Tuesday, February 26, 2013


A conversation with Lisa G  on her return from this year’s Sundance Film Festival has prompted THE GENERALIST to check out their catalog and website in detail to see what’s out there and what’s coming up.I planned to look at the new films – documentaries and features – entered in competition but immediately got distracted by THE SUNDANCE YOUTUBE SHORT FILM SCREENING ROOM and discovered these three outstanding animations. Brilliant.

FAST FILM: A work of genius by  Virgil Wildrich and team. The filmmakers printed out some 65,000 individual images from 300 films, folded them into paper objects, arranged them in complex tableaux, and then brought them to life with an animation camera. A journey through film history in 14 minutes. They wanted to create an animation in a way that can’t be done on the computer.








8 BITS: A fight between an 8-bit superhero and a high-def boss, in a retro-gaming world. Superb homage, brilliantly realised. See www.8bitsmovie.com/.


THE RAFTMAN’S RAZOR: Two young teens obsess about a comic superhero who just sits in a rubber raft, shaves himself with a cuthroat razor and then does nothing. A mixture of old style comic book animation and live action, this spoof on the old world of comic books is a little gem. Directed by Keith Bearden.


Arnie listening to his own commentary on ‘Total Recall’

If your any kind of film fan or a full-blown cineaste or film geek (the term ‘film buff’ has now passed out of the language), the audio commentary provided as part of the package of extras on DVDs has become a talking point and something of an art form. When done well, it provides a brilliant insight into every aspect of the movie-making process; if badly, it is either not worth having or often highly hilarious.

It is interesting that the idea of having an audio commentary predates the DVD. IT seems generally agreed that the first ever audio commentary featured film historian Ronald Haver on the 1984 Criterion Collection laserdisc release of the original ‘King Kong’. It begins: "Hello, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Ronald Haver, and I'm here to do something which we feel is rather unique ... the ability to switch back and forth between the sound track and this lecture track."

Laser discs, first came on the market in the US in 1978, in competition with existing Betamax and VHS cassette tape formats, offering higher quality vision and sound. Always a niche market, it was largely replaced by DVDs by the 1990s. [Good Wikipedia history here]. The DVD itself may itself become an obsolete format in due course as more and more people turn to downloading movies from the Net. At present, such services as Netflix do not provide extras with the download. Will the audio commentary pass out of fashion ? We’ll have to wait and see.

Many directors are keen and happy to provide a detailed commentary on their films but there are a number of famous holdouts. Woody Allen never watches his films after he’s finished making them so is unlikely ever to comment. A good post on moviechopshop is ‘5 Directors who don’t do Commentary Tracks and the films they should deign to discuss’  - namely Spielberg, David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino and Terrence Malick.

Below are some of my favourites. I have also scoured Google (so you don’t have to) and brought together some of the best Top 10 lists and other writings on the subject.

Certain film commentaries are widely recommended, the most amusing being the in-character commentaries for ‘Spinal Tap’ and ‘Tropic Thunder’  and the so-bad-its-good commentaries by Arnold Schwarzenegger on ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Conan the Barbarian’. Roger Ebert's commentary on ‘Citizen Kane’ and Michael Jack’s  on ‘The Seven Samurai’ are widely praised as are David Fincher’s on ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Seven’

THis whole post was triggered  off by listening to the highly detailed and completely full-on commentary by Italian cinema expert David Forgacs, for Bertolucci’s extraordinary film ‘The Conformist’. It provides an absolute wealth of information which deepens one’s appreciation of this masterful film. [The disc I have came via Lovefilm . You can buy it from Arrow Films here and it apparently comes complete with a feature length doc on Bertolucci and a comprehensive booklet. More on this film later.


Another gem is the Sony Pictures disc of Antonioni’s strange and extraordinary movie ‘The Passenger’ starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. The film was  originally released in 1975 but didn’t come out on DVD until 2006 This carries two different commentary tracks, one by Nicholson himself, which is brilliant, and another featuring screenwriter Mark Peploe in conversation with Aurora Irvine. Both give valuable insights into this mysterious film that pays repeated viewings.



