Pop Art’s Roots: Three Experimental Places

with Melissa Rachleff

THIS EVENT HAPPENED ON Tuesday, September 20, 2022

In 1990, the art critic David Bourdon told interviewers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin, “In the late fifties I was so interested in what was called Neo-Dada and junk art . . . Pop Art was a little afterthought. It was all this scrap stuff that was supposed to be the big movement. So, I was so amazed when Pop came along and demolished everything else.” Today, scholars are examining the precursors of Pop that so attracted Bourdon. There is vibrant interest in an art narrative that recognizes the aesthetic complexity of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Rachleff’s presentation explores Pop Art’s origins in assemblage and figuration. In “Pop Art’s Roots: Three Experimental Places,” Rachleff discusses these short-lived galleries where the “Pop” sensibility emerged: Hansa Gallery (1952–1959), Reuben Gallery (1959–1961) and Green Gallery (1960–1965). Throughout the presentation Jean Follett (1917–1990), whose biography Rachleff is writing, is presented as an artist who catalyzed the direct use of objects, an important precedent for the Pop generation.

Melissa Rachleff is a Clinical Professor in the Visual Arts Administration Program at NYU: Steinhardt, where she concentrates on the nonprofit sector. In 2017, she curated Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965 for NYU Grey Art Gallery and wrote/edited the accompanying book, which is co-published by the Grey and Prestel Publishing. Melissa began her career as the assistant curator at Exit Art and co-curated exhibitions on the intersection of visual art and documentation. She has written about artist organizations for a variety of publications, and her essay, “Do It Yourself: A History of Alternatives” was published in Alternative Histories: New York Art Spaces (MIT Press) in 2012. For the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, Melissa curated Narrative & Counternarrative: (Re)Defining the Sixties for NYU’s Bobst Library, based on the school’s three main archive collections: Fales Library & Archive, Tamiment Library and the University’s archive.

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