We’ve already heard about Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry (see here), but as Craig Williams reports for Glasgow Live, local art pioneer John McHale was inspired by Marilyn – while his London-based colleague Richard Hamilton featured her iconic pose from The Seven Year Itch in an early installation, as shown above – long before Andy Warhol made her his muse.
“The Maryhill area of Glasgow can lay claim to a few things of note … But few would ever imagine that it could hold claim to a title many might believe is held by New York – that of being the birthplace of Pop Art. It wasn’t Warhol who could be considered as the true ‘forefather’ of Pop Art, nor indeed did he coin the ubiquitous term we all know today thanks (in the most part) to his work. That belongs to the almost forgotten Scottish artist, art theorist, sociologist and future studies searcher John McHale – a man born and bred in Maryhill.
McHale coined the term ‘Pop Art’ back in 1954 to describe the aesthetic expressed in art in response to the commercialization of Western culture … Yet it was to be the groundbreaking and hugely popular This Is Tomorrow exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1956 that would light the Pop Art touchpaper. The exhibition – which McHale played a central part in – was described by esteemed art critic Reyner Banham as being the ‘first Pop Art manifestation to be seen in any art gallery in the world’. McHale, alongside Richard Hamilton and John Voelcker, presented images from popular culture from magazines, film publicity posters and comics as part of the exhibition.
And as part of the exhibition, McHale was able to provide plenty of the material, having returned from a scholarship at Yale University with a black metal trunk full to the brim with magazine clippings … Yet it wasn’t until 1962 when Pop Art was effectively ‘rubber-stamped’ in the America psyche via the “Symposium on Pop Art” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – the same year that a certain Andy Warhol held his first ever solo exhibition in the city … Warhol’s exhibit featured some of his most well-known works, including ‘Marilyn Diptych’ … which repeated Marilyn Monroe’s image to evoke her ubiquitous presence in the media – it’s very possible that Warhol was inspired to produce the work by none other than Maryhill’s own McHale.
That’s because, in a collection of writings concerning popular imagery and fine art called ‘The Expendable Icon’ published in Architectural Design magazine in 1959, McHale referenced Marilyn Monroe in a section entitled ‘The Girl With The Most’. Monroe, who McHale regarded as ‘doubly interesting’ featured among many popular ‘ikons’ he identified alongside Elvis Presley – another of Warhol’s subjects. McHale wrote that the film star was ‘held up as an example of someone not only defined by personal iconography, but whose image is saturated in the media to such an extent that she serves as a model for universal imitation’.
1962 would see McHale emigrate to live in the US for definite … John McHale (Jr.) notes the difference between his father’s work and that of Warhol. Where Warhol was focused on being a celebrity artist, McHale’s agenda was to extend the boundaries of art to the masses according to his son … Incredibly, his father was also asked to explain his Pop Art ideas by Time magazine and be featured on the cover, but ‘regrettably refused for personal family reasons … From my discussions with my father it was apparent that he originally conceived of Pop Art as being more than just some glib advertising and reflection of popular culture … This may not seem radical in the present century, but half a century ago these were fighting words and cutting edge concepts. Pop Art was about opening up aesthetic possibilities and making art freely available to all …'”
Tony Vaccaro began his career in photography while serving in the US Army on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Aged 97, he is now the subject of an HBO documentary and a new retrospective, Tony Vaccaro: La Dolce Vita, at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s telling that along with Pablo Picasso, Marilyn heads up the impressive list of celebrities he photographed, though she appears not to be featured in the exhibition.
The photo shown above right, taken in Canada during filming of River Of No Return, has been attributed to Vaccaro by the QNS website. (Canadian photographer John Vachon was also present at the shoot, as featured in his book, Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost Look Photos.)
One of Marilyn’s last photo shoots is also mentioned in connection with an ongoing Paris retrospective, Willy Rizzo: Pop! Once again, though, it’s unclear if Marilyn is featured in the exhibit, other than in a 1996 photo taken at the home of supermodel Stephanie Seymour, with Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait adorning the wall.
Graffiti artist Keith Haring, who died in 1990, was a protegee of Andy Warhol and friend of Madonna. His work is awash with pop culture references (along with more sombre social themes), so it’s no surprise to find triplicate portraits of Marilyn on display at the Arlington Museum of Art, as part of a retrospective, Keith Haring: Against All Odds.
Dan’s Papers, a free weekly for residents of the Hamptons, is approaching its sixtieth birthday. A new coffee table book, 60 Summers: Celebrating Six Iconic Decades On the East End, has just been published. You can read the story behind its first glossy cover here.
“Andy Warhol had a home on the ocean in Montauk, east of town, out towards the lighthouse, for many years, about 20 altogether … This painting was one of the many he did in Montauk, it is believed, although his main studio was at Union Square in New York City. He passed away in 1987, and two years later there was a retrospective of his paintings at the Guild Hall in East Hampton, and they managed to arrange for us to have this painting of Marilyn Monroe, which he did back in 1967, featured for this week’s cover.”