‘Ride The High Country’ directed by Sam Peckinpah stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea legendary figures who had appeared in more than 100 Westerns between them.  The commentary track features the knowledge of three Peckinpah experts Paul Seyfor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle. The film came as part of Sam Peckinpah’s Westerns Collection, a box set which includes ‘The Wild Bunch’, ‘Pat Garret and Billy the Kid’ and ‘The Ballad of Cable Hogue’.


Bringing things into more recent times, ‘The Libertine’ is I think one of Johnny Depp’s best acting roles as the dissolute rake based on the real-life character of Lord Rochester. In this case its the director Laurence Dunmore who takes you through the film, and providing a really interesting perspective on working with Depp and on the issues and difficulties of shooting modern movies. A very professional and interesting performance.


These are the lists I liked best. I learnt a lot and am looking forward to checking some of these out, including Hunter S.Thompson’s on ‘Fear & Loathing’

The Best and Worst DVD Commentaries www.dontpaniconline.com

A long ‘Must-Hear Commentary List’ on www.ukign.com

‘Good DVD director’s commentaries’ on www.askmetafilter.com

Five Rules for Great DVD Commentaries on www.ifc.com

The Film Babble blog’s round-up of Great DVD Commentaries begins with ‘The Passenger’. A well-written and interesting survey.

Long list of reader recommendations on the Empire film magazine site.

CinemaSlave’s post Audio Commentaries or Bust is seriously intense

AVCLub has put a lot of work into his ‘Now with extra farts! 25 1/2 gimmicky DVD commentary tracks’. Its good stuff.

Even The Guardian got in on the act with a list of films that only get better with a good DVD commentary.

I like Racking Focus’ take on the subject and he has some interesting choices on his list ‘The 10 Best DVD Audio Commentaries’

It informs us that ‘On the special edition DVD release of HIGH NOON there’s a commentary track from family members of the film’s composer, writer and director. Each track is unique and provides the viewer with a different perspective on the film they believe they’ve come to know.’

Matt Glasby gets provocative with this ‘Is this just me…or are DVD commentaries a waste of time’ in Total Film

I enjoyed ‘Interesting Audio Commentaries’ by Ambrose Heron on Film Detail

Finally enjoy Rob Brydon’s spoof tv show ‘Directors Commentary’ two episodes of which are available on YouTube here and here.


File:Easy Riders Raging Bulls.jpgDVD3049

Watching ‘The Conformist’ and listening to the commentary, took me back to the book and the DVD of ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ – the seminal account by Peter Biskind of the rise of the New Hollywood and the Movie Brats of the 1960s and 1970s. [The book was first published in 2008 and the documentary, directed by Kenneth Bowser and narrated by William H. Macy, came out in 2003]. Both still stand up although much has happened to the participants in the story since that time. Dennis Hopper has died, for instance.

The link with ‘The Conformist’, released in 1970,  comes when the commentary quotes Paul Schrader, who says of it:

‘It’s a real filmmakers film. Screening this film is almost like re-checking the dictionary. Its just how you can do things. ‘The Conformist’ is  the first gunshot in the revolution back to visual style in American films. You saw that in  films by Coppola and Scorsese. Bernardo wrote the bible and we all paced through it.’

In Biskind’s book, which carries many passages which dwell on Schrader’s tortured upbringing, violent fantasies, drug use and abuse of friends and lovers, Schrader again pays homage to Bertolucci in his own unique way.

Everyone was under the sway of Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘The Conformist’. Continues Schrader: “You looked at  Bertolucci, it was just like he took Godard and Antonioni, put them in bed together, held a gun to their heads, and said, ‘You guys fuck or I’ll shoot you.’ ”

Birth of a renaissance … Dominique Sanda & Stefania Sandrelli in The Conformist

Bertolucci’s Director of Photography on ‘The Conformist’ and many other of his films was Vittorio Storaro. Coppola imitated many of the shots from this film in ‘The Godfather’ movies as well as copying much of the general look and style. He later hired Storaro to make ‘Apocalypse Now’ for which Storaro won his first Oscar. Bertolucci and Coppola became friends in the run-up to and during the making of Godfather 1. Brando went straight from making the Godfather to working for Bertolucci on ‘Last Tango in Paris.’ Bertolucci offered De Niro a part in ‘1900’ after seeing Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’

These connections are further explored in ‘Why Bertolucci’s ‘The Conformist’ deserves a place in cinema history.’ by John Patterson on The Guardian film blog.


