Pop Goes the West
In his latest series of paintings, titled Pop Goes the West, artist Chuck Middlekauff combines the classic Western art image of the cowboy with Pop Art influences. His pieces take viewers on a journey through color, abstraction and nostalgia. “[The cowboys are] from my childhood with the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and the movies,” Middlekauff says, adding, “I put them in fun situations, with the wall behind them or Marilyn Monroe or the Coke sign.”
Each piece is meant to be fun and “bring back the fading America” the artist grew up with. It’s the America he found in his childhood, and one he believes that others can relate to. In The Last Picture Show, for instance, a cowboy with his boots up is seen against a background of drive-in movie theater speakers. “It’s a fun image because people remember those times as well, the bygone era,” he says.
Works such as Souped Up and Broad Side of the Barn, with the images of a Campbell’s soup label and Marilyn Monroe, hint to one of the most recognized Pop artists: Andy Warhol. Middlekauff explains they are his envisioning of that style of artwork with timeless icons. Also found throughout his pieces are the tools he uses to create the work—paintbrushes, pencils, paint splatter, erasers and more.
“It’s like a painting of a painting in progress,” he shares. “I was working on the paintings and realized I was putting my tools on the canvas when I worked, so I would draw them on there.” The drawings underneath can also be seen on the canvas, as well as the splatters and colors that are reminders of the Pop style. This idea is newer in Middlekauff’s pieces, with him stating, “Artists have to move on all the time, and I keep adding things to my repertoire as I go.”
Pop Goes the West will be on view through December 31 at Davis & Blevins Gallery in St. Jo, Texas. The show, which will also include paintings of road signs that can be seen during travels out West, is the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.
The Last Picture Show, water media on paper mounted on canvas, 40 x 30”