“After Warhol published his famous Factory Additions of Marilyn artwork, he began collaborating with two anonymous friends from Belgium on a second series of prints. The original idea behind this partnership, for Warhol, was to play on the concept of mass production. He was essentially mocking the idea that Factory Addition prints were somehow more important than the second series. Warhol provided the photo negatives and colour codes needed to create silkscreens exactly like the ones he had used for the Factory Additions. In 1970, Warhol’s original silkscreens were reproduced to create the second series of screenprints. These were named Sunday B. Morning prints.”
Warholesque pop art meets the Western in animator Erik Winkowski’s 2017 short Scary Prairie, in which Elvis Presley tries to rescue Marilyn from a string of Japanese monsters – before she transforms into a vampire bat and flies away, asFar Out Magazine reports. The 80-second film also features a rockabilly soundtrack by Billy Lilly and Friends.
Actress Elle Fanning paid sartorial tribute to MM yesterday on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, with Vogue‘s Christian Allaire praising her ‘campy’ style.
“Fanning wore a Pop Art creation from Loewe’s Pre-Fall 2019 collection, designed by Jonathan Anderson … Fanning chose his shirt and skirt combo, which was emblazoned with Andy Warhol–style portraits of the iconic Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe. The design certainly falls in line with the idea of camp: it sits at the intersection of fashion, art, and pop culture, with just a dash of visual excess. Yet, somehow, Fanning made the ensemble seem completely wearable …”
But as Emily Kirkpatrick notes on the New York Post‘s Page Six, this is only the latest instance of Elle’s fangirling for Marilyn…
“But that’s not the first time the SAG Award nominee has stepped out covered in her idol’s image. She also made an appearance at the 2017 InStyle Awards wearing a form-fitting dress from Versace’s spring 2018 collection covered in a Warhol print of the Hollywood legend, complete with matching footwear.
At the age of 7, Fanning even dressed up as the icon to attend the Dream Halloween Fundraiser for children affected by AIDS.
The Miu Miu ambassador’s preoccupation with Monroe even extends to her beauty cabinet. As she told Rookie magazine in 2011: ‘I went to an auction and got her face cream and powder. Her actual one … So I have that in my room. It’s literally the best thing ever. The lotion on it is sort of glued shut but the powder, some of it’s still in there.’
And Fanning’s love affair with the iconic starlet doesn’t end there. ‘Marilyn Monroe has been Fanning’s hero for about 15 years — most of her life,’ the actress’ June 2017 Vogue cover story reads. ‘She studies Marilyn’s interviews the way some study paintings by Cézanne. “You could always see the emotions that she was feeling … in her eyes,” she says. “She didn’t know how great she was.” She often wonders how Marilyn would have managed social media.’
The Teen Spirit star explained the origin of her fixation during a conversation with Scarlett Johansson for Interview magazine in 2014: “I was 7 when I first saw a picture of her. I didn’t know that she was such a big icon,” Fanning said. “But I would just look at her and I was mesmerized. She was beautiful and so … truthful. She’s not faking it. If she’s having a terrible day when the picture was taken, she’ll show that she’s really depressed and having a terrible day. You can see it in her eyes.”
Continued the Somewhere actress: “There are all the layers behind it. She not like, ‘Oh, let me just put on a smile.’ That year my dad got the DVD of The Seven Year Itch. I was probably way too young to watch it. I didn’t even know what the story was about, but I was just looking at her the whole time and the way she talked was so light. That year I was Monroe in the white dress for Halloween. It was interesting to me that she did mostly comedies but her life was so tragic.”
The American painter James Francis Gill was one of the first Pop artists to feature Marilyn in his work (even before Warhol), and she still inspires him today. He will be making a series of personal appearances throughout April at selected branches of Castle Fine Art Galleries across the UK.
The ‘décollage’ artist who drew upon torn posters of Marilyn is the subject of a new book, Mimmo Rotella: Manifesto, as Christian House reports for the Telegraph. (FYI, the book’s text is in Italian.)
“In 1954, the Calabrian artist Mimmo Rotella moved to Rome, and discovered his muse in the city’s post-war, pockmarked streets. ‘One evening, as I was leaving my studio, I was attracted to the colours and the boldness of the torn posters that were hanging from the walls,’ he recalled. ‘They were living things that stirred strong emotions in me.’
Rotella began to roam the capital, tearing down sheets of paper heralding the talents of Marilyn Monroe, ministers and circus acts. Passers by were aghast …. At his atelier near Piazza del Popolo, the fragments of posters were glued, layer upon layer, on to canvas, before being ripped, torn and scraped to create ‘new, unpredictable forms.’
Rotella’s arrival in Rome coincided with the golden age of Italian posters. This was the era of Cinecittà (the studio nicknamed ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’), an influx of American tourists and Italy’s ‘economic miracle’. Rotella would come to see his compositions as metaphors for the fluctuating fortunes of his country.
Rotella called his own art of erosion ‘décollage’ – the opposite of collage. When he tired of layering ephemera, he turned the posters around to show their plaster-flaked, mouldy versos. ‘I liked material subjected to bad weather, I liked being able to take it as it was and showing it. It was a theft of reality,’ he said.
Since his death in 2006, this rootless interrogator of consumer culture has become a high-end brand himself … There is a nostalgic pleasure for film buffs and europhiles – the Cinema Paradiso effect – to be had from all the torn glimpses of starlets and matinee idols.”