Discovered this great piece on Bertolucci, written by MANOHLA DARGIS for the New York Times in December 2010 to coincide with a major retrospective of his work at MOMA in New York featuring virtually everything he had ever made. When the retro came to the BFI in London four months later, David Gritten did this interview with Bertolucci for The Telegraph




Two great pics of Schrader. (Left): Bob Seidemann’s photo accompanying an article by Michael Goodwin, published in the Village Voice [Sept 6th. 1976]; (Right) Great shot by Anton Corbin accompanying article by Ian Penman in the NME [2nd Oct. 1982]

Just rescued a box of damp material from my basement with some classic material, clips and stills from the NME days when I was writing a lot about film. Some real treasures.



DE NIRO3054 



Top Left: Original film still with signature [film unidentified]  (Top Right): US Press Ad for ‘Raging Bull’; (Centre): Original film still from ‘The Last Tycoon’ directed by Elia Kazan. De Niro is dancing with Ingrid Boulting; (Bottom Left): Rare press ad for ‘The Swap’ (1969) which contains an early performance by de Niro; (Bottom Right) The cover of the VHS for ‘Line of Fire’ aka ‘The Swap.’


This is a rare press ad announcing that Principal Photography on ‘The Deer Hunter’ would begin on June 20th 1977. I think it appeared in the Hollywood Reporter. This artwork is credited to Don Perri





(Top Left): Ragged original print. Have no idea who Scorsese’s partner in this picture is [Picture credited to Paul Schumach/Metropolitan Photo Service; (Top Right): a publicity still of Scorsese on the set of ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.’: (Centre); Scorsese on the set of ‘Alice’ [original print]; (Bottom); Great shot of Scorsese and Brian de Palma. Original print. No identification credits.


Couldn’t resist including this pic which accompanied an interview by Sheila Johnston with Scorsese [The Independent/ 12th Feb 1993] on the occasion of  the rerelease of ‘Mean Streets’ in the UK on the 20th anniversary of its original release. Scorsese’s breakthrough movie is still my one of my favourite films of all time – mainly because I went to the very first screening of the film in Britain at a preview studio in Mayfair along with a small bunch of other critics and it totally blew me away. I’d been to see a press show of ‘Rocky’ that morning – which I loved. But ‘Mean Streets’ was something else. Stunning.

According to Johnston’s great piece, Scorsese had been working on the script for seven years and when he got the green light had only 26 days to shoot the picture and only six days and nights in New York, where he was working with a student crew. The rest of the film was show in LA using one of Roger Corman’s crews. I did not know that. I really love this quote from Scorsese:


“Henry Hill [the gangster turned FBI informant whose story Scorsese filmed in Goodfellas] told me that the real-life head of the Mob played in the film by Paul Sorvino never went to the movies, he didn’t have a phone. He lived like a medieval lord in his villa in Brooklyn. And one night they sort of kidnapped him and took him to see Mean Streets – it was their favourite film because it depicted their lifestyle accurately, they thought. At the same time, the head of the FBI task force that caught this whole Mob told me that the task force’s favourite film was Mean Streets.”

