greater cultural and political context.