Allan D’Arcangelo drew his imagery from advertising, popular icons, and familiar corporate
symbols. Unlike his Pop Art contemporaries, he was more concerned with the social, political,
and moral issues of the period. Beyond Pop presents a look at this artist’s work from the
1960s, a decade filled with controversy surrounding environmentalism, feminism, nuclear
warfare, and the struggle for civil rights. By using the stylistic techniques of Pop, D’Arcangelo
presented complex societal issues through easily recognizable images.
In 1962, Sydney Janis Gallery organized its groundbreaking “New Realist” exhibition in New York
City. This seminal show introduced the art world to the concept of Pop. That same year,
D’Arcangelo painted U.S. Highway I, #4 in response to the revolutionary idea of interstate
highway travel. The interstate system created independence and increased mobility for
Americans. The artist represented this open road from a very personal and provocative
viewpoint. Seen as a non-ending time warp, the series of paintings appear like a film sequence
by the driver in a never-ending loop with no exit in sight. These crisp road images became iconic
hallmarks of the artist’s oeuvre.
The Bride, also painted in 1962 and featured in the exhibition, demonstrates a further important
aspect of the artist’s inspiration: his focus on modern trends, fashion and advertising. The artist
shows a blank-faced, pink-skinned bride. He has placed her “features” in the margin with paper
doll-like tabs making allusion to popular beliefs and values of marriage in the early 1960s. The
image is taken directly from a 1962 Modern Bride magazine cover—D’Arcangelo almost always
took imagery from current popular periodicals during the beginning part of the decade.
In 1964, D’Arcangelo created a series of paintings known as “Barriers.” As his oeuvre
developed, he added overlapping barriers to the scenes, both painted and superimposed with
actual objects that obscured the hard-edged vistas. One great example in the exhibition,
Landscape BB (74) depicts the emblems of the American highway, blocked by the types of
guard-rails found at railroad crossings and construction sites. Highly abstracted and dramatically
pressed to the foreground, these paintings acknowledge conventional landscape painting while
simultaneously subverting it. Although the artist creates traditional spatial recession in the
highway and silhouetted trees, he also challenges the art historical conventions of landscape. By
the end of the 1960s, he further developed his abstracted view of road barriers by reducing them to projecting patterns juxtaposed against single color backgrounds as seen in
Constellation #5, 1970.
Beyond Pop asks us to look at and beyond traditional Pop art, highlighting D’Arcangelo’s unique
vision within the movement. The twenty works by the artist will be accompanied by a fully illustrated
catalogue featuring an essay by Eileen Costello, editor and project manager of The
Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings of Jasper Johns. The exhibition will be available to view at
the gallery’s website after May 1st at: www.hollistaggart.com.