Along with such exhibitions as “Seductive Subversion” at the Brooklyn Museum in 2010 to 2011 and “The World Goes Pop” opening at Tate Modern this fall, “International Pop” aims to expand the canonical definition of Pop as a largely male, largely English and American art movement. Employing a dazzling selection of art from around the world, the show traces the spread of this 1960s high-art/mass-culture movement to Japan, Latin America, and Eastern and Western Europe.
The exhibition is most successful in rooms devoted to individual nations, where the assembled works evoke regional art-historical moments. A defining text for Brazilian artists from the ’60s and ’70s was Brazilian modernist poet Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 “Manifesto Antropófago” (Cannibalist Manifesto), which advocated the appropriation and repurposing of European culture as a way to assert control over its influence and create a new, postcolonial national identity. Here, Antonio Dias’s surreal, cartoonlike ink drawings from the 1960s of tortured or dismembered bodies utilize Pop art’s flat graphic style to comment on Brazil’s brutal military government.
Japan’s rich graphic tradition sings in Tadanori Yokoo’s animation Kiss Kiss Kiss (1964), which reduces dozens of comic-book narratives of heterosexual desire into a two-minute string of culminating kisses. Elsewhere, a gallery devoted to Pop art from Argentina is anchored by Delia Cancela and Pablo Mesejean’s Retrato Muchachas y Muchachos: Antoine y Katrine, (1966), a saccharine fantasy wherein two ambiguously gendered figures in blue jeans pick flowers and frolic through foliage behind a wooden cutout of a puffy cloud, reflecting the artists’ stated interest in “clouds…baby-girls, girls-girls, boys-girls, boys-boys.”
In the largest three rooms, works from various countries mingle under umbrellas such as “Political Pop.” Oddly, it is here that the exhibition stumbles, with greater and lesser-known icons from Pop’s global heyday battling, like goods in a supermarket, for our attention.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 98.