Allen Jones is one of those British artists, always in the news for the wrong reasons it seems: to rile up the feminists, with his ‘controversial’ works of art. As a student at the Royal Academy during the 1960s, he began to prune his public consciousness of art in pop art. It was, after all, the most pivotal art movement of the time. Not only did pop art shape how Allen Jones perceives his subject today in his work, it also gave him a longlasting career.
His subjects are often women, provocative sexuality, pop culture, imagery from advertising and performance. The exhibition brings together all his works of art up until now: prints, paintings, and figurative sculptures. A talented draughtsman, his work has been monumental in fashion, film and design. He comprises part of the intelligent trio who contributed grandly to pop art – Hockney, Caulfield and Jones.
At the retrospective, themes explored by the artist, linguistic interpretations artistically, mixing traditional concepts of painting, with city iconography, theatre and advertising images, is covered. Most of his work has been deeply inspired by the legacy of Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol: the furniture designs, the titanic steel sculptures, the canvases that resonate with thundering colour, and the exclusive never-before-seen footage of storyboards that Jones hasn’t used till date.
He talks about human interaction a lot, and he does so with colours. His intention with the work has been to thrill people, somewhat tentatively, and take the art world by storm. So, it’s really more of a battle of wits with likeminded people, rather than confrontational shock with the public, that Jones has always secretly wished for.
So many feminists find his work offensive, it would be a good idea to point out that the purpose of radical art sentiments, particularly those as accomplished in these shores, as sculpture, is to make a definition. This often draws criticism, simply because a definition of imagery, more often than not, tries to replace what was considered to be the norm prior to its well-assured arrival.
The fibreglass female figurines, posed as furniture is not only wildly infuriating because of its sexually explicit sense of fashion, but really puzzling over how it aligns itself with the artist’s original visions. The figures are deep, real, mannequin-like but still the waxwork comes at you with its innuendos of how women like to play with sexuality and items of clothing, and perused fashion sensibilities, or thereof any lack of it.
Artistic freedom is important, as is the need to separate an artist’s vision from his own enterprise of work that exists to bring to the audience what it means to have to come to terms with entirely graphic lifelike sculptures meeting a sudden tense environment of reality. This is simple formality, formality of including in his grande archive of work that likes to bring sculpting to audience through painting. Allen likes to bring back to life century-old art, and splice it with modern connotations, like the brilliant glittering Kate Moss figurine, that exists to make you think about pin-ups in a cultural context!