The Barbican has popped out in a profusion of colours, logos and forms for its celebration of Pop Art in Pop Art Design. Here, you will find seminal works by international artists and designers that changed how art was perceived, and paved the way for modern art as we know it today. This exhibition is a tour-de-force exploring the origins of Pop Art during the post-war economic boom in the US and UK, and shows its strong influence and synthesis with design. Pop Art revolutionised art by removing it from its pedestal of “high culture”, and instead fused it with commercial design to explore ideas of commercialisation and commodification of everyday life. Pop Art was a cultural revolution.
An extensive overview of Pop Art is on show, with examples drawn from furniture design, typography, and fashion. Brand logos, bold, comic-like graphics and bright colours predominate. Andy Warhol’s silver-painted coke bottles and graphic Brillo pad box, Gaetano Pesce’s Moloch, a large, Luxo-type lamp of gigantic proportions, Studio 65′s Leonardo foam sofa painted with the American flag, and Roy Lichtenstein’s 1963 In the Car are only a few of the key pieces on display.
Film is also part of the exploration of Pop Art, and there is a darkened studio where you can watch James Bond introductions from the comfort of large throw cushions. Pop Art’s exploration of new information technology and modes of communication is also apparent, with a screening of designers Charles and Ray Eames’ animated 1958 short, the Information Machine. Typography and Graphic Design merit a small gallery of their own, and Pop Art designs for the album covers of Velvet Underground, the Beatles and Cream are displayed alongside printed paper “poster” dresses with the visage of Bob Dylan or the eye of Audrey Hepburn.
Pop Art portrayed great shifts in cultural consciousness, whether through psychedelic album covers and posters or explorations of feminism, as portrayed by Judy Chicago’s spray-painted automobile hood.
The exhibition ends with a look at how Pop Art has influenced contemporary postmodernist art and design practices, with the production of design objects that convey both image and message. Pop Art has come full circle.
Pop Art Design runs at the Barbican Art Gallery until 9 February 2014. Opening hours: Sat-Wed: 10am-6pm, Thurs-Fri: 10am-9pm. Admission: £12/£10. Book tickets.