In The Frame: Darren Pih

Darren Pih, exhibitions and displays curator at Tate Liverpool, selects some pieces by his favourite artists 

Clockwise from top left-hand corner

Pauline Boty, The Only Blonde in the World, 1963

Part of a golden generation of artists, Pauline Boty studied at the Royal College of Art, lived with Celia Birtwell and was very close to David Hockney and Peter Blake. She epitomised the glamour and vibrancy of British art in the Sixties. Marilyn Monroe was a staple subject for the Pop art movement, although it was typically male artists who were objectifying a Hollywood siren. A female artist focusing on the subject is infinitely more interesting; she reverses the polarity. Marilyn strides between abstract planes of colour with a newly confident secularity, but she is constrained by the composition. Boty tragically died at 28. 

 

Bob and Roberta Smith, Make Art Not War, 1977

 

Bob and Roberta Smith is the pseudonym for Patrick Brill. He is an interesting artist who creates these witty painted slogans that are politically charged. The communicative power of his work is increased by this diffuse authorship: somehow by being anonymous, he universalises the message. The title draws on something his father said to him on his deathbed. It takes something personally transformative and makes it potentially transformative to the world. 

Pablo Picasso, Goat’s Skull, Bottle and Candle, 1952

Picasso created this work in the wake of the atrocities of the Korean War. The mood is sombre and he uses traditional motifs of mortality found in art history. The palette is muted and monochromatic in a way that draws on the aesthetic of newsprint. He harnesses that sense in which a newspaper provides a public account of conflict and how we understand the world in a very mediated way. He understood that a painting could be a form of anti-war propaganda: it would be potentially photographed and transmitted through mass media. While the world can be abstract and hard to explain, an artist like Picasso uses art to reflect and understand the traumas of his time. 

Ellsworth Kelly, Méditerranée, 1952

A focus on the primacy of perception and on colour relations is key to understanding Ellsworth Kelly’s practice. He was a seminal figure in the development of abstract art after the Second World War. His large-scale works are brilliantly hued and, despite the fact they are abstract, they are based on an observation of objects and natural phenomena. His aesthetic is clean, crisp and minimal; this work is beautifully immersive.

John Chamberlain, Kora, 1963

Like many artists in the Sixties, John Chamberlain expanded the formal language of art by co-opting symbols from the street and his built environment. He is known for creating sculptures using crushed car parts. He used detritus to create something very beautiful; he took something that had been cast aside and elevated it to an art form. There is a physicality and spontaneity to this sculpture that I love 

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