Older reviews of exhibitions at the Lightbox can be found here
Warhol and the World of Pop Art
Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Warhol’s Marilyn series: which is the most evocative? You might automatically reply the Mona Lisa, of course, which may be one of the most enigmatic and thought-provoking pieces of art of all time, but Warhol’s bright, unequivocal images resonate with all of us and as John Cage once said, wake us up to the life we’re living.
Whether you just want to go along and get a load of fun, pleasing, colourful eyefuls of some of the most iconic and recognisable pieces of contemporary pop art or whether you’re curious about what Pop Art is all about and how it originated, then you must see the current exhibition, ‘Warhol and the World of Pop Art’ at The Lightbox in Woking; it’s got everything you’d expect and more. This delightfully eye-pleasing, original exhibition is the brainchild of curator Michael Regan, who has brought together a unique collection from private lenders of American and International pop art,. It not only focuses on Warhol’s most famous pieces, but makes us see him in a different light, in the context of his contemporaries and representing a movement that was occurring not just in the US, but around the world. We see previously undisplayed items such as dresses and fabric prints designed by Warhol, demonstrating his underlying themes and the development of the motifs and styles that defined him alongside images, sculptures and collages by French, Belgian, Japanese and fellow American artists such as Lichtenstein.
Regan expects a mixed audience for the exhibition; an older generation that saw the movement develop, and a younger generation that has been brought up seeing the familiar images not just in the world of art, but built into the fabric of modern consumerism. It is a rich, eclectic and plentiful collection that creates a “kid in a toyshop” type of reaction as you walk into the gallery. “If you want to know about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me. And there I am. There’s nothing behind it,” Warhol himself famously once said, yet I disagree. Although the Marilyn series takes centre stage in the exhibition – it is stunning, refreshing and beautiful in its simplicity – the repeated mass-produced imagery and banality of the images, which superficially appear meaningless, reflect a deeper concept when seen juxtaposed to the other pieces on show. For example, a set of chairs and table made of paper, by David Bartlett, initially costing two shillings, is the epitome of what pop art stood for; cheap, everyday, dispensable objects as art, available to all. The pop art movement was not just homage to consumerism and commercialism, it was meant to make art affordable.
Warhol was not alone in “exploiting the image of a consumer society without denouncing or attacking it”. Also on display are numerous pieces developed by many other artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Billy Apple, Peter Gee, Claude Gilli, Nicki de Saint Phalle, and Erro. The various Roy Lichtenstein pieces have a striking visual quality – bright, colorful and easy to appreciate. So, whatever the weather this summer, rain or shine, go and see this impressive exhibition. It is fun, engaging, vibrant and surprisingly enlightening. Whether you appreciate art or not, you will certainly identify with it and the life you’re living.
[Amanda Briggs, 26 July 2015]
The exhibition runs from 25 July – 1 November 2015, Entry with a £5 annual pass, under-18s free.
Damien Hirst ‘New Religion’
Artist, freak-showman, entrepreneur, con artist? Regardless of what you think of or know about Damien Hirst, his work inspires curiosity, debate and controversy. But how many people have actually seen any of his works “in the flesh”, so to speak? According to Michael Regan, associate curator of The Lightbox, our local gallery is very lucky and proud to be exhibiting Hirst’s collection, ‘New Religion’, as Mr Hirst’s works are not readily available to the public, and rarely tour, particularly here in the UK. This particular collection, owned by Hirst himself, was first shown in All Hallow’s Church, London, in 2007, but has been out of circulation for a while. The Lightbox’s main gallery allows the collection to be displayed to its full advantage, permitting the viewer to see the collection as an entire piece of art by exploiting the height of the room to maximise the effect of the series. Interestingly, Hirst has few specifications on how the collection should be displayed, leaving it up to the curator and gallery, the only stipulation being that there should be no labels. No explanations or expectations.
So, what should you expect when you visit? There are no 14-foot tiger sharks, diamond-encrusted skulls or rotting cow heads; there is, however, full-on and unequivocal Hirst, as a conceptual artist. The collection encapsulates the artist in every way, from his preferred mediums of silkscreens and sculptures to his signature themes and narratives as a conceptual artist, in which the boundaries of religion, art and science are blurred, or in this case, overlaid. There is no order to the pieces, and although it could be described as a memento mori (yes, there are a couple of skulls), it is bright, colourful and visually diverse. And challenging. It definitely messes with your mind. As you go around the room (probably with a furrowed brow at first), your brain will start to try and put it in order, or interpret each piece literally, but the challenge is to see the big picture, and then you will begin to see the answers to such questions as: Why is science the new religion? How are science and religion the same? How are they different? What can one give us that the other can’t? Can one exist without the other?
Like religion and science (in the shape of medication), the power and impact of this exhibition is not about understanding or making sense of it, it’s about interpretation from personal experience; it will mean different things to different people. It is not judgmental or sacrilegious – it is conceptual art presented in such a clinical way that it makes you think. Certainly, taken literally or metaphorically, it can be taken as a stimulant for healthy conversation.
[Amanda Briggs 31 March 2015]
Damien Hirst ‘New Religion’ at The Lightbox, Woking, 28 March-5 July 2015. £5 annual pass/ Under 18s free