The British Are Coming

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Plattsburgh State Art Museum
State University of New York College at Plattsburgh


Peter Blake, Penny Black, (detail) 1974
Blake’s work often represents ‘low’ cultural icons such as pop music stars and wrestlers. Blake’s series of paintings and prints of wrestlers are derived from various sources. This image most likely came from pin-up girl magazines. His most recognized work of this genre is the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In this staged photograph, a level playing field is established for figures from high and low culture where Edgar Allen Poe rubs elbows with W. C. Fields. Photo: PSAM
Click thumbnail for larger image.

Thumbnail Image, Peter Blake, Penny Black (detail)
View the Show     By the late 50s what happened instead was a steady two-way traffic of influence and inspiration between the ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ arts. The magazine published by the Graphic Design department, ARK, was very influential in the school and in the art world at large, both aesthetically and theoretically, often sharing facilities and collaborating on projects, graphics and painting students crossed over boundaries that had previously existed between disciplines. These students were exposed to the work of Kurt Schwitters through an exhibition that occurred in 1958 in the Lords Gallery in London. Peter Blake and Joe Tilson were particularly influenced by his work, with Blake applying the ideas to both his painting and his graphic design and Tilson expanding the idea of editioned prints to include collaged elements. The encouragement provided by the staff to cross-over between art and design, and the fact that the students often learned more from each other than from their tutors, made the work that came from the painting department distinctly different from that of other art schools where contact between painters and designers was rare. The issues of ARK from the late 50s were full of collages which lampooned traditional British values and cast aside the impulse to indulge in the overly decorative styles of the Victorian revival and a parochial fondness for upper class country life, in favor of a look that was finally willing to reflect the previously ignored avant garde movements that prevailed on the Continent before the war.
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(ARS), Permission for the reproduction of artwork courtesy of Artists Rights Society © 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London.
(PSAM), Artwork from the permanent collection of Plattsburgh State Art Museum.
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