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Wang Guangyi. Great Criticism: Benelton, 大批判, 1992

“Post Pop: East Meets West” 0

An express-interview with the curator of the Soviet/Russian section of the exhibition “Post Pop: East Meets West”, Andrey Erofeev

Agnese Čivle,

Post Pop: East Meets West 
Tsukanov Family Foundation and Saatchi Gallery, London
November 26, 2014 – February, 23, 2015

London, on 26 November 2014, the Tsukanov Family Foundation and Saatchi Gallery will open Post Pop: East Meets West, the first comprehensive exhibition examining why Pop Art, of all the twentieth century's movements has had such a powerful influence over artists from world regions that had or still have very different and sometimes opposing ideologies.

Widely regarded as the most significant art movement of the last century, Pop Art exploits identifiable imagery from mass media and everyday life to reflect on the nature of the world we live in. This exhibition examines the relationship between western Pop Art and its lesser-known eastern counterparts including “Sots Art” in the Soviet Union and “Political-Pop” or “Cynical Realism”, which has flourished in China since the turn of the twenty-first century.

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Post Pop: East Meets West is co-curated by pre-eminent authorities: Marco Livingstone, an independent curator who has worked on numerous publications, retrospectives and Pop Art exhibitions that have toured throughout Europe, Japan and Canada; and Tsong-Zung Chang, a curator and guest professor at China Art Academy who co-founded the Asia Art Archive and the well-established Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong; and Andrey Erofeev, a leading art critic and writer, and former head of the contemporary art department of the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Erofeev was gracious to enough to answer the following questions posed by

Grisha Bruskin. Man with Portrait of Lenin, 1990

The exhibition brings together 250 works by 109 renowned artists from America, China, the former Soviet Union and the UK. What was the reasoning behind selecting such diverse regions?

From its beginning, Pop Art didn’t consider itself a regional or national movement. It ignored local subcultures and traditions. Instead, Pop artists tried to break through into a global arena.

The exhibition shows how a specific artistic language developed in American and British Pop Art. It also became the common language for Eastern Europe and Asia, with Russia and China as key examples. These countries are fundamentally disparate insofar as their societies have, at times, held incompatible values and their political systems have dramatically differed from one another. However, they have shared one important feature: an ever-growing dominance of images over other forms of transmitting information. This is the reason why the transformation of real and virtual public spaces into visual representations has been consistent across the “consumer society” of the West and the ideological regimes of the East. We selected the best examples from both sides.

Jeff Koons. Encased - Four Rows, 1983-93

Post Pop: East Meets West will celebrate the art being produced in these four distinct regions since the heyday of Pop, and will present them in relation to each other through the framework of six themes: Habitat; Advertising and Consumerism; Celebrity and Mass Media; Art History; Religion and Ideology; Sex and the Body. In which thematic framework did pop art in the former Soviet Union pick up the most speed?

In the USSR, art based on the theory behind Pop Art was called “Sots Art”. Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, the founders of Sots Art, have pointed out that “if pop-art was born by the overproduction of things and their advertising, then Sots Art was born of the overproduction of ideology and its propaganda, including visual propaganda”. For Sots Art, ideology as the dominant factor in the everyday life of 240 million people became its principal framework.

The direction of development of Pop Art challenged not only the art scene, but also the human value system - creating the cult of The  American Dream. How can this aspect be applied to the former Soviet Union and other regions focused upon in this exhibition?

Pop Art doesn’t require the artist himself to invent any new forms. Instead, he borrows them from existing forms of mass communication, which include the verbal, visual, and objective. Pop Art turns its eye to everything, including the street, the home, mass media, religion, politics, and cultural history, which the artist then slightly distorts. Pop Art, as a language, extends to the propaganda posters that were found all over the former Soviet Union and China, which advertised a different, Communist form of the “American dream”. This language, then, is a dominant force in unifying artists from the US, UK, China and Russia. What we try to achieve in this exhibition is to show that Pop Art’s discourse isn’t limited to the West; it’s a global art language that has been adopted in equal measure by societies both in the West and the East.

