Warhol and Paolozzi: I Want To Be A Machine
Campbell’s Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe screen prints ensure that Andy Warhol’s legacy continues to be felt more than 30 years after his death in 1987 and they grab your attention on arrival at this latest exhibition which takes its name from a declaration the icon of the Pop Art movement made in an interview in 1963.
It might make you think that he is taking top billing at this event, but it is shared with Leith-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi. While Warhol is the better known of the two artists – at least within the commercial world – Paolozzi’s contribution to the Pop Art movement, the respect in which his work is held, and the influence he has had on successive generations of artists, means he is equally as important and makes the pair logical bedfellows for this shared retrospective.
Both artists drew inspiration from the mass-produced imagery of popular culture and commerce that exploded in the post war consumer boom. The parallels between their careers is noted by Simon Groom, director of modern and contemporary art at the National Galleries of Scotland.
Groom notes “their almost simultaneous ‘discovery’ of screenprinting in the early 1960s ushered in a new world of ever-changing bright colours and a celebration of a fast developing consumer society, fuelled by rapid mechanisation.”
However, while they may have shared an interest in screenprinting alongside a fascination for automation, machines and mechanical processes, the work they produced was very different, born as much from their American and European backgrounds as from their individual takes on modern culture.
The exhibition follows the development of both artists’ work in parallel displays that begin in the late 1940s and 1950s when Warhol began using tracing techniques to transfer images of people he had seen in photographs into his drawings.
The drawings in the gallery covering this early period provide an interesting counterpoint to the more familiar work on display in the second gallery. The biographical information and background to the work also make this an exhibition where the work on display is not the only thing worth the visit.
Speaking at the press preview about the influence of Paolozzi, comedian and artist Phill Jupitus said that “having spent so much time in Edinburgh, and seeing his name keep coming up, Paolozzi gradually and insidiously worked his way into my heart.”
Paolozzi was the son of Italian parents who also spent his summers as a boy in a youth camp on the Adriatic coast of Italy that was run by the Italian fascist party. His breakthrough work came in the 1950s when he moved into collage, tearing images out of American magazines to create composite views of a new technological society. He went on to become increasingly fascinated by the interface between people and machines which is reflected in his 1960s prints and also in the sculptures that form part of the exhibition.
However, in spite of the wide range of influences and experiences he used in his work, Jupitus feels that his Scottish upbringing is clear, noting “he was an extraordinarily globally significant artist, but he was Edinburgh through and through.”
The exhibits are drawn from the Artists Rooms collection which is jointly owned by National Galleries of Scotland as well as from the National Galleries own collection.
Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi, I Want To Be A Machine, is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) 17 November 2018 – 2 June 2019. Entry is free