This current exhibitionThe World Goes Pop at the Tate Modern is an excellent analytical survey exhibition that explains the global spread of the art movement known as Pop Art, started in the USA, had on the global art scene, not only during the 1960’s but since.
Where normally we are left with images such as Lichtenstein’s Wham paintings or Warhol’s screen-prints of Marilyn Monroe as our references into this vibrant art era, we can now see the effects of these great masterworks on the artists who responded to their own cultures and who ‘blew up’ the world around them and placed it on canvases and in spaces.
This exhibition highlights the global work that was going on in the 1960’s; that had seen and felt the enormity of the consumerist, capitalist and war conscious artistic pulse emanating from the US and responded to it in droves. No other artist better exemplifies this than Shinohara, the Japanese Proto Pop artist, who’s explosive colour work and lightning reaction to work emanating out of New York resulted in this Anti-Art movement and who devised his first signature series: Boxing Painting and Imitation Art series. [The World Goes Pop; 2015; EY Exhibition Catalogue. Tate Publishing]
Shinohara combined a few signature motifs of Jasper Johns flag and Segal’s Plaster body and created the Imitation Art series and consequently was recreating pieces that he would have seen in monochrome magazines and articles and subsequently his imagination filled in the missing information.
“Doll Festival 1966” reveals Shinohara’s mashing together of culture, narrative and his own technical virtuosity. This combination results in a powerful piece of social commentary of this period.
The composition is purposefully cropped; under the cherry blossom of Japan five different social classed figures gather – from left a town leader, a town’s woman, a city gent in a bowler hat, a male prostitute and a female prostitute. All of these images come from print sources, newspapers. The Commentary here is on miss matching, incongruity, separation and division. Using florescent paint, acrylic and acrylic sheeting, the piece is given a ‘pop’ treatment yet is a social commentary on a very traditional subject. That of the levels of class which operate in Japanese society, the hypocrisy and the division/inclusion.
All the figures exist in a narrative aspect yet are faceless, in an anonymous society; the painting is peppered with symbols of Japanese society and the Americanisation of Japanese society.
Students of Art and Art history can further respond to the work of Shinohara by commenting on the environment into which he was then commenting – his version of Three Flags and Rauschenberg’s Coco Cola Plan 1958 and how by using the signals and signs that society hinges itself on, can be used in a powerfully subversive way to reflect and comment on society.