Keith Haring.  Elvis Presley,  1981

How has pop art evolved into the current practices of today’s artists in Russia?

Russian artists today work beyond the ideological subject matter inherited from the past, although this remains of great importance, especially in relation to religion.  They still use a commercial language of banner designs and light boxes which they combine with slogans, labels and pictures. The mass media provides a rich source of photos of celebrities and newspaper columns. Artists also continue to turn to domestic life as a form of visual inspiration, appropriating banal, household items and the chaotic relics of everyday life that pile up on kitchen tables, desks, and furniture. The subject matter remains similar to what is still visible in today’s art practice in the West.

Fang Lijun. Untitled, 2011-12

Why do you believe it is important to speak about the significance of pop art now? Why is it important to compare and contrast?

Pop Art, through its universal language, is able to connect commercial advertising with propaganda posters; portraits of pop stars with party leaders; and symbols of money with state emblems. The goal of Post-Pop Art is not mockery or to expose the messiness of life, but an attempt to look, with detachment, at how this language (objects, texts, pictures) is organized – the elements that make up the universal narrative of contemporary life. This is perhaps the reason why there have been such similar “Pop-Art” trends across all countries and continents. 

How were the artworks for the exhibition selected and gathered?

The three curators worked relatively independently in selecting the artworks within the defined six themes. There were discussions about some artists and the relevance of certain works to the exhibition sections, but in general, the selection of the arworks from each region was made by each curator, and we are very excited to soon see them together.

Post Pop: East Meets West features work by:

UK: Glenn Brown, Tony Cragg, Michael Craig-Martin, Tim Head, Gary Hume, Linder, David Mach, Lisa Milroy, Paul Morrison, Julian Opie, Marc Quinn, Michael Sandle, Yinka Shonibare, Gavin Turk, Caroline Walker, Rachel Whiteread, Bill Woodrow and Richard Woods.

US: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ashley Bickerton, Mike Bidlo, Robert Gober, Peter Halley, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelly, Clay Ketter, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Paul McCarthy, Richard Prince, Tom Sachs, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Mickalene Thomas and Jonas Wood.

China: Agi Chen, Ai Weiwei, Chang Tsung-Hsun, Chen Ching-Yuan, Fang Lijun, Feng Mengbo, Gu Wenda, He An, Hou Chun-Ming, Hung Tung-Lu, Inga Svala Thórsdóttir, Kwan Sheung Chi, Michael Lin, Liu Dahong, Liu Wei, Luis Chan, Made in Company (Xu Zhen), Mei Dean-E, Qiu Anxiong, Qiu Zhijie, Qiu Qijing, Sui Jianguo, Tseng Kin-Wah, Tseng Kwong-Chi, Wang Guangyi, Wang Xingwei, Wang Ziwei, Wong Wai-Yin, Wu Junyong, Wu Shanzhuan, Wu Tien-Chang, Yang Mao-Lin, Yao Jui Chung, Yeh Wei-Li, Yu Youhan, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Peili, Zheng Guogu and Zhou Tiehai.

Former Soviet Union: AES +F, Blue Noses Group, Grisha Bruskin, Eric Bulatov, Vladimir Dubossarsky, Rimma Gerlovin, Valery Gerlovin, PG Group, Emilia Kabakov, Ilya Kabakov, Zhanna Kadyrova, Alexey Kallima, Vitaly Komar, Irina Korina, Alexander Kosolapov, Vladimir Kozhin, Oleg Kulik, Rotislav Lebedev, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, Inspection Medical Hermeneutics, Alexander Melamid, Irina Nakhova, Anton Olshvang, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Boris Orlov, Pavel Pepperstein, George Pusenkoff, Recycle, Oleg Tselkov, Tsvetkov, Aidan Salakhova, Alexander Shekhovtsev, Sergey Shutov, Leonid Sokov and Alexander Vinogradov