Fashion sub-editor Jessica Cole embraces the boldly inventive pop tactic fantasy of the R.A’s retrospective on Pop Artist Allen Jones.
Pop art. A genre instantly associated with the glitter and diamonds of Warhol and his factory plastics. However, after visiting the latest exhibition at the Royal Academy, one name stands out in flashing white bulbs: Allen Jones. Jones is the true king of pop art with Warhol merely being the court jester. The new retrospective of Jones’ work at the Royal Academy is just as much aesthetically as it is mentally stimulating. The artwork speaks a surreal language, punctuated with lucid colours and exclamations of sexuality.
An artistic commemoration of the glorious marriage between fine art and fashion, the long awaited showcase of Jones’ work is a must see for those fond of quirky art practices. Stepping into the first room you are instantly greeted by his controversial ‘women tables.’ Dressed provocatively in latex, the life-like female mannequins are submissive to the glass table placed precariously on their backs. The heavy red curtain draped around the room adds to the heightened feeling of sexual tension and the exploration of the female identity, a theme which echoes throughout the exhibition.
A purveyor of many artistic disciplines, Jones is himself tri-lingual in the language of pop art: figure sculpture, painted steel sculpture and canvas painting are all part of his arsenal. The exhibition, although a little small, perfectly highlights the strengths of this profound artist. I felt I was on a yellow brick road, twisting through the Jones’ various chasms and fantasies. Re-drawing and re-defining the glamour of everyday life, with a cacophony of vivid colours, Jones’ paintings are truly beautiful. Turning the concept of the painting on its easel as you edged further in through the exhibition, the paintings physically started to come out of the wall, or so it felt. Surreal characters, beautiful distorted faces leapt out of the canvas. Now in their metal form danced couplets down the main area of the third room. It truly is a magical, mesmerising experience. Then, of course, came the complete transformation from painting to hybrid of painting and sculpture, as can be seen in the small army of sculptures in the penultimate room. Variations on the female figure stood like life-sized soldiers across the floor, a mirage of different materials, concepts and colours. It was truly astounding. My stomach did a somersault at the way in which Jones obsessively curates the female form, the lines, the curves. From his red cubist approach to, of course, his gold body case modelled by Kate Moss, no less.
The exhibition is so much more than just a retrospective of an artist. It feels like, although a little satirical at times, an explosive celebration of the popular culture disco ball. Jones is controversial in his art practices, but what good artist isn’t? Regardless of where you sit on the fence with Jones, which is spoked with rapturous debate, one thing you cannot deny is his extreme attention to detail, his fearlessness in expanding and experimenting with a broad range of art mediums and his influence across the art world. From fashion to film his work still resonates and is applicable to the material girl of today.
I would like to give a big gold star to the RA for creating such a visual storyboard of the provocative and alluring work of Allen Jones. I left the exhibition feeling truly elevated into the fantastical world of pop art. The retrospective provided an exotic, and at some points erotic, collage of traditional art mediums finely blended with modern icons of city life, music, theatre and consumer culture.
Royal Academy of Arts
13 November 2014 — 25 January 2015
Students – £10
Nearest tube – Green Park
Rating 4 *
Images sourced from Creative Commons 2014.