But over in the Sainsbury Galleries, something shatters the stately calm of scholarship. 'POW!' shouts a Roy Lichtenstein graphic. 'PAY ATTENTION MOTHER****ERS' demands Bruce Nauman. Elsewhere, he spells out MALICE in snaking neon. Next door to a room full of Greek marble nudes, the Guerrilla Girls ask: 'Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum?'
The American Dream: Pop to the Present offers the British Museum’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary American prints for the first time, ranging from the dawn of Pop Art to the present. It covers a range of more than 200 works from 70 artists working between 1960 and 2014 through the modern art movements: abstract, minimalism, photorealism and portraiture.
Here is work from America's most prominent artists. Look out for NYC silhouettist Kara Walker, whose work delves into the stories of violence in American history, of colonialism, slavery and the oppression of contemporary society. Pop tart Andy Warhol is, of course, represented by a wall of Marilyns, and Chairman Mao in that irresistible green eyeliner. Jasper Johns' flag paintings are here. Keith Haring's street-smart, HIV-positive scrawls. Responding to a changing society, this art examines the crises, racism and gender politics that have defined the lives of its people for the past half-century.
This exhibition took a risk. At a time when all eyes are on the States, it could be seen as a cynical, easy move to stage an American exhibition. And printmaking is not the best-loved of art forms. But this massive, bold, brilliantly presented exhibition is a triumph. Despite its scope, it never feels rushed; despite its political thrust, it never feels heavy. Occasionally the British Museum's wall-labels are overwhelming. Not here: curator Stephen Coppel has taken a hands-off approach. You are allowed to wander freely, make your own connections, reach your own conclusions. The images speak for themselves.
As America settles in to Donald Trump and searches its soul, this giddy show lays bare the psychological mechanics that power the Land of the Free, courtesy the creative minds of its artists.
|What||Review: The American Dream: pop to present, British Museum|
Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3DG | MAP
|Nearest tube||Russell Square (underground)|
09 Mar 17 – 18 Jun 17, Open until 20.30 on Fridays
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