The world as one big collage

When recently a bank building was torn down in Berlin, a 990 square metre big black and white mural came to light. There was probably no better time for this discovery, as the artist of the façade’s design is becoming rediscovered in the Berlinische Galerien.

It is the British sculptor and print-maker Eduoardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), who once opened the door to British Pop Art. Until end of May the Berlinische Galerien is hosting an exhibition focussed on his experimental period between the 1940s and 1970s under the slogan “Lots of Pictures – Lots of Fun“.

Before Paolozzi came to Berlin in 1974 to realize the monumental mural, he experimented with different styles, techniques and types of art. He admired Pablo Picasso and his growing interest in Surrealism lead him to rebel against traditions in art. He no longer saw the point of distinguishing between art and popular culture.

“Lots of Pictures – Lots of Fun“ documents this journey, exhibiting Paolozzi’s ink-drawings of the 1940s as well as his metal sculptures of the 1960s. His famous “Bunk!” collages are regarded as the first works of British Pop Art. One can easily imagine how the colourful compilation of a half naked man, a phallus and a car must have shocked the world of art by its first presentation in the 1960s. Besides the rebelling against traditions in arts, Paolozzi also expressed criticism through his work.

In the early 1960s he discussed the overwhelming availability of factory products through mechanization. His metal sculptures consistently avoid any hint of traditional craftsmanship to make aware of the anonymity of factory products. For this it is especially interesting how Paolozzi transferred the idea of collages to his sculptures by putting together scrap metal, old toys or piano keys he founded on wrecking yards. The huge sculptures definitely succeed in giving the uncomfortable feeling of an enormous “power” taking over control.

From there it is surprising, that Paolozzi later opened the door to the colourful British Pop Art. The exhibition fails to give a clear description of how and why Paolozzi changed his art so radically. However, an explanation may be easily found in his fascination for technical processes and methods which he could rather run free in his famous silkscreens, which became a technique of artistic expression through his work. Still he didn’t miss putting criticism in his art, pointing out the accelerated times of the 1960s, e.g. by mixing together Superman, Marilyn Monroe and robots in one collage.

His stay in Berlin between 1974 and 1975 brought another change for his art. He called it “the most prolific year of my life”. Paolozzi began to search for his inspiration in music and broke with Pop Art by turning to abstract art. In his series of 6 etchings “Calcium Light Night“ he tried to translate a piece of music into shapes and colours. The motifs remind us of deformed music instruments, his colours are less bright than his Pop Art ones. For his facade design in Berlin, located at the Kurfürstenstraße 87, Paolozzi plays with these shades which he discovered while living in the city. A model shows his preparation for the mural, which was regarded as not preserved for a long time.

Although the exhibition includes a broad selection of types, such as collages, sculptures, ink-drawings or models, it succeeds in staying clearly structured by offering detailed information boards for every art work and additional information for every phase of Paolozzi’s experimental period.

As varied as his art works are, as varied are the expressions “Lots of Pictures – Lots of Fun” may leave its visitors behind with. On the one hand there are the colourful and happy Pop Art collages. On the other hand, one may wonder what Paolozzi’s sculptures would look like nowadays, where mechanization has led to digitalization and small machines in our pockets and bigger ones in offices and factories control our daily life.