Naum Gabo, Linear Construction No. 1, 1942-3. Digital Image: © Tate, London 2015. © Nina & Graham Williams/Tate, London 2015
Synthetic carbon-based polymers, or plastics, were developed for industrial and commercial uses in the 19th century. Whether in the form of acrylic paint, Perspex or 35mm film, plastics have informed successive innovations in modern art.
Morris Louis, Alpha-Pi, 1960. Photo: Schecter Lee.© 2015. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence. © 2014 Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA), Rights Administered by ARS, NY and DACS, London, All Rights Reserved
As industrial materials, plastics expressed the Modernist ambition of integrating art and mass society. Perspex was barely on the market when in 1942 Naum Gabo created Linear Construction in Space, arguably the world’s most beautiful plastic object.
Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962. Digital Image © 2015, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
Celluloid film rolls made snapshots possible, contributing to Cubism, while Abstract Expressionism’s fervent splashing and staining owed much to the post-war availability of acrylic paints. For Pop artists acrylics mimicked the flat, saturated hues of commercial art. By plastic-wrapping public buildings, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have affirmed that national institutions can be ‘packaged.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85, Photo: Wolfgang Volz/laif/Camera Press. © 1985 Christo
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