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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

Pop Art

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David Barnett, who opened one of the city’s longest-running art galleries in 1966, starts 2008 with the exhibition “American Pop Art.” More than 30 prints and paintings from Barnett’s private collection are featured, including works by important 20th-century figures such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud and Robert Rauschenberg.

The exhibit honors the leaders of the pop art movement, which continues to influence artists today. Pop art emerged in the late 1950s, combining traditional and commercial art processes to elevate out-of-context pop cultural references to the status of high art. The familiar if re-contextualized images of soup cans, cartoon portraits and oversized consumer goods appealed to the general public.

“Pop art presented conceptual ideas appropriating images of ordinary objects— artists seeing these things in a different way,” Barnett says. Two related 1964 serigraphs viewed in the show illustrate this philosophy. Lichtenstein’s Turkey Shopping Bag prints a yellow-and-black platter of turkey on a white paper shopping bag with handles, while Warhol’s Tomato Soup features an identical bag with the famous Campbell’s soup can on it. Nowadays, even the humble paper shopping bag, so often replaced by plastic, recalls a disappearing piece of modern life.

David Barnett Gallery celebrates this reflection on pop art at an opening reception on Jan. 18, 5 to 8 p.m. A collection of small “object boxes” constructed by contemporary German craftsman Volker Kuhn in satirical homage to these pop artists will also be on display. The multifaceted Barnett reveals his own creative talent with an exhibition featuring 100 of his watercolors and prints currently in the Bank Mutual Building at 5th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.