MU­SE­UMS & GAL­LERIES

The Bri­tish Mu­seum may be most fa­mous for its trea­sures from An­cient Greece and Egypt, but this month it’s home to a mod­ern art ex­hi­bi­tion about Amer­ica, which is well worth a visit, says Sam Rogg

Where London - - Contents -

The Bri­tish Mu­seum presents work by artists in­clud­ing Andy Warhol, Jasper Jones and Julie Mehretu in The Amer­i­can Dream: Pop to the Present.

‘The Amer­i­can Dream is dead,’ de­clared Don­ald Trump dur­ing his 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign run, ‘but... I will bring it back, big­ger and bet­ter and stronger than ever be­fore.’ What­ever your feel­ings to­wards the new Pres­i­dent of the United States, he is not the first to ques­tion Amer­ica’s na­tional ethos. For decades, the coun­try’s most cel­e­brated artists have used art to re­flect and re­ject the Amer­i­can Dream, as a new ex­hi­bi­tion at The Bri­tish Mu­seum re­veals.

Fea­tur­ing more than 200 mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can prints by 70 artists, The Amer­i­can Dream: Pop to the Present (from 9 Mar) traces the artis­tic mo­men­tum of a su­per­power over the past five decades, from the ex­plo­sion of Pop Art in the 1960s to the rise of min­i­mal­ism, con­cep­tual art and pho­to­re­al­ism in print art­works.

The past 60 years have been some of the most dy­namic and tur­bu­lent in US his­tory, with ex­plo­sive is­sues such as race, AIDS and fem­i­nism shak­ing the coun­try – not to men­tion JFK’s as­sas­si­na­tion, the first moon landing and the Viet­nam War. Through it all, Amer­i­can artists have re­sponded with prints to ex­press the USA’s power and in­flu­ence, from Andy Warhol’s Vote McGovern (1972) screen­print of Richard Nixon, two years be­fore he re­signed to avoid im­peach­ment, to Jasper Jo­hns’ iconic FlagsI (1973), the most painterly and vivid of all his works.

‘ To me, the flag turned out to be some­thing I had never ob­served be­fore,’ said Jo­hns in 1978. ‘I knew it was a flag, and had used the word flag; yet I had never con­sciously seen it. I be­came in­ter­ested in con­tem­plat­ing ob­jects I had never be­fore taken a re­ally good look at. In my mind that is the sig­nif­i­cance of these ob­jects.’

Sourced from The Bri­tish Mu­seum’s out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary prints, as well as mu­se­ums and pri­vate col­lec­tions around the world, this ex­hi­bi­tion is a rare and timely op­por­tu­nity to pon­der what the Amer­i­can Dream is and what it ever was. High­lights in­clude works by Roy Licht­en­stein, Kara Walker and Robert Rauschen­berg, who all took in­spi­ra­tion from the world around them to cre­ate highly orig­i­nal and top­i­cal art. Free from the con­straints of paint­ing and sculp­ture, these print­mak­ers reached mass au­di­ences with their in­no­va­tive art­works, re­veal­ing deep di­vi­sions in so­ci­ety that con­tinue to res­onate with us to­day. For full list­ing, turn to p. 33

Clock­wise from this im­age: Stan­dard­S­ta­tion by Ed­ward Ruscha; VoteMcGovern by Andy Warhol; Jack­ieII by Andy Warhol Below: FlagsI by Jasper Jo­hns

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