Seattle Art Museum is a veritable Popland for its show, POP DEPARTURES, OCT 9 2014 – JAN 11 2015. For more details, visit our friends at SAM right here.
What follows are field notes from the current show. Consider it a review, a guide, a friendly tour. When it comes to reviewing a show like SAM’s exploration of Pop Art, it’s a brave new world. Today, a handful of local art critics no longer command public opinion as much as make a noble contribution. No sooner have they done that, in a poetic, or quirky, or straightforward fashion, than a babble of reactions shoot out from below in the comment section. And that’s exactly what Andy Warhol would have wholeheartedly approved of!
As much as can be said for Pop Art shedding a light on a dead end, Pop Art is full of life. It’s our world, made up of mass media galore and celebrity worship. Let’s do something about it. Since it’s not going away, engage it. Make art. The babble in the comment section can rage on and on and on. Some of us learned how to love the bomb, so to speak. That is the overriding sensibility to be found here. There’s social commentary, critique, and satire, of course. But, ultimately, when Warhol suggested that everyone would get their fifteen minutes of fame, it wasn’t a barb but a realization.
SAM provides a refreshing look at Pop Art byway of where it came from and how it continues to reverberate to this very day. You may even see such familiar figures as Warhol and Lichtenstein in a new light. What this exhibit does so well is demonstrate how, as time progressed, and consumer culture became more complex, so did contemporary art. Layer upon layer, extended the bright and bold message of consumerism. As the landscape of pop culture evolved, and devolved, art responded and collaborated.
Art and its subject end up doing a dance together. And the most subversive work will find its way into the mainstream. Consider the cacophonous video on display by Ryan Trecartin. You may find that you got the joke and want to walk out as soon as you walked in. But stay a while. Wait a minute, something about these vacuous characters spouting gibberish and thinking themselves profound is very familiar. Compare this to the mainstream co-opting (or is it stealing?) by Saturday Night Live with their popular ongoing skit, “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.”
As we view the Warhols and Lichtensteins, we don’t need to see them as only a part of art history. They continue to breathe life. They continue to provide a road map (sorry, no GPS) for making sense of the landscape.
“Pop Departures” is on view from October 9, 2014 thru January 11, 2015. Visit our friends at SAM right here.