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The Crack Magazine

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Pop Goes Print

Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University

The clue is in the name – screen printing is the method that squishes pigment through screens to create prints where the colours can be layered and overprinted while the nature of their distribution can be controlled by the artist’s choice of mesh. The results can echo the effects of commercial printing or newspaper photography, setting up a dialogue between the types of ephemeral imagery that swamp a consumerist society and our expectations of how “art” should work. Now take that information and feed it into the culture of the 1960s and you’ve got a revolutionary interaction of the unique and the multiple, the high and the low-brow. First thought might be Andy Warhol, and there’s a room here of his variously coloured Marilyns, garish and touching, transforming from a mask to a drag queen to a dark ghost. These had to be borrowed from the Tate and the V&A, so difficult is it now to create a set, but much of the work on display comes from the Hatton’s own collection, reminding us that pioneer pop artist Richard Hamilton’s time at the university generated a web of contemporary connections. Two of his own photo-collage prints mock the aspirational magazine culture of the time and, with devastating poignancy, offer up the tremulous uncertainty of Monroe’s self-image, a footnote to Warhol’s insistent icon. A room full of Paolozzi’s “Bunk” re-purposes everything from Lucille Ball to Science-fiction magazines to canned tuna, while Ed Ruscha’s infinite, misty gas-station demonstrates unexpectedly subtle effects and bags best title (“Cheese Mold Standard with Olive”). More recent examples are inevitably dimmed by the energy and excitement that context lent to the sixties, but Bridget Riley’s “Blue and Pink” reminds us how visually powerful the formal possibilities of the technique continue to be.

Gail-Nina Anderson, Pop Goes Print runs until 29 January