Magazine article Artforum International

Pauline Boty

Magazine article Artforum International

Pauline Boty

Article excerpt

WAVE WOLVERHAMPTON ART GALLERY

When British Pop artist Pauline Boty died in 1966 at the age of twenty-eight, she left behind a considerable oeuvre. Yet this remarkable production was nearly lost to art history; much of it was rediscovered only in the 1990s, languishing at her family's farm. Already as a student at the Royal College of Art in early-'60s London, Boty was a well-known face. A kind of poster girl for the swinging art scene, she was memorably captured twisting away at a party alongside Peter Blake, Derek Boshier, and David Hockney in Ken Russell's famous 1962 BBC film Pop Goes the Easel. Like her peers, Boty was seduced by the potent promise of such celebrity, but the playing field was uneven. Her witty pseudosexual posturing for the popular press ultimately did her career more harm than good, ensuring that she was not taken seriously as an artist. The long-overdue exhibition "Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman," which included not only a large number of the artist's signature large-scale Pop paintings but fantastic examples of her early collage and stained-glass work, succeeded in finally shifting the focus from Boty's body to her impressive body of work, drawing out the political as well as playful aspects of her paintings.

Among the paintings on view were The Only Blonde in the World, 1963, and BUM, 1966, which take as their subject matter, respectively, the then-recently deceased Marilyn Monroe, and a large, pert, pink bottom. While Boty may play too easily at times into the hands of those who claim her work perpetuates rather than challenges stereotypical representations of the female body, her emphasis on the sexy, insouciant swing of Monroe's hair and hips demonstrates that the desiring gaze is not always male, while a portrait of film star Monica Vitti framed by a giant red heart signals her admiration of the star in the guise of a schoolgirl crush. …

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