[This Special Edition of ‘Mean Streets’ has a commentary by Scorsese]





There’s a long back story behind these pictures. Brief version is when I was working as Dick Tracy at the NME I wrote a story about Peter Hayden, a maverick mixture of danger and charm. The story he told was that he had been to Cannes to try and raise some money to make a film, when he went to a screening of ‘Mean Streets’. So knocked out was he that he forgot his own project and decided that he had to meet Scorsese. He went to his hotel apartment and got thrown out twice. When he came back the third time, Scorsese, admiring his chutzpah, had a conversation with him and they got on like a house on fire. By the end of the conversation Hayden makes a deal to distribute ‘Mean Streets’ in Britain. Thus began a long saga and a battle to try and get the film shown. The main distributor would only send it out as a double bill with ‘The Sweeney’. Hayden fought on, using guerilla tactics to promote the film, and they finally got a showing at the Odeon in Kensington High Street which was a complete sell-out as I recall. The huge blue poster they did was magnificent. Someone nicked my copy from the wall of the NME office. You know who you are!!

Hayden also managed to maintain contacts with Scorsese and, by some means, I can’t remember, ended up making this one-hour documentary, which was shot in the summer of 1977. That year Scorsese shot ‘New York, New York’ and ‘The Last Waltz’.

Hayden’s documentary was well regarded and is now a real cult item, as  it is virtually unavailable. I haven’t seen Peter for many years and just hope he is out there somewhere.

The two top images make up the promotional fold-out leaflet for the film. The photo is an original, mounted on card, damp stained. It shows Hayden on left with Steven Prince, shot presumably during the making of this documentary.

To explain who Prince was we need to go back to Peter Biskind’s book:

Taxi Driver Steven Prince and Robert De Niro

‘There is a famous scene in Taxi Driver where a gun dealer appears in Travis Bickle’s apartment with a case of pistols. Recalls Sandy [Weintraub, Scorsese’s producer and girlfriend 1971-1975], “I told Marty that not only do I know a guy who could play the part but he could bring his own guns.” Having worked for her father, Sandy had known “little Stevie” Prince since childhood. “He had been doing heroin on and off for years,” she continues. “He had black circles under his eyes that went down to his elbows.” Later he became indispensable to Marty. “If something went wrong, hopefully he was sober enough to take care of it.” Says [Jonathan] Taplin: “He was like a bodyguard, the doorkeeper. Sometimes – like that Dirk Bogarde movie The Servant – you had the feeling that he could appeal to Marty’s paranoias in such a way that he could make Marty do things. In that sense had had quite a bit of power.’

in 1977 Marty Scorsese also made a documentary entitled ‘American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince’. Released in 1978, it was premiered at the 16th New York Film Festival and was reviewed by Morna Murphy in the Hollywood Reporter [9th Oct 1979]. This describes the film as follows:

‘Prince’s affluent childhood is made real by the use of family movies and photographs of relatives accompanied by humorous anecdotes and descriptions. Most of the 54 minutes of film is spent in a friend’s Hollywood home, but there is little sense of confinement. Scorsese casually sets the stage, and from Prince’s rambunctious arrival to the reenactment of violent or tragic scenes from his life, there is a feeling of movement and of being witness to these events.

‘Prince himself is a handsome young man, with hooded, expressive eyes…His approach to life is frankly hedonistic and he talks of his years of addiction to heroin (“life juice”) with zest and candor. He proves to be a born storyteller with a knack for vivid description that makes one believe even his most outrageous stories implicitly. Only the contradiction in his final statement (did his dying father ask “Are you happy?” or “Are you having fun?”) raises the question of truthfulness. Is this slice of life or entertainment?” ‘

Still shot during the making of American Boy. Source: frequentsmallmeals.com

There is a great lengthy five-part feature ‘Understanding Scorsese: A Martin Scorsese Profile’ by Trevor Hogg on the Flickering Myth site.  Part 2 contains the following

American Boy: A Profile of: Steven Prince (1978) is a documentary Martin Scorsese produced about an ex-drug addict and road manager for Neil Diamond who portrayed a gun dealer in Taxi Driver. As Steve Prince talks about his family, the filmmaker intersperses home movie clips shot during Prince’s childhood. Some of the stories told have served as cinematic inspiration for the likes of Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) and Richard Linklater (Waking Life). During the opening credits,Time Fades Away by Neil Young is played. A sequel was released called American Prince (2009) which was helmed by Tommy Pallotta.’

