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May 5 - June 9, 2001 at Flowers West, Santa Monica

by Ray Zone

Is it possible to revisit an historical art style without a complete loss of cultural meaning? What happens when an artist works in a thirty-five year old visual idiom long after the historical momentum that generated it has passed? When a school of art as specific to the 1960s as Pop Art is invoked, what are the benefits?

“I wouldn’t disown the label of Pop Art,” says painter Derek Boshier, “but I’m really a popularist artist.” Gallery patrons can judge for themselves with a new show of large paintings and drawings in which Boshier incorporates Los Angeles iconography into the Pop Art idiom as articulated by Andy Warhol and Roy Lich-tenstein.

Boshier has one thing going for him. If there is a city which itself embodies the spirit of Pop it is Los Angeles. No other city in the world has elevated the commonplace as much or made artifacts of the 20th century as hugely environmental as Los Angeles. The artist has seized upon immediate and widespread totems of the place and emblazoned them large in acrylic paint as brashly colored icons. A ticket to a Dodgers' baseball game is given this large treatment with dayglo bright colors. The Hollywood sign is given a similar treatment in Jollygood. “Even though it’s been used so many times,” says Boshier, “I just thought I couldn’t do a show about Los Angeles without putting the Hollywood sign in it.”

A large rendition of a personalized license plate titled California Art Lover is an apt choice for a local totem, making reference as it does to beaches, palm trees and automotive culture. Pop Art’s celebration of signage in the 1960s may have even influenced the inauguration of the personalized license plate in California.

Boshier also juxtaposes high and low culture in several works with a rather sly tongue-in-cheek. The large painting Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Cycladic is one of the most successful works in the show. It juxtaposes the goldly gleaming Academy Awards Statuette with an ancient Cycladic sculpture in front of chunky local architecture and palm trees. This painting is part of a series about Los Angeles art collectors.

“You know,” observes Boshier, “when anyone does an article on art collectors they usually stand husband and wife together, don’t they? And all the art work is behind them.” With a second painting in the Los Angeles art collector series Boshier makes an even more pointed mix-up between high and low culture. The painting is called Mr. and Mrs. Batman Rodin and combines motifs of the comic book superhero with Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker.

The diversity of Los Angeles life styles, which serves as a leading edge for the rest of the world, is touched upon in two paintings titled “Transsexual - Los Angeles” No. 1 and No. 2. Here, rendered in a flat-paint style a la Warhol, is an attractive man/woman posing unashamedly. What Warhol achieved with flat silk-screen color, Boshier creates with acrylic paint. The flat colors look printed on rather than painted. “I like the matte surface of acrylic paint,” Boshier says.

What show of Pop Art would be complete without a rendering of a newspaper page? Boshier made a conscious decision to incorporate the Los Angeles Times in his current body of work. “My modus operandi is to take a random day, say Tuesday,” he notes, “and whatever’s on the front page that day, I’ll make a painting of it.”

The first time Boshier observed this random newspaper procedure, he produced a painting with the death of Princess Diana. Two years later the artist decided to do another L.A. Times painting and picked a day. The headline is observed in Boshier’s large painting Pop Art Icon Lichtenstein Dies. The artist took the headline as a personal sign. “That was good,” he says. Maybe he is on the right track with these Pop Art paintings after all.

“California Art Lover,”
graphite pencil on paper,
42 x 32”, 2000.

a/c, 60 x 72”, 2000.

“The Los Angeles Art Collectors--
Mr. & Mrs. Oscar Cycladic,”
a/c, 72 x 60”, 2000.

“L.A. Times: Pop Icon Roy
Lichtenstein Dies,”
a/c, 72 x 60”, 2000.