SPOTLIGHT | The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection


The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

"Pop is everything art hasn't been for the last two decades. It's basically a U-turn back to a representational visual communication, moving at a break-away speed...Pop is a re-enlistment in the world...It is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naïve." – Donald Judd

When I think of Pop Art – a controversial and sometimes dismissed art movement – I can honestly say that the artist Christo isn't the first to come to mind; so I was surprised to see Orange Store Front in this exhibition. But if I think about, it makes sense and it changes how I view his work altogether. Presented here is a faithful re-creation of a standard, American Main Street façade – windows draped, peg board ready for products, and blank metal sheets where a logo should reside – meant to blur the boundaries of “low” culture and “high” art by bringing the outside, the everyday into the fine art arena. The notion that culture is not hierarchical is one of the most basic characteristics of Pop Art, and Christo exemplified that in this work; but it isn’t an empty gesture. This is a recognition of the premise of the inter-connectedness of things: that our ties to anything and everything are not mediated, whether they are internal, external, natural or built, they are literal and actual. It’s a lot to take in and I’m only a few feet into the exhibition.

The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen, conceived as a complementary exhibition to the connecting exhibit Pop Art Design, organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, is structured around these three separate themes that illustrate many artists’ interests during the 1960s and 1970s. The frenetic energy of the street, the inflated commercialism of mass-produced products, and the insatiable draw to celebrity proved undeniable to the icons of the movement presented here. When I think of our current culture, I find it no less garish, more false, and I might argue that current fine art establishment has fully embraced the capitalism so aptly targeted here; but its an interesting collection of works that continue to shock viewers and stir debate nonetheless. Of course, then again, perhaps Warhol is right that my taste in art is as arbitrary as a variety of soup, or Ramos has it figured out that I only like what I like because of the blatant use of the female form. Either way, Judd was right: Pop is everything…optimistic, generous, and naïve.”

Drawn from the MCA’s holdings of seminal Pop Art and a handful of local loans, The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection reveals patterns and preoccupations that connect artists working in otherwise distinct styles and approaches. It’s an interesting compilation that reveals the richness of the MCA’s holdings in this area of art history as well as the continued relevance and fascination that Pop Art has in the modern dialogue. Because I think it's wholeheartedly the point, I invite you to join the conversation.

Organized by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling, The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection is open now through March 27 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, located at 220 E Chicago Avenue, Chicago. For more, visit: https://mcachicago.org/Exhibitions/2015/The-Street-The-Store-And-The-Silver-Screen-Pop-Art-From-The-MCA-Collection

Images (from top to bottom): Mel Ramos, Zebra, 1970, oil on canvas, 80 × 70 inches / framed: 82 3/4 × 70 5/8 × 2 inches, Gift of Beatrice Cummings Mayer, © MCA Chicago; Christo (Christo Javacheff), Orange Store Front, 1964–65, painted wood, masonite, plexiglas, galvanized metal, pegboard, fabric, and electric lights, 112 1/2 x 101 1/8 x 23 7/8 inches, collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Natalie and Irving Forman, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago; Ed Paschke, Hair Bag, 1971, oil on canvas, canvas: 34 x 20 inches / framed: 34 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, bequest of Ruth S. Nath, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago and George Segal, Box: Man in Bar, 1969, plaster, tempera on metal, wood, and cloth, 60 1/2 × 24 1/2 × 12 3/8 inches, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Bergman, © MCA Chicago and Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans II, 1969, screenprint on paper, 35 × 23 inches, Gift of Beatrice Cummings Mayer, Photo: Michal Raz-Russo, © MCA Chicago, © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Claes Oldenburg, Green Beans, 1964, vinyl and acrylic on plaster, 18 parts – each: 2 x 11 3/4 x 5 inches, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Anne and William J. Hokin, Photo: Joe Ziolkowski, © MCA Chicago, © 1964 Claes Oldenburg and Alex Hay, Light Bulb, 1964, spray lacquer and stencil on linen, in eight parts linked by two painted linen bands, 95 1/2 × 40 inches, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Irving Stenn Jr., purchased jointly with funds provided by the Anixter Art Acquisition Fund, © MCA Chicago and Marilyn Levine, ISC Case, 1982, ceramic and wire, 4 3/4 × 9 5/8 × 6 7/8 inches, Gift of A. Jerry and Claudia R. Luebbers, © MCA Chicago; Jim Dine, Tools, 1970, lithograph on paper, 39 1/2 × 53 3/4 inches, Gift of American Art Foundation, © MCA Chicago

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