Art, Arts & Entertainment

The Pop of Life! captures the bold spirit of the Pop Art movement

Bright reds, yellows, and blues frame the stunning new Pop Art exhibit at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), which features works from iconic international artists like Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi as well as Québécois trailblazers like Pierre Ayot. Iris Amizlev, curator for the MMFA since 2020, curated The Pop of Life! to be interactive, cozy, and exciting, while at the same time integrating the serious themes of political tension, consumerism, and scientific discovery from the 1960s and 1970s. 

“The art is very serious and it’s very cerebral, but it’s also very delightful and fun. It’s a real reflection on what was happening at the time,” Amizlev said in an interview with The Tribune.

The exhibition is delightfully sectioned into categories—Plastic Blitz, Future Now!, and Ordinary Things, to name a few—that bring forth a particular theme from the time period. Still, the categories merge gracefully as each artwork presents multiple, nuanced themes and messages. Regardless of these sections, which bear large titles along the walls of the exhibit, the artwork is subtly arranged like a house, with imaginative sculptures of a stove, chairs, and sofas fitting amongst a kitchen, living room, and foyer. So, while the room is an explosion of colours and geometric shapes, the soft lighting and home-like organization give the exhibit a cozy and relaxing atmosphere. 

The Pop Art movement is famous for its love of ordinary things: A can of soup, a bowl of fruit, an assortment of shoes. In this exhibit, one will find creative and fun reimaginings of a mop, sandwich, and sink. 

There is even a sculpture fashioned from a real stove, titled Pollo allo spiedo (1985), by Montréal native Pierre Ayot. Inside the stove, Ayot placed a video of a chicken cooking on a 2-hour loop. 

“This [sculpture] is truly a brilliant work. He’s totally transformed [the stove].,” Amizlev explained.  

The Pop of Life! transports the visitor into the political arena of the ‘60s and ‘70s, where one learns how artists used the Pop Art style to capture the political tensions of their environment. Among local historic periods, James Brodie’s piece Québeclove No. 3 (1981) highlights the October Crisis of 1970. In revolution-inspired colours of bloody red and black, a Québécois man rests against his building while holding a gun. The harsh colours symbolize the extreme conflict of the October Crisis, yet they portray a member of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) in a leisurely pose, which calls attention to the ordinary people entangled in the Crisis. Through the art, the exhibition features artists from the period who deeply understand the contested politics and the humanity of those involved with each movement. 

The displays, particularly in the Space Age and Future Now! sections, launch the visitor into out-of-this-world pieces centred around rising technology and extraterrestrial discoveries. 

“I find it very interesting as we’re approaching this new era of technology, artificial intelligence, and also new space exploration. It’s good to think about the ways in which artists confronted these advancements,” Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator of the MMFA, said in an interview with the The Tribune.

In an interactive sculpture titled Big Sleep (1968), artist Edmund Alleyn crafted a brain within a grey machine that whirrs and lights up when a visitor presses a button. The black screen from a sculpture of a television shaped like an astronaut helmet, titled Videosphere Television Set (1970) by the Japan Victor Company, reflects viewers and our modern aspirations for technology and scientific discovery. Among the rockets and futuristic furniture, the area invites visitors to explore, imagine, and get lost in curiosity.

“Everything is still relevant now,” Amizlev added. “That’s what makes this exhibition extremely accessible and […] that’s what I find so amazing.”

The Pop of Life! is on display at The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts until March 24, 2024.

Share this:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Read the latest issue

Read the latest issue