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She-Bam Pow Pop Wizz! The Amazons of Pop celebrates MAMAC's 30th anniversary
Évelyne Axell, Ice Cream 1, 1964. Oil on canvas, 80 x 70 cm. Private collection. Courtesy Bounameaux Art Expertise, Brussels © ADAGP, Paris 2021. All rights reserved.

NICE.- Powerful and sensual paper heroines leave boxes to explore a forbidden world. They are called: Barbarella, Jodelle, Pravda la Survireuse… They are free, powerful and sensual like Amazons. Born in Europe from a teen-age culture, their out of the ordinary adventures spread out in magