Art & The 60s: This Was Tomorrow At Tate Britain

By Sara Chare | 05 July 2004
Shows a photograph of negatives showing a woman's mouth. The same image appears on three negatives but only one is fully visible, the other two are only just in frame.

Photo: Joe Tilson (b. 1928) Transparency, the Five Senses: Taste 1969. For full caption see below.

Sara Chare pulled on her mini skirt and swung up to London for Tate Britiain’s latest exhibition all about art and the 1960s.

From the title it would be easy to think that this is just another retrospective of a golden hued bygone era. However, there is something slightly different about Art & the 60s: This Was Tomorrow.

Despite its aim to celebrate a time of great change and artistic growth there is a pervading sense of uneasiness in the art on display.

This thought provoking show will be at Tate Britain until September 26, when it will move to Birmingham’s Gas Hall.

Shows a photograph of a black and white painting. The background is a black and white chequered design and in the centre is a vase of roses, also black and white.

Photo: Patrick Caulfield (b. 1936), Black and White Flower Piece, 1963. Oil on board. Courtesy of the Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the napping Fund 1991 © Patrick Caulfield. All rights reserved DACS 2004

Don’t misunderstand me, it is still showcasing the prosperous post-war years when anything seemed possible, but it is also a meditation on the underlying political and social troubles of the age.

Visually the works are very different and each as compelling as the other - there is something here to suit all tastes. The exhibition is divided into sections, each one concentrating on a different theme and, to an extent, medium.

Shows a photograph of a sixty's style room. There is a black and white lifesized cut out of a woman. The walls are pale blue with a few pictures hung on them. There is a swivel chair in the centre.

Photo: Richard Hamilton Interior II, 1964. Oil, cellulose paint and collage on board.Courtesy of the Tate. Purchased 1967 © Richard Hamilton 2004. All rights reserved DACS

This is not an exhibition for those wishing to see works by people closely associated with the era, such as Lucien Freud. The aim instead seems to be to concentrate on the emerging artists of the time and the originality of technique and outlook that was being nurtured by the art schools in London.

New methods of making art are displayed, as are models of urban architectural projects.

There are examples of the Americanisation of British culture after the war and the growing consumerism that was celebrated by Pop Art, for example Hockney’s picture of a Typhoo tea packet.

Photography is also represented by a selection of black and white fashion images and David Bailey’s Box of Pin-ups. This was the start of a national obsession with celebrity and iconic figures and there are a number of pictures of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Shows a photograph of The Who. The photo is taken from above and the four male band members are looking up towards the camera. There are what looks like four oil drums on the right of the picture.

Photo: David Wedgbury, 1965. The Who (Peter 'Pete' Townshend; Keith Moon; Roger Daltrey; John Entwistle) Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London © The artist

Despite all this, the darker side experienced by society during this time has not been forgotten.

The space race, the fear of nuclear threat and the reality of the Vietnam War are all referred to at one point or another. Protest marches are captured on camera and weapons immortalised on canvas.

Equally interesting is the depiction of women in some of the works. The period is held as the age of sexual liberation and the true emancipation of women, and yet this belief is also questioned. There is a sense of contradiction between those pieces showing women as stronger and more in control and those questioning the reality of this new freedom.

Shows a photograph of four sculptures of green martians in various poses.

Photo: Nicholas Monro, Martians 1965. Painted fibreglass. Lent by Rupert Power © The artist

Art & the 60s manages to achieve a balance between those works that directly challenge the viewer and those that are celebratory and fun.

It is one of the few exhibitions where you have a social commentary that is thrown into relief by such things as sculptures of martians and a cloud machine.

The exhibition is accompanied by a BBC Four TV series of the same name, and courses, workshops, talks and films organised by Tate Britain. There is a live performance by Yoko Ono on September 15 and a talk by Mary Quant on July 2.


Photo 1: Joe Tilson (b. 1928) Transparency, the Five Senses: Taste 1969Screenprint on vacuum-formed sheet of perspex. From an original photograph by Barry Lategan. Courtesy of the Tate. Presented by Marlborough Graphics through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1970 © Joe Tilson. All rights reserved, DACS 2004

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