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The Independent Group, or the IG

Related: Richard Hamilton - pop art - 1950s - UK

Independent Group : Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty (1990) - David Robbins [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Poster for the 1971 This is tomorrow exhibition
Image sourced here.


The IG or Independent Group is known for having launched Pop Art. This rather informal group of architects, young artists, sculptors, and critics were looking for more than traditional art within high and low cultures. They were determined to embrace Hollywood with new ideas and a brand new culture.

The group started around 1952 included was Lawrence Alloway an English critic who used the term "Pop Art" in somewhat a different context, architects Alison and Peter Smithson, Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi, Reyner Banham, and others. They held many discussions in London at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. They focused on popular culture such as Western movies, science fiction, billboards, and machines. Their group held the values of American and British cultures. Their discussions were centered around contemporary mass culture and the manifestations within the United States. In having such discussions they drew upon Futurist, Surrealist, and even Dadaist. In 1956 the group came to wider public attention with its participation in the exhibition "This is Tomorrow". The Independent Group was also being recognized for declaring an alternative version of modernism - a version that today can be said to have had a great influence within the terms of postmodernism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Group [Feb 2006]

Profile from the Tate gallery

A radical group of young artists within the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. The Independent Group, or IG, was first convened in the winter of 1952-3 and then again in 1953-4. It was responsible for the formulation, discussion and dissemination of many of the basic ideas of British Pop art and of much other new British art in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Leading artists involved were Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. The IG also included the critics Lawrence Alloway and Rayner Banham, and the architects Colin St John Wilson, and Alison and Peter Smithson (see Brutalism). In 1953 the IG staged the exhibition Parallel of Art and Life and in 1956 the ground-breaking This is Tomorrow. This exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London was an expression of the IG's pioneering interest in popular and commercial culture. As Alloway put it: 'movies, science fiction, advertising, Pop music. We felt none of the dislike of commercial culture standard among most intellectuals, but accepted it as fact, discussed it in detail, and consumed it enthusiastically'. This is Tomorrow consisted of a series of environments, and a juke box played continuously. --http://www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/definition.jsp?entryId=142 [Sept 2004]

"This is Tomorrow" (1956 UK art exhibition)

"This is Tomorrow" was an seminal art exhibition in August 1956 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The core of the exhibition was the Independent Group. The exhibition included artists, architects and graphic designers, an example of multi-disciplinary collaboration that was still unusual. The exhibitions most remembered exhibit was the room by Richard Hamilton and John McHale that included an advertising billboard for Forbidden Planetand a Juke Box. Ironically although the show is now considered a watershed in post-war British Art and in some respects kick started the development of the British arm of Pop Art it was only commissioned at the last minute as a filler. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_is_Tomorrow [Feb 2006]

Its relation to Archigram

In the shadow of the Independent Group, Archigram took the ideas of the Man-Machine, Pop, collage and modern life as an assemblage of consumer products, then turned up the turboboost until these ideas filled widescreen panoramas. While the Smithsons had wrestled with modernist morality, Archigram’s younger, laissez-faire attitude meant anything was possible … and anything could be architectural.

There is an alternative trajectory from the Independent Group. It leads, via Denise Scott Brown, to “Learning from Las Vegas”. This married social science with Pop Art in an attempt to understand the present rather than invent the future. The attitude of academic learning from everyday life was cooler, sharper, and a lot less fun. But it opened up architectural thinking in a different way to Archigram. --http://www.icon-magazine.co.uk/issues/013/archigram_text.htm [Feb 2006]

See also: Archigram

Independent Group : Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty (1990) - David Robbins

Independent Group : Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty (1990) - David Robbins [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Independent Group, or the IG, as it was called, is best known for having launched Pop Art. But the young artists, architects, and critics who met informally at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts in the early 1950s were actually embarked on a far more subversive and constructive mission than the founding of an art movement. Street-smart, anti-academic, and iconoclastic, they embraced Hollywood and Madison Avenue and rejected the traditional dichotomies between high and low culture, British and American values. They used their meetings and exhibitions to challenge the official modernist assumptions of British aesthetics and to advocate instead a media-based, consumer-based aesthetics of change and inclusiveness - an aesthetics of plenty. In doing so they drew upon Dadaist, Futurist, and Surrealist strategies to invigorate their alternative version of modernism - a version that today can be said to have insinuated the terms of postmodernism

This book provides the first comprehensive view of the IG's aims and significance. The texts and illustrations fully represent the achievements of its leaders, including artists Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, architects Alison and Peter Smithson, and critics Lawrence Alloway and Reyner Banham. The historic exhibitions that publicized the ideas of IG members are also documented - "Parallel of Life and Art," "Man, Machine and Motions," "This Is Tomorrow," and "An Exhibit." Above all, the book emphasizes the interaction between the exhibitions, discussions, art and writings of IG members, showing the ways in which they established a new aesthetic horizon.

David Robbins is a freelance writer and editor in Berkeley, California. Distributed for the University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley.

Essays by: Lawrence Alloway, Theo Crosby, Barry Curtis, Diane Kirkpatrick, David Mellor, David Robbins, Denise Scott Brown, Alison and Peter Smithson, David Thistlewood

Retrospective Statements by: Lawrence Alloway, Mary Banham, Richard Hamilton, Geoffrey Holroyd, Magda Cordell McHale, Dorothy Morland, Eduardo Paolozzi, Toni del Renzio, Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling, William Turnbull, Colin St. John Wilson. --via Amazon.com

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