Tokyo Harbour and Slogan #7 (Douglas Coupland at the VAG)

Tokyo HarbourTokyo Harbour description

Tokyo Harbour detail Above: a photo of full work, Coupland’s description of the work and a detail.

Yes, echoes of Warhol here and not surprising because Coupland’s past and present art is infused with Pop sensibilities. Like the artist I too was drawn by the colours and “bold graphic treatments.” The text for me is in a language I cannot read but can enjoy as textual cryptograms. Arrayed as they are in linear formation I can also appreciate the sculptural qualities of the containers.

I admit to a few disturbing thoughts and feelings evoked by Coupland’s description. There are karmic links and confluences here that don’t sit easy in my head. What do you think?

Slogan #7:

Slogan 7Please see my first post in this series for full explanation of all posts. Also see my first ‘Slogans’ post to understand #7.

Credits: thank you to Douglas Coupland and the Vancouver Art Gallery for images and wall descriptions.

All photos by clinock.


Text in Art 6. – Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (Andrew Warhola). American. 1928 – 1987. Along with Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg Andy Warhol was a leading figure in the Pop Art movement. Warhol began as a commercial illustrator doing jobs like shoe ads. He first exhibited in an art gallery in 1962, when the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles showed his 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans. Following this, most of Warhol’s best work was done over a span of about six years, finishing in 1968, when a groupie shot him. He almost died, but was eventually killed by a gall-bladder operation in 1987. Warhol became known around the world as a painter, filmmaker, record producer and public figure. His art addressed the world of mass advertising in which human experience is filtered through television, print and images that become banal by endless repetition. Warhol became a media star of understated cool and predicted that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He said, “Fame is like peanuts, when you start, you can’t stop.”

As seen in my examples of Warhol’s art, text is used but only as product labeling; much as Lichtenstein’s text only occurs as an inherent part of comic book speech bubbles. Whereas Lissitzky and Picasso consciously incorporated letters and words into their art, the other western artists explored to date synthesized text with their art only when it was a part of the found materials used or as inherent content in their ironic pastiche of the commercial / social world.

Text in Art 5. – Robert Rauschenberg


Robert Rauschenberg. 1925 – 2008, was an American artist whose name became known as a member of the 1950s New York movement away from Abstract Expressionism and into Pop Art. In the 1950s Rauschenberg created ‘Combines:’ combinations of found objects, image transfers, photographs, collage and paint. Inspired by the Dada path already blazed by Kurt Schwitters (see previous post), Rauschenberg collected garbage and interesting objects from New York streets and integrated them so that they formed artworks inhabiting a space that hovered between painting and sculpture. Rauschenberg was quoted as saying that he wanted to work “in the gap between art and life” suggesting that he questioned the distinction between art objects and everyday objects. This also relates back to questions posed by the Dadaists: Schwitters, Duchamp and their ilk. No wonder Rauschenberg was labeled a ‘Neo-Dadaist’.

Much of the urban refuse collected by Rauschenberg included newspapers, letters, posters and advertising debris. He incorporated these into his Combines and I show some examples of these in the gallery of this post because they exemplify the next chronological step of ‘Text in Art’. I also include one of Rauschenberg’s ‘Cardboard’ series from the early 70s. Of these he said “I like to work in a material of waste and softness.” He also said, ” I am bombarded with TV sets and magazines, by the refuse, by the excess of the world…If I could paint or make an honest work, it should incorporate all of these elements, which were and are a reality.”   Here we see text used as an intricate part of the medium.


Text in Art. 4 – Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Fox Lichtenstein  (1923 – 1997) was a major American Pop artist – his work was heavily influenced by both popular advertising and the comic book style. Lichtenstein first became interested in art and design as a hobby. His first work to feature the large-scale use of hard-edged figures and Benday Dots was Look Mickey.1961. This piece came from a challenge from one of his sons, who pointed to a Mickey Mouse comic book and said; “I bet you can’t paint as good as that, eh, Dad?”  In the same year he produced six other works with recognizable characters from gum wrappers and cartoons. In 1962 Leo Castelli displayed Lichtenstein’s work at his New York gallery; influential collectors bought the entire collection before the show even opened. This American Pop artist parodied the mindless violence and sexless romance of comic strips to reveal the shallowness of American culture. Lichtenstein’s trademark style borrows comic book techniques as well as subjects. Using bright primary colours with black and white, he outlines simplified forms, incorporating mechanical printer’s (Benday) dots and stereotyped images. By enlarging pulp magazine panels to larger than life-size he slaps viewers in the face with their triviality. Lichtenstein’s use of text in his art was inherent in the comic book style he was parodying.  (Selected information from Wikipedia).

Look Mickey. 1961. Oil on canvas. 48" x 69"
Whaam. 1963. Oil on canvas. 67″ x 160″
Maybe He Became Ill. 1963. Oil on canvas.152x142 cm
Drowning Girl. 1963. Oil on canvas. 67" x 66"