Portraiture in Pop

Pop Art Portraits,” curated by Paul Moorhouse. National Portrait Gallery, London. Through Jan. 20.

PAP examines the role and significance of portraiture within Pop Art. Marilyn Monroe is a featured player. Artists include Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield.

In The Observer, Tim Adams reports: “Without Warhol, Pop would have had no focus, though: it would have had Peter Blake’s unquestioning Beatles’ album covers and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-book epics, it would have had Patrick Caulfield’s one-size-fits-all humans and Mel Ramos’s Playboy centrefolds. The National Portrait Gallery dates the end of the high-water mark of Pop Art to Richard Hamilton’s 1968 portrait of Mick Jagger and art dealer Robert Fraser handcuffed together in the back of a police car on drugs charges. Their hands cover their faces, an attempt to escape the public gaze, the trademark gesture of the decades that followed. Swinging London depicts the backlash against pop culture, the end of its innocence.”

In the Telegraph, Jane Neal writes that the timing for the show is perfect. “Pop Art Portraits is engaging and insightful and Moorhouse’s argument that ‘Pop Art is about people in a world of objects’ is convincing. The show is a Who’s Who of 1950s and ’60s icons, punctuated with unexpected treasures such as Claes Oldenburg’s chilling sculpture Ghost Wardrobe (for MM) (1967). In common with all the works on display in the dimly lit ‘Marilyn’ room, the sculpture refers to Marilyn’s death, and, in this case, the annihilation of her personal identity as the price of fame….In an age of rampant consumerism and the glorification of celebrity, the exhibition couldn’t be more timely.”

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