Joe Black: Ways of Seeing at Opera Gallery
It is no longer particularly edgy to make pop art with a pseudo-political message, but Joe Black’s Ways of Seeing gives a firm nod to the genre’s 50-year history, and does offer something different. Working in mixed media, the pieces displayed in his new show at Opera Gallery are finely detailed, well-executed, and sometimes very humorous.
Guarding the door as you enter the galley are Everyman Pink and Everyman Blue – two larger-than-human, pastel toy soldiers. The two artworks were initially constructed from high-density polystyrene. The artist then meticulously pinned 130,000 plastic flowers to the surface, before painting and lacquering them. This was an impressive feat, and a feat that visitors would see repeated time and again in the exhibition, with real toy soldiers, Lego, badges, toy cars, and test tubes of paint.
As is often the case with pop art, the most memorable artwork was also the most crude. The only artwork without a name, Untitled up close just looked like a scrawl of broken toy cars that had been given a paint job by Jackson Pollock. Backing away from the painting, the technical genius of Joe Black is revealed with Diana’s face: pointillism brought to a new level.
But the trick tends to wear a bit thin once you’ve seen it a few times. Ways of Seeing, titled like the show to give a knowing nod to the seminal 70s art theory book, is an eye made of hundreds of badges showing lewd, nude, pornographic scenes. It worked well, but there were a few other versions of it in different colours, and the repetition dulled the senses.
Downstairs, lesser-known works from Andy Warhol and David Mach mapped out Black’s influences in a conscious, considered way. But the comparison also threw light on the fact that Black’s work hadn’t really progressed far enough from his influences, given the leaps contemporary art has made since the 1970s. The exhibition was successful, impressive and attractive, but not, ultimately, new.
Photos: Adnan Moe
Joe Black: Ways of Seeing is at Opera Gallery until 21st November 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.