The 60’s in Black and White
Dario Illari is the owner Jealous Gallery and Print Studios in London. Dario’s curated theme is The 60’s in black and White.
“When the sixties was supposed to be about colour, free love, peace, a new psychedelia, and society giving recognition and identity to the new ‘youth’ market even artists like Warhol, at the height of his powers, was exploring a darker underbelly and seeing this new reality in black and white”.
Birmingham Race Riots 1964 looks at the Birmingham Alabama race protests. With Martin Luthor King at the head of this organisation for non violent change these protests sought to bring attention to the disparities between the black and white communities.
Not always peaceful, this simple and direct work captures the instant aesthetic of a reportage newspaper photograph. We see a black protester being attacked by two police dogs whilst other protesters look on in the background. The police officer in the foreground is wielding a baton as part of ‘crowd control’ procedures. A powerful work that is an example of Warhol’s grasp and understanding of these changing times.
Born in 1920 Thiebaud is one of the most important painters of a generation. Grouped with the Pop artists for his paintings of production line shop counter products his works actually predate those of the Pop artists and are certainly more painterly with heavy pigment and exaggerated colours to depict his subjects.
Thiebaud was also a printmaker in the true sense of the word, applying himself in the studio and happy to work on etching, lithographs and woodcuts. His line work is glorious and gives a weight and joy to the everyday as we can see from the1964 etching below reducing the object to line form and shade. The cross hatching is as refined as it is relaxed and this illustrative approach gives the print a warmth and approachability.
Now in his nineties Wayne Thiebaud is still working hard and will be remembered for a classical approach in a modern world.
At the same time in the swinging sixties of London, Bridget Riley was moving forward with her own practice in the form of Op art.
In 1965, Riley initiated an extraordinary series of seven prints produced on plexiglass, entitled Fragments which originated from preparatory studies for paintings.
At that time Plexiglass, a form of transparent plastic was an entirely new material and due to the nature of the work these prints were made by a commercial sign printer accustomed to working with plastic. The black was printed first onto the back of the plastic sheet and the white ground added later to create an image that seems to float within the Perspex. These works show Riley at her most confident in form and choice of material whilst also capturing that iconic 60’s essence which still resonates today.
In 1969 Rauschenberg was invited by NASA to witness one of the most significant social events of the decade – the launch of Apollo 11, the shuttle that would place man on the moon. NASA provided Rauschenberg with detailed scientific maps, charts and photographs of the launch which he then used as the basis of the Stoned moon series to look at man’s relationship with technology, art and science.
One has a feeling that these works almost punctuate the end of the 1960’s whilst look ahead to the next decade. The juxtaposition of the mechanical photographic reproduction and Rauschenberg’s gestural mark making as seen in these works is a common theme that continued throughout his career.
In this print we see the overpowering central image of industry with another image of a lorry carrying liquid nitrogen coming in from the right. Both sit upon a small semicircle of greenery which is being crushed by or has given birth to this ‘brave new world’.
Famous for their hard edges, minimalist abstraction and vibrant colours Ellsworth Kelly’s work is included in most major museum collections around the world. Slightly less known are his black-and-white drawings, collages and prints despite the fact that they make up about 20 percent of his total output.
The work below is one such example. Here the emphasis is of the work is focused completely on the simple black shape. These works let the eye sinks into the shape giving it a three dimensional and ethereal quality which you see Kelly exploring further with his wall sculptures. This simple contrast of this black and the white of the paper very simply and succinctly explore notions of space and reality. Kelly used and then turned everyday objects into his abstraction.
Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract painter, theorist and teacher with students including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Paul Klee and Kandinsky and favoured a very disciplined approach to composition. Most famous are his Homage to the Square series of paintings and prints. Beginning in 1949 this rigorous series explored chromatic interactions with nested squares. Usually painting on Masonite, he used a palette knife with oil colours and often recorded the colours he used on the back of his works.
His prints were as important to this series as were the paintings. This flattening achieved by printing presented an almost perfect presentation of this enormous quest.
This work as with Riley’s work before captures a place and moment in time, and although having left the Bauhaus years behind and having forged a successful career in the US we still see and feel a sense of modernist Europe resonating through the work.