Monday, July 1, 2013

'Black Eyes and Lemonade: Curating Popular Art'

In 1951 a vibrant and colorful ‘popular art’ exhibition was unveiled at London’s Whitechapel Gallery. It was hosted as part of the renowned Festival of Britain. Amongst a plethora of curious and extraordinary objects on view were a talking lemon, a fireplace done in the shape of a dog, a life-size wax model of a Rabbi and St Paul’s Cathedral’s edible model.

The 1951 exhibit was organized by Barbara Jones, an artist, writer and designer of repute. It was divided in categories like Man’s Own Image, Birth-Marriage-Death, Commerce & Industry, and Home that reflected Jones’s ideas on popular art and museum culture, questioning the cultural values attached to handmade and machine made objects.

Entitled ‘Black Eyes and Lemonade’, after ‘Intercepted Letters’ or ‘The Two-Penny Post Bag’ (a Thomas Moore poem), it presented several everyday objects made in the UK, generally excluded from art galleries and museums.

This archive exhibit incorporates original exhibit material - the iconic Airedale fireplace also among them. Previously unseen fascinating archive material culled from the Design Archives, the Vogue Archives as well as the gallery Archive apart from installation views and ephemera from Jones’s surviving studio together underline her highly innovative curatorial approach towards popular art, pointing to the connections that she was able to draw across objects and images.

For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters like Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Lucian Freud, Sophie Calle,Gilbert & George, Mark Wallinger etc. With lovely galleries, artist commissions, exhibitions, collection displays, education resources, art courses, bookshop and historic archives, the gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see.

It essentially serves as a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.

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