Film Still

You can watch this film on MUBI EUROPE

or in six parts on YouTube

Saturday, February 23, 2013



There’s something in the air. Unfinished business. Let’s talk about the Sixties.

I have been circling round this book (an Xmas present from Kate) trying to get a foothold but my thoughts keep ricocheting outwards.

‘Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelia in the 1960s’ was first published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000. Nick Bromell is a US university professor and author in his 50s with college- age sons of his own. His book is very American and aimed squarely at an American audience.

On first reading the big point of his approach and argument was that many academics when writing about the 60s marginalise the importance of music and drugs which were central in shaping the consciousness of the period. He writes:

‘Far more influential than art, film, literature, and other forms of cultural self-expression about which hundreds of studies are written each year, the fusion of rock and psychedelics either inaugurated a way of being in the world, or simply coincided with it, and in either case helped articulate and objectify it…It’s a conversation between two moments. It’s a narrative that takes, however absurdly, an oblivion as its subject. It’s an attempt to make sense of the paradox that poet W.S. Merwin describes when he writes of the 60’s:

We know that age to be utterly beyond reach, irretrievably past, a period whose distance we already feel as though it has stretch into centuries, ands yet it appears to be not only recent but present, still with us not as a memory but as a part of our unfinished days, a ground or backdrop before which we live. It could be said that we are haunted by it, which would suggest that that time was not done with in us, that what we saw and felt then is still part of our incompleteness and our choices.”


Photo Source: Great West Institute

[I am ashamed to say I had never heard of Merwin. According to Wikipedia he has more than 50 books of poetry, translation and prose to his credit. He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice and served as the US Poet Laureate from 2110-2011. See also: openlettersmonthly

‘For the past 32 years he has lived in Hawaii, restoring a former pineapple plantation on the lip of a volcano to its original rainforest state. He is a practicing Zen Buddhist. He stares out of photographs with pale, wise, blue eyes’


Nicholas BromellBromell responds to these thoughts in his own way:

‘The 60s are not over for American culture. They might scarcely have begun. We are still asking what the vision was for. We are still coping with the consequences of a moment when the instability of the foundations was revealed and celebrated. We are still wrestling with the sense of a beginning that may also be an ending – both tomorrow and the end of time. And we are trying to do so when the very nature of history itself may no longer make sense, or not the same sense anyway, because of what happened in the 60s.’


There’s an interesting and lengthy article/interview on Bromell and this book on UMASSmag online:

THE ’60S ACCORDING TO BROMELL was created by a generation of Americans suddenly feeling that somehow nothing about their childhoods had been real. That in the suburban sprawl created by their parents things may have been safe, but nothing felt genuine. And they were hung up about this – especially as the juncture broke, as veils were lifted. Not just by the revelations of war and politics and all that was ugly within them, but by the presence of chemicals acting on the mind in such a way as to confirm a multiplicity of states. To suggest that sometimes "I think I know, (ah no?) / but maybe yes / I mean it must be high or low / That is you can’t, you know, tune in / but it’s alright / That is I think it’s not too bad."

Once members of Bromell’s generation let themselves be taken down by marijuana and LSD – psychedelics both, in his opinion – they perceived more than the multiplicity of the mind, of inner space. In a kind of reversal of mind and object, like Bromell’s reversal of audience and performer, the outer world, too, revealed its complicated nature, its hidden beauty, its duplicity, its corruption, its malleable openness to change and death.

For Bromell, an added dimension of this enhanced perception – this perception of duplicity – was a childhood lived within a cloak of secrecy.

It turns out that Bromell’s father was a CIA agent



Original Family Dog postcards [The Generalist Archive]

This is what THE GENERALIST thinks. Firstly, it is possible to see now, from a distance of 50 years, that the 60’s – which you could say defines a period that runs from 1957-1973 – was the Western World’s Arab Spring. Huge numbers of young people (baby boomers) with different values from their parents, rising tide of economic expectations + Music + Drugs + we were going to the Moon.

During that period, there was something of a revolution in thinking going on in most academic disciplines, political upheavals, mass protests, seismic shifts in popular culture, mass riots, new awareness and the beginnings of the internet.

