From Devo to Warhol

Dom

Q: Are we not men?

A: We are Devo!

Now there’s a bit of dialogue that resonated deeply with young men – and women, of course: the whole of humankind is implicated in the notion of de-evolution, the idea that Homo sapiens is regressing – across the world in the late 1970s. The author of that chanted exchange, Mark Mothersbaugh, was already a visual artist when he became a pop star at the height of New Wave, and he’s continued his practice ever since, even as he’s established himself as a film composer of note. Myopia, the catalogue accompanying a touring exhibition published by Princeton Architectural Press, is a visual treat for long- and short-sighted alike. Even 20/20ers should enjoy it.

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‘I’m so empty today…. I have a cold and I can’t, uh, think of anything. It would be so nice if you told me a sentence and I just could repeat it.’ 

Good old Andy Warhol. For someone who tried to eschew words, he was quite good at them. POPism, written with Pat Hackett, puts a whole slew of them together very neatly, for instance, including the following observation about obstructions to his emergence as a significant ‘fine’ artist in the early 1960s: ‘I was well known as a commercial art… But if you wanted to be considered a “serious” artist, you weren’t supposed to have anything to do with commercial art.’ A new catalogue raisonné by Paul Maréchal, Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Magazine Work (Prestel), gathers together all of his magazine illustrations from 1948 to 1987 and demonstrates that, even after he was fully established as a serious artist, Warhol couldn’t resist the commercial arena. It’s outsized, slipcased and delightful.

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Rather less commercial in appearance is DOM (Document Object Model), a beautiful handmade book by Julia Borissova. Borissova won acclaim for her 2012 found-imagery work, Running to the Edge. Her new project, DOM – which means ‘house’ in Russian – is quite different in nature. ‘For this project, I wanted to “grow” an image,’ she explains. ‘My idea was to create a utopian version of sprouting houses which I removed from their usual context and placed in other settings. After that I grew the plants in the models and watched as they were germinating. I took photographs to capture the variations in their appearance, thinking about how our concept of home changes over time. The particular type of the houses shown in the series are called Khruschyovka, which were built in the era of Khrushchev. He was the first to introduce mass housing to Russia. Economy-class houses of this kind were built in a number of other European countries, as well as Japan. The construction of these houses continued from 1959 to 1985. As of today, they account for 10 per cent of the total housing stock of the former Soviet Union. Now they are going to be demolished. Nobody admires them – on the contrary, they arouse only censure. The main complaint against them is about their size and the fact that they are very cold in the winter. But a lot of Russian people still live in these houses. I decided that they deserved to be the heroes of my project.’

The book is available from Julia Borissova’s website. 

 

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