Sunday, 16 November 2014

A unique art radical

A wonderful monograph that will most likely be the definitive study of this remarkable artist. His work is instantly recognizable whether it's a piece of sculpture, drawing, print, Rosenthal ceramic tableware (1974) or perhaps textile designs for Horrockses Fashions (1953) and millions must have seen his fascinating glass mosaics on the walls of London's Tottenham Court Road subway station (1984). The book reveals through the text and photos the evolving of Paolozzi's creativity. This was particularly noticeable when he changed from the rough brutalist bronze work to the much cleaner lines of aluminum sculpture in the early Sixties. It's interesting to compare the bronze and aluminum work shown in the book's photos because it is so different yet it is clearly by Paolozzi.

I found the chapter on prints (1950 to 2000) particularly fascinating because of the influence of popular culture in his work. Oddly his well known print 'I was a rich man's plaything' (1951) isn't shown in the book. Because it has the word pop in the collage -- it's coming out of a toy gun -- many have attributed this to the start of pop art and in the same way Richard Hamilton's famous 1956 collage 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?' prominently features a lollipop with the word pop on the wrapping paper so Hamilton's picture is also considered the start of pop art. The lollipop was a well known candy brand called Tootsie Pop rather than the start of an art genre.

Paolozzi's dazzling 'As is when' portfolio of twelve prints (six shown in the book) from 1965 is considered in detail, it was regarded at the time as a masterpiece of the medium. The 1967 'Universe electronic vacuum' set of ten screen prints shows a similar range of colour, rhythm and vibrancy. His 'Bunk' box of forty-five prints from 1972 was actually a collection of graphic work from 1947 to 1952 but quickly became an icon if his print work.

I thought author Judith Collins did a wonderful job describing Paolozzi's life and work, especially as she writes in a conversational style and avoids the rather elitist text found in many art books. There are 180 colour and 80 mono pictures, a Chronology, lists of major public collections, exhibitions and a bibliography. My only criticism of the book, a minor one, is the rather bland layout and typography (using roman numerals for the Contents for example) but apart from that this is a first-class survey of the brilliant Paolozzi.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi, I bought this book.
    I have a question about it.
    In your copy, on the dustjacket, the title is well alligned with the relief printing of the outline of the words? In my the word Paolozzi is not aligned with the relief printing of the ouline of the letters. Excuse me for my poor english, I hope you can understand me. Kind Regards, C

  3. C: I'm sure I do understand. My jacket has Paolozzi's name in white which has been screen printed on top of the four color printed jacket. The white ink was perhaps not thick enough because a little of the background does show through the white type. White type is normally reversed out of all four colors used to print images, on this jacket there was a fifth pass through the press to print the white title and author's name.

  4. If I watch the cover in detail, I can see that the color white is of the right dimension, but it is not in the right position. It is a little bit on the right compared to the outline of the text.
    For your cover too? Thank you for the reply. C

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I think so. I asked a refund. Here it is a photo of my book

  7. C: That looks very strange to me. It already has white type out of the four color printing and then another run of white has added been added on top. My cover has a not too thick white ink printed onto the painting. Good luck with the refund.