For some time I have been thinking about trying to draw together some of the thinkers from that period -  McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, Ivan Illich, Schumacher to name but a few - because it seems that a lot of their ideas are relevant right now.

I am also concerned that there appears to be a growing memory gap. The people who were there at the time can’t actually remember too many of the details and the youth do not know much about it either.

But also beyond that was the feeling that the business of the 60s was unfinished – that we had to pick it up from where we left it and carry on. In a coffee bar conversation with a journalist contemporary of mine, I discovered he felt that too. Time to get busy.


Mint condition copy of this special double issue of Life, a present from Trish who picked it up for me when on a trip to New York. [The Generalist Archive]

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Lichtenstein exhbition banner, Tate Modern

London is shortly to play host to a major Lichtenstein show at the Tate Modern and a two shows involving Rauschenberg  - at the Barbican and the Gargossian Gallery. The big L is a hardcore quintessential Pop Artist; the Big R is too messy for that. He and his colleagues stepped out from under the dark shadows of Abstract Expressionism and started playing with objects and techniques and a new sensibility. They pre-figured Pop and opened up possibilities. The Barbican show sounds cool.

Exploring one of the most important chapters in the history of contemporary art, The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns focuses on Marcel Duchamp’s American legacy, tracing his relationship to four great modern masters – composer, John Cage, choreographer, Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.
Encountering Duchamp and his work in the early stages of their careers, each of the younger artists embraced key elements of his ideas and practice, resulting in a seismic shift in the direction of art in the 1950s and ‘60s. Characterised by the integration of art and life, the work of Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns heralded the advent of Pop Art.
The Bride and the Bachelors features around 90 works, some by Rauschenberg and Johns are being shown in the UK for the first time. The selection reflects the artists’ multiple levels of engagement across the disciplines of art, dance, and music.

The Gargossian show ‘Jammers’ features work mainly made in fabric.

There’s a great piece about both shows by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian Review. See also review by Judith Mackrell and LA TImes piece on Cunnigham and Cage.


The Generalist is becoming more than a little interested in the Pop Art movement and related scenes of the ‘50s and ‘60s. for reasons that I will try to explain in this long digression.


Back in mid-2011 I had been working on a presentation for a book entitled ‘A Graphic History of the ‘60s’ (which never took off) but one of the spreads was an attempt to ‘map’ in graphic form the Pop Art movement. It was very complicated.

Shortly afterwards one of the most important British Pop artists died and I wrote the post Richard Hamilton & Pop Art. It explains that  Pop Art as a concept came from the Independent Group (1952-1955). John Russell (see below) writes:

‘The members of the Independent Group had grown up at a time when it was about as easy to see a new copy of Life magazine as it was to see a First Folio at W.H.Smith’s. Even those who were there at the time have forgotten how limited were supplies of literally everything: food, books, magazines, pictures, air tickets, foreign currency.’

In December 2011, a brilliant and ground-breaking study of Pop Art - The First Pop Age by Hal Foster  - was published and I wrote this long review.

Then in September 2012 I reviewed ‘What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art’ by Will Gompertz, a fast-paced broad-brushstroke romp through the isms of art history. These kind of ‘official narrative’ histories have always bothered me. I tried to be fair to the book and its intentions but grinding away in the background was the feeling that somehow these versions of what happened are very, very wrong and exclude some of the most important figures who were marginalised because they maybe didn’t want to play the art game.

This topic was addressed in ‘Two Cheers for Anarchism’ by James C. Scott which I reviewed last month. In a chapter called ‘Particularity and Flux’ he writes:

The job of most history and social science is to summarize, codify and otherwise “package” important social science movements and major historical events, to make them legible and understandable. Given this objective and the fact that the events they are seeking to illuminate have already happened, it is hardly surprising that [they] should typically give short shrift to the confusion, flux and tumultuous contingency experienced by the historical actors…’

Once a significant historical event is codified, it travels as a sort of condensation symbol and, unless we are very careful, takes on a false logic and order that does a grave injustice to how it was experienced at the time.’

