Because of Bunk, Paolozzi’s name remains inextricably connected to Pop Art. The overriding impression left by this latest retrospective, however, is of an immensely versatile and visually curious artist, whose work segues into many of the twentieth century’s most distinctive movements. Characteristics of surrealism, cubism, art brut and abstract expressionism are all evident within his oeuvre, as well as pop, though none within this exhibition quite seem to dominate. Designers and artists alike can find something to take away from the works on display here; in particular, Paolozzi’s singular approach to the absorption, appropriation and remixing of mass culture, and the juxtaposition of the mechanical with the organic.
In his commentary for Paolozzi’s 1963 publication The Metallization of a Dream, fellow Independent Group member Lawrence Alloway observed that: “As is natural to somebody who grew up surrounded by the picture palaces, news-stands and bill-boards of the twentieth century city, Paolozzi’s content is the patterns of connectivity that link apparently divergent events and objects…” Ours is an increasingly image-saturated world—nowhere more obviously so than in a city like London, where the visual clamour of street signage, billboards, stickers, flyers, posters and banners and even video advertisements, both above and below ground, spill over into the personal sphere through our smartphones. One can’t help but wonder what Paolozzi himself would have made of it, and indeed what art he might have made of it, had he been at his productive prime today.
Until 14 May 2017whitechapelgallery.org