Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi

1924–2005

Eduardo Paolozzi brought a special, l’art brut aesthetic and genuine enthusiasm for mass culture to the Independent Group. His particular perspective was influenced by his childhood experiences of technology and the popular. Growing up above his parents’ ice-cream shop and experiencing the culture of the street and the cinema. Paolozzi initially studied at Edinburgh College of Art, and at the end of the War, he continued studying fine art at the Slade School of Fine Art. This was in the very different atmosphere to his home city, as the Slade had been relocated to Oxford. It was here that Paolozzi met future Independent Group collaborators, Nigel Henderson and William Turnbull. They were united by an admiration for culture beyond the gallery and an enthusiasm for contemporary European art and philosophy. Nigel Henderson’s mother, Wyn Henderson, provided Paolozzi with the contact to stage his first one man show at the Mayor Gallery in London. Funded by sales from the show, amounting to seventy-five pounds, Paolozzi travelled to Paris in the summer of 1947 and remained there for two years. Visited frequently by Turnbull, Henderson and Edward Wright, Paolozzi visited the studios of Brancusi, Leger, Giacometti, Braque and Arp. Paolozzi’s rough and ready aesthetic vision chimed perfectly with the l’art brut of Debuffet. Indeed, his work was included in Michel Tapie’s Un Art Autre of 1952.

Paolozzi returned to London in the autumn of 1949, inspired by the modernist vision of Paris and began teaching textile design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He also became involved with the newly opened Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in Dover Street, designing a table with his student, Terence Conran for the new premises which opened in 1950 along with the bar area. He then exhibited his sculpture, Forms on a Bow (1949) in plaster at the inaugural show at the ICA, 1950: Aspects of British Art. He was made an honorary member in 1951, and his new wife, Freda, started work as a gallery assistant there.

Forms on a Bow

Eduardo Paolozzi, Forms on a Bow (1949)
Cast brass, commissioned by the Contemporary Art Society when the plaster version was shown at the ICA in 1950/51. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society to the Tate Gallery in 1958.

Paolozzi decorated the gallery of the ICA for the New Year’s Eve party at the end of 1951. This heralded the first year of the Independent Group and the first meeting, at which Paolozzi presented pages from his scrapbooks, some of which would become the BUNK series of screen prints (1972) and form part of the KRAZY KAT archive, now held at the V&A. Glamour girls meet aeroplanes, and he-men encounter giant fruit. The images were all-American and gleaned during Paolozzi’s time in Paris from GIs temporarily resident there. The Group analysed the images as representations of an alluring and colourful reality beyond the grey, everyday life of post-war London. Paolozzi contributed to the other informal Independent Group events which became manifest in a pedagogical exhibition, Parallel of Life and Art with Alison and Peter Smithson and Nigel Henderson.

One of the BUNK screenprints

Eduardo Paolozzi, BUNK! (1971)
One of a series of screenprints of material gathered by the artist when in Paris in the late 1940s

Paolozzi then contributed to the 1955 season of the Independent Group with two sessions in April and May on Advertising alongside Alloway, John McHale and Toni del Renzio. Connections between Paolozzi and the rest of the Independent Group continued for decades after it stopped meeting. Paolozzi contributed towards to construction of the ‘Patio & Pavilion’ section of This is Tomorrow with the Smithsons and Nigel Henderson. He moved his family next door to the Hendersons in Thorpe-le-Soken and established Hammer Prints with Henderson in 1955. As recently as 2002 Paolozzi’s sculpture of Newton was placed outside the new British Library, designed by Colin St John Wilson.

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