The current Pop Art Design exhibition at the Barbican has a familiar feel about it with many examples seen in London galleries in recent years: from Roy Lichtenstein’s comic strips; Ed Ruscha’s block text graphics; William Klein’s dazzling film montages; Harry Gordon’s paper poster dresses; Martin Sharp’s psychedelic posters; Richard Hamilton’s collages; Andy Warhol’s flowers; Peter Blake’s Beatles; Pauline Boty’s female icons and so forth. But Pop Art by its very nature is familiar with its appropriation of everyday items, branding, advertising and cultural figures.
Pop Art Design looks at how design – furniture, clothes, architecture, etc. - and Pop-Art are entwined and inform each other. Andy Warhol’s Close Cover Before Striking (1962), a large acrylic on canvas piece depicting a matchbook adorned with Coca-Cola advertising, is placed above a 1960’s Coca-Cola dispenser; both equally bold designs and beautiful works of art. Pop Art might say something about consumerism and capitalism but to me it simply looks bright, vibrant, fun and reflects a world I can relate to. That’ll do.
Yet what caught the eye, time and time again, was the work of Alexander Girard, a name I wasn’t aware of. Each time Mrs Monkey and I spotted something interesting and “new” it inevitably had his name on the caption. Magazine covers, lettering on cushions, curtain fabrics, household items, even a whole restaurant, there was the Girard name. As an architect, interior designer and furniture designer “Sandro” was commissioned in 1960 to design every part of La Fonda Del Sol Restaurant in New York, from the kitchen to the servery counter to the tables to the crockery to the menus and to packets of sugar. It looked an incredible place with his cheerful collection of 80 different sun motifs as an ever changing logo. And no, of course it’s not still there, I’ve checked. Not the real one anyway.
Well worth a mooch around with plenty of inspiration to be found among over 200 pieces by 70 artists. The walls of Monkey Mansions have looked starkly white and colourless ever since.
Pop Art Design is at the Barbican Centre, London until 9 February 2014, admission £12.
For more on La Fonda Del Sol see Burning Settlers Cabin blog.