Considering I’ve had an active interest in graphic design for as long as I can remember, I rarely enjoyed art class when I was at school. That’s weird, right? I always found that weird. There are so many parallels between art and design, but it just didn’t get me going. Monet, Picasso, Vincent van Gogh - sure, all fantastic artists. Timeless icons of their craft, immortal giants of the art world, unfathomable influencers without a Wi-Fi connection in sight - but holy shit did I find their work boring. I’m sorry, Paul C'ezanne, but I can’t get excited about a painting of a bowl of fruit. The modern-day equivalent is that girl on Instagram who documents her #healthy breakfast every morning. It’s fruit in a fucking bowl. I don’t care. At least she posts cute selfies in the evening to balance it out, though.
With all this OG art, I could appreciate most of it aesthetically, and of course I respected their skill and vision, but I sure as hell didn’t find it engaging. That is, however, until those art classes exhausted all the prehistoric shit and we moved on to learning about the Pop Art movement. Once my ignorant teenage mind was exposed to the work of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and friends; it all started to make sense. Finally, something I could relate to.
Wang Guangyi’s “Great Criticism” (1992)
Fast-forward to 2014; when I heard about Saatchi Gallery’s upcoming Post Pop: East Meets West exhibition, I knew I had to pass through and check it out. As the name suggests, the exhibition brings together the works of artists from China, Taiwan, the Former Soviet Union, USA, and the UK to form an electric tribute to Pop Art’s legacy, and contemporary generation.
Although stretching across many different cultural and ideological backgrounds, the artists in the Post Pop exhibition play with imagery in fundamentally similar ways. Taking reference from commercial advertising, propaganda, the cult of celebrity, fetishism, and mass production; these provocative works from all across the world are ultimately coming from the same mocking, yet thoughtful place. It fuels this nice idea that despite conflicting political and religious views, with art being the global language, we’re all pretty much reading from the same book. Or simply, we’re all fucked. However you choose to perceive it.
Anyway, here’s what we saw:
A scaled down version of Sergey Shutov‘s “Abacus” installation, featuring automated mannequins dressed in robes, was arranged to face Anatoly Osmolovsky‘s “Bread series 1 & Bread series 3” wood carvings. An eerie manifestation of how much I love eating toast.
L: Andres Serrano’s “Immersions (Piss Christ)” (1987) // R: David Mach’s “Die Harder” (2011)
“Hero, Leader, God” by Alexander Kosolapov was a particular highlight for me. Previously familiar with the bronze version, this painted resin interpretation was equally as powerful. I can’t help thinking how dope this would be if Lenin was swapped out for Yeezus, though.
Jeff Koons and Daniel Arsham held it down for the USA with basketball-themed pieces in close proximity to one another. Koons’ offering featured three regulation basketballs suspended in a tank of distilled water. Apparently, a small amount of sodium chloride reagent causes them to remain in the center of the tank. Science, bitch.
Around the corner, Arsham brought some of his “future relics” into the equation with a rack of eroded basketballs cast from geological materials, such as; rose quartz, volcanic ash, obsidian fragments and pulverised glass. This was another stand-out piece for me. I’m a big fan of Daniel’s solo-work, as well as his projects with Snarkitecture.
Richard Wilson‘s “20:50” wasn’t a part of the Post Pop exhibition, but of course we had to check it out while we were there. For those that don’t know, this masterpiece is the only permanent installation at the Saatchi, being shown in each of the gallery’s rooms since 1991. Essentially, it’s just a room filled with sump oil.
The hyper-reflective surface of the oil transforms the space into something from a sci-fi film, with a perfect mirror image of the room’s architecture. Typically, we couldn’t get down to the waist-level viewing area to capture the full effect on the day, but you get the idea from this raised platform. Go see it in person.
Oleg Kulik’s “Tennisplayer” (2001)
I really appreciated this acrylic on canvas piece by George Pusenkoff, but I was pissed that I had to censor it for Instagram.
Tsang Kin Wah‘s “Interior” silkscreen wallpaper seemed completely non-offensive from a distance, but upon closer inspection, the pattern-work was formed from some of my favourite words and phrases. I need this shit for my office.
Vitaly Komar & Alexander Melamid’s “Future American Flag” (1980)
This guy wasn’t an exhibit, but he could have been. V peculiar photo stance. Respect for doing you though, dude.
Finally, I’ve got to give some serious credit to Tseng Kwong-Chi for the strongest collection of self-portraits I’ve ever witnessed. Captured between ’79 and ’86, this revolutionary was truly ahead of the game. Salute.
This was one of the best curated exhibitions I’ve been to in ages. It’s also free entry, so if you’re in the city, don’t get caught slippin’.
“Post Pop: East Meets West” runs at London’s Saatchi Gallery until February 23rd.