British Pop, the movement with which Derek Boshier (b. 1937) was first associated in the ’60s, along with art-school mates David Hockney and Allen Jones, was the first and last of Boshier’s stylistic affiliations. During the next decade-the period covered in this show of over 40 pieces-he began exploring edgier mediums of the day, like assemblage and experimental film.
Predating his move to the United States in the ’80s, the works ranged from enigmatic conceptual pieces such as History (1976)-an unnamed cassette tape attached to the face of a wall-mounted rock, as if the artist were suggesting a fusion of geological prehistory and the technological present-to more populist forms, such as the children’s book How Hudson Saved Rock City (1971), featuring fat walking lips with a tongue sticking out, an image that was supposedly filched by the Rolling Stones for their famous logo. Better known are Boshier’s songbooks and album covers for The Clash and David Bowie; drawings for these were also on view.
The punch line of one work, featuring a 2-inch-high picture of Richard Nixon torn from a newspaper and trapped within a mazelike pencil drawing, is its title-Drawing Lines Round Things Is a Sign of Madness (1972). Left unclear is whether this phrase applies to Boshier, his subject or both. Newspaper clippings and politics pepper his collagist art, and he also invented his own front page-an offprint broadsheet with hand lettering titled The Stun (1979), a pun on the British rag The Sun. Two separate headlines combine to read “Queen Likes . . . Violence in Northern Ireland,” but in reading the subhead, we discover the first article actually refers to a new T.V. series.
Boshier lampoons the art world and those who lampoon it-inadvertently or not-in the lithograph Artist (1975), based on an Artforum spread (identifiable by the telltale proportions). On one side are collaged clippings: an ad for Hogarth Laundry, lowbrow cartoons of busty statues, and Kirk Douglas as van Gogh wearing a straw hat in the 1956 biopic Lust for Life. High art fares no better in the unintelligible artspeak found in a page from an Artforum article occupying the facing page.
Bound by no rules, Boshier’s hardscrabble esthetic and political bent remind me of the work of slightly older Beat generation California artists such as Bruce Conner and Wally Hedrick, motivated, like Boshier, by artistic freedom, not fame.
Photo: Derek Boshier: The Stun, 1979, ink and gouache on illustration board, 15 by 11 inches; at Steven Wolf.