Thursday, 30 April 2009

Joe Tilson: Political Prints

While some Pop artists have ploughed the same furrow since the late 1950s, others have restlessly dug up new ground in pursuit of more personal visions. Joe Tilson is one such artist.
     Initially lauded as founding figure of Pop, he grew tired of its relentless consumerism. At one point, he drew up a list of things you shouldn't do in print making and ticked them off, one by one. By the mid-1970s he was spending more and more time in Italy, turning his hand to reliefs inspired by Greek and Roman mythology. 
     The Printed Works 1963-2009 shows how throughout all these artistic upheavals, he has cultivated a formidable reputation as a subversive printmaker, one who has remained engaged and fascinated by the modern world, no matter which part of it he was living in. 
     Chiming with the protesting spirit of the 1960s, revolutionary politics looms large in his earlier work. Is This Che Guevara? (pictured right) features the much-reproduced face of the Cuban leader while Jan Palach commemorates the student who set himself on fire in protest at the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Above all, it is his ability to take these events and turn them into striking, accessible and thoughtful images that makes this exhibition well worth a visit.
     Joe Tilson: The Printed Works 1963-2009 is at Alan Cristea, London, until May 30.

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