The birth of Pop Art is a particularly interesting case in point. Its contemporaneous with the Beat movement and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and ‘pop music’.



The real trigger for this Post was finding this slightly flyblown copy of ‘Pop Art Redefined’ by John Russell & Suzi Gablik [Thames & Hudson], which I bought for £3.00. Its a real find being as it is a catalogue of the show the two authors curated at the Hayward Gallery in London from 9th July-3rd September 1969 plus a whole host of papers, essays, interviews and other  material mainly by the artists concerned.

The Hayward had only opened the previous year. 1968 was also the last time that the Tate held a major Lichtenstein show. In her intro, Gablik writes that ‘the work of most American Pop artists has hardly been seen in London and is virtually unknown to the general English public.’

The only commercial gallery exhibiting Pop Art in London at that time was owned by the art dealer Robert Fraser.

So why should their show be called ‘Pop Art  Redefined.’ Firstly because of its media image. Gablik writes:

 ‘Pop Art has been handicapped with a freakish and flamboyant history, partly as a result of mishandling in the public media, so that nearly everyone, including the artists, now responds to it with ambivalence. Certain critics still exclude it from serious consideration, and a proportion of the public think it is some sort of joke.’

Their second aim was to ‘re-define Pop Art as having a more direct relation to Minimal and Hard-edged abstract art than is frequently admitted,’



Richard Hamilton: ‘Epiphany’ (1964)

This extract from Gablik’s Introduction gives a real insight into the impact of mass communications and the new electronic culture. Remember this was written in 1969.

‘We approach a time, Marshall McLuhan has pointed out, when the total human situation must be considered as a work of art.

The explosion of the advertising and communications industry, and the speed with which images and information now  travel through media channels, have resulted in a much broader awareness and a more extended involvement in our total environment.

What this means is that it is now possible to know at once everything that is happening in the world, so that experience is all-inclusive and occurs on many simultaneous levels.

For the artist, the implications are that art, too, can no longer restrict its operations. The new media necessitate a restructuring of our thoughts and feelings; they require new habits of attention with the ability to move in all directions and dimensions simultaneously.

Since art, like life, must extend its boundaries to deal with changes in the environment, the major issues no longer hinge upon the creation of enduring masterpieces as the unique and solid repositories for human energy. The new problems for art concern the constant redefinition of its boundaries, and a more process-oriented distribution of energy.

Relativity and quantum mechanics have effected the shift from a timeless, Euclidean world in which all is precise, determinate and invariable, to a non-static universe where everything is relative, changing and in process. Changes in the way that we live in the world cause changes in the way we do our work, as well as changes in what work we do.

Before the electronic age the various channels of information - painting, music, literature - were held in balance and did not infringe upon each other very much.

Mass communication, television in particular, appropriates relentlessly from all other media: films, literature, graphic design, theatre, events. It acts as a great leveller, while also providing techniques for combining many separate frames of reference. As a result, widely separated experiences are being brought under one comprehensive and simultaneous formula.’



Peter Blake: ‘Got A Girl’ (1960-61)

John Russell’s Introduction has some interesting things to say about the difference between the English and American Pop Art movements.

On the English side, and for many though not all of its participants, Pop was a resistance movement: a classless commando which was directed against the Establishment in general and the art-Establishment in particular. It was against the old-style museum-man, the old-style critic, the old-style dealer and the old-style collector. (Banham later described its success as 'the revenge of the elementary schoolboys'.)  Much of the English art-world at that time was distinctly and unforgivably paternalistic.
Pop was meant as a cultural break, signifying the firing squad, without mercy or reprieve, for the kind of people who believed in the Loeb classics, holidays in Tuscany, drawings by Augustus John, signed pieces of French urniture, leading articles in The Daily Telegraph and ery good clothes that lasted for ever.

In America Pop meant not a cultural break, in any broad sense, but cultural continuity. But it did mean a very sharp break with the kind of art that had dominated the American scene for ten years or more and brought America, for the first time, to the forefront of art. It was an internal break, and one which many people construed as treachery. It was treachery to Abstract-Expressionism, as a way of painting, and it was treachery to the moral struggle that the Abstract-Expressionists had fought and won.

English painters…felt about the American scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Goethe felt about Italy in 1786: ‘My passionate desire to see it with my own eyes had grown to such a point,’ Goethe wrote from Venice, ‘that if I has not taken the decision to come here I should have gone completely to pieces.’


englandsgloryDerek Boshier and David Hockney at the Royal College c.1961. Photo by Geoffrey Reeve. (Left) ‘England’s Glory’ You can see a further selection of Boshier’s Pop paintings here. Boshier went on to design two Bowie album sleeves and a song book for The Clash. See: www.paulgorman.com

Hockney first visited America in 1961 and moved to Los Angeles in 1964. See: www.hockneypictures.com

The launch pad of Pop Art in Britain was widely considered to be the January 1961 ‘Young Contemporaries’ Exhibition at the Royal College of Art, which established the reputations of Peter Blake, David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj, Peter Phillips, Allen Jones and Derek Boshier. Russell writes:

‘…the general character of Royal College Pop…was free-wheeling and hedonistic…What came out of the College between 1959 and 1962 was a contribution to the idea of an England at last recovered from the lethargy of the immediate post-war period.

In some of its aspects, English Pop was painterly, anecdotal, diffuse, jokey, deliberately unfocused: all things which delighted a public that has enough of low-spirited English representational painting.’


This is a famous Ken Russell film on Pop Art, made for the BBC TV series Monitor in 1962. It features Blake, Boshier, Phillips and Pauline Boty – one of the few prominent women artists in the Pop movement.  Boty tragically died in 1966. Her work was only rediscovered in the 1990s.

photo of Pauline Boty

Photo: John Aston (1962). Source:www.colinrobinson.com/Boty.html
























(Above) Photo from www.voicesofeastanglia.com

See also extensive article on Boty by Sabine Durrant from The Independent in 1993 and Wikipedia entry


The other prominent woman artist during the 60s Pop Art period was Jann Haworth. This piece entitled ‘Maid’ was featured in the 1969 exhibition.

Jann was married to Peter Blake and worked with him on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album. According to Wikipedia:

‘Gallery owner Robert Fraser suggested to The Beatles that they commission Blake and Haworth to design the cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The original concept was to have The Beatles dressed in their new "Northern brass band" uniforms appearing at an official ceremony in a park. For the great crowd gathered at this imaginary event, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, as well as Haworth, Blake, and Fraser all submitted a list of characters they wanted to see in attendance. Blake and Haworth then pasted life-size, black-and-white photographs of all the approved characters onto hardboard, which Haworth subsequently hand-tinted. Haworth also added several cloth dummies to the assembly, including one of her "Old Lady" figures and a Shirley Temple doll who wears a "Welcome The Rolling Stones" sweater. Inspired by the municipal flower-clock in Hammersmith, West London, Haworth came up with the idea of writing out the name of the band in civic flower-bed lettering as well.’

You can see more of her work at www.jannhaworth.com

See: Where Are The Great Women Pop Artists ? by Kim Levin in ArtNews

Thursday, February 14, 2013


BEAT 3036

This remarkable collage is by Norman Ogue Mustill, an American collage artist who was active in the 50s and 60s and is still working. This image forms the cover of the new catalogue from Beat Books which features hundreds of choice beat  items for sale. Here’s another couple of examples of his work and some more information about him.

A piece of Mail Art found on mimmeomimeo – a site about Artist’s Books and the Mimeo Revolution

Explosive, page 2 copy.JPG

A page from ‘Twinpak’ – one of a series of Nova Broadcast pamphlets produced in San Francisco in 1969. A kind of graphic novel by Mustill which he called ‘A Shockumentary’. There’s more about him on Jan Herman’s blog: www.arts journal.com  Apparently his second name is a joke – Vogue without the V.

You can download the complete set of Nova Broadcasts here at www.realitystudio.org – a William S. Burroughs Community site


Flypaper (1967)

Source: Interventionist Collage {University of Iowa]