Eduardo Paolozzi is usually remembered for his hulking bronze sculptures, such as those in London outside the British Library and Euston station, or for the labyrinthine patterns tiled in the mosaics he produced for Tottenham Court Road tube station. Much less discussed is the dissemination of the artist's graphic work outside the gallery; his designs for everyday objects, such as textiles and wallpaper, and his text and image contributions to the avant-garde magazine Ambit.
Earlier this year, Four Corners Books republished Paolozzi's collected Ambit projects as The Jet Age Compendium, and these works form the centrepiece of this exhibition. Alongside his work for the magazine from 1967 to 1975, are collages, screen-prints, etchings, sculpture and a range of ephemera that show the genesis of his ideas within a personal collection of toys, magazines and comics.
Paolozzi was recruited to Ambit by its then prose editor, J G Ballard. The two had met before, when the artist was part of the Independent Group. The exhibition begins here, with a selection of "Bunk" collages that were presented within a quick-fire slide "lecture" at the ICA in 1952 and are often referenced as the first examples of pop art. Fashioned from American magazines (given to Paolozzi by US Army soldiers in the late 1940s), they establish common ground with Ambit's diverse influences, from science fiction to concrete poetry.
Observations are drawn from commodity culture; a menacing proliferation of cartoons (Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and King Kong) being assimilated with stealth risqué magazine content (a woman mid-striptease, and another overspilling her brassiere).
The Jet Age Compendium aligns the blurring of reality and fiction in Paolozzi's work to a period of experimentation among his literary peers. The exhibition is underpinned by a narrative of the artist's political sensibility and attitudes towards America that moves from anxiety and ambivalence to outright critique. His final project for the magazine, The Vietnam Symphony, produced in collaboration with Ambit's founder-editor, Martin Bax, was an anti-war protest that he felt was unsupported by a younger generation of British pop artists.
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