Associate Professor of Art History Matthew Affron also assumes responsibilities as Curator of Modern Art & Academic Curator at the University of Virginia Museum of Art, where he has organized the exhibition “New Images, New Techniques Abstraction in British Screen prints circa 1970,” which will run through Sunday, August 14, 2011.
Distinctions between the run of British pop and American pop.were noted recently in the Wikipedia article, Pop Art:
The origins of pop art in North America and Great Britain developed differently. In America, it marked a return to hard-edged composition and representational art as a response by artists using impersonal, mundane reality, irony and parody to defuse the personal symbolism and “painterly looseness” of Abstract Expressionism.
By contrast, the origin in post-War Britain, while employing irony and parody, was more academic with a focus on the dynamic and paradoxical imagery of American popular culture as powerful, manipulative symbolic devices that were affecting whole patterns of life, while improving prosperity of a society.
Selected from the Museum’s permanent collection, this exhibition on 1970s British screen prints displays the work of a wide range of artists and printmakers whose studios were very lively in the United Kingdom during that era. Among the works featured are the interiors of Patrick Caulfield, and the work of Joe Tilson that was inspired by images and themes from Antiquity.
Works by Patrick Heron, and Terry Frost – both artists who are associated with the St. Ives school, which was the subject of a documentary airing on the BBC last year entitled “The Art of Cornwall.” In the piece, presenter James Fox explains that once the railway broke the isolation of this mysterious Celtic kingdom in the far west of Britain, artists began to travel to St Ives — partly because of the intense character of the light — reflected as it is by the surrounding sea and sand, the interest of artists was drawn from far and wide — so that it would eventually become a major center for British art.
Many of the current UVaM exhibition’s artists made their prints at the Kelpra Studio in London, founded by Chris Prater and his wife Rose Kelly, which was a vibrant laboratory for printmaking innovation in the 1950s and onward. Of particular note is their work in the area of screen-printing focusing on the “aesthetic possibilities and the implications of modern printmaking methods,” which would begin to shift away from the hand-made print to a print produced through more modern methods, and the use of the machine.
Writing in the Independent, in remembrance of Chris Prater in 1996, Pat Gilmour notes that after studying drawing and etching at the Working Men’s College every weekday night, Chris Prater finally found his medium:
In 1951 he went on a three-month government training scheme and became a screen printer. During the next six years – a period of tremendous growth in the industry – Prater worked for nearly every firm in London. Wonderfully adept at stencil cutting, he was soon enthralled by the effects that could be achieved with relatively simple equipment. Indeed, when he first set up Kelpra Studio in a single room in Kentish Town, he worked on a kitchen table, covered his screens with silk scraps Rose had stitched together, and dried the prints on racks they had made of plaster lath.
With assistance from Richard Hamilton – whom Prater had helped with the production of his game-changing print “Adonis in Y-fronts,” an inexpensive portfolio was sponsored by the Instituteof Contemporary Artsin 1964:
The rich deposit of colour left by screen printing suited the precise requirements of Constructivist tendencies, while its capacity to recycle images from the mass media by means of photo-technology was relished by Pop artists. In 1965, an outraged official at the Paris Biennale des Jeunes tried to segregate Kelpra’s work from traditional “hand-made” prints – but it was like Canute trying to turn back the tide.
This exhibition will run through August 14, 2011. Gallery Hours are Tuesday – Sunday, 12-5 pm. For more information, contact the University of Virginia Museum of Art, located at The Thomas H. Bayly Building, 105 Rugby Rd.in Charlottesville: 434.924.3592