Radical Transformations

The Arts Council Collection sheds new light on the rich and diverse nature of 1960s art. Kaleidoscope casts fresh perspectives over the creations of the period, bringing into view the relationship between rationality and absurdity, colour and form, order and unruliness. Curated by Sam Cornish and Natalie Rudd, the exhibition draws on collection’s holdings, alongside significant loans, for the first retrospective of its kind in over 20 years. The touring display begins at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, before residing at galleries across the UK throughout 2017.

Though characterised by bold, artificial colour and unpredictable shapes, the whimsical forms of British creativity of the 1960s are unpinned by order, repetition, sequence and symmetry. Encompassing both painting and design, the display ranges across the disciplines to highlight common themes within the decade. From the mathematical order of Constructivism and the repeated imagery of Pop, to the overwhelming exteriors of Op Art and vivid palettes of New Generation sculpture. Work by more than 20 practitioners, including David Annesley, Barry Flanagan, John Hoyland, Robyn Denny, Tess Jaray and Phillip King demonstrate the innovative creative practice of the time.

The period heralded a radical transformation for both mediums. Influenced by Antony Caro’s brightly coloured, abstract steel structures, designers began incorporating a host of new materials, including fibreglass, paint and acrylic sheets, into their playful compositions. Highlights of the exhibition include Tim Scott’s Quinquereme (1966) and the rarely seen 4th Sculpture by Michael Bolus, a colourful orb constructed from repeated steel shapes. Kaleidoscope also bears witness to the ways in which painters were breaking from tradition, forging new possibilities through sequence and replication. Pieces such as Movement in Squares (1961) by Bridget Riley demonstrates the intricate and beguiling surfaces of Op Art, alongside Richard Smith’s Trio (1963), an evocative image that sits between abstraction and representation. Antony Donaldson also moves freely between intangible and figurative models, the featured Hollywood Pix (1967) combines painting with references to 1930s American cinema.

Jill Constantine, Director of Arts Council Collection notes: “Kaleidoscope highlights the strengths of the Collection’s holdings of 1960s painting and sculpture, revealing the important contribution made by British artists at this time. Making a radical break with the past, these artists opened up new approaches and their work received international recognition. Shown together in this exhibition, they create a visual feast of colour and form and look as fresh and dynamic as they did some 50 years ago.”

Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, from 1 – April 18 June. www.ysp.co.uk

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1. Tim Scott, Quinquereme (1966). Courtesy of the Art Council Collection.