The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection

Date(s): Dec 19, 2015 – Mar 27, 2016
Location: 220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

Conceived as a complementary exhibition to Pop Art Design, The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen celebrates the MCA’s holdings of seminal pop art. During the 1960s, many artists gravitated toward the brash colors, simplified designs, and direct salesmanship of the burgeoning commercial world and incorporated these same strategies into their fine art practices. Associated with the pop art movement, these artists shocked viewers by attacking the rarity, preciousness, and financial independence that traditionally embodied fine art. Today, however, these icons of pop art are recognized as reflecting a culture in transition, one that was beginning to fully embrace the capitalism and mass communication that characterizes global culture now.

The exhibition is organized around three separate themes that illustrate many artists’ interests during the 1960s and 1970s: the bustling energy of the street, with its preening passersby, garish signage, and automobile-centric organization; the commercialism that supported and surrounded mass produced consumer products; and the allure of Hollywood glamour and celebrity. Drawn from the MCA Collection and a handful of local loans, these works reveal patterns and preoccupations that connect artists working in otherwise distinct styles and approaches. In the “Street” section, for instance, photo books by Ed Ruscha are presented with a concrete Cadillac in a collage by Wolf Vostell and a colorful streetwalker in a painting by Ed Paschke. In the “Store,” Andy Warhol’s silk-screened “portraits” of Campbell’s soup cans are joined by papier-mache sculptures of candy by Claes Oldenburg and a painting of an alluring female nude on top of a zebra by Mel Ramos, mimicking an often-used sales strategy in advertising. In the “Silver Screen,” we find glamour of various stripes, including 1950s heartthrob Troy Donahue in Andy Warhol’s painting Troy Diptych and the underground siren pictured in Paschke’s technicolor painting Elcina. The exhibition reveals the richness of the MCA’s holdings in this area of art history as well as the continued relevance and fascination that pop art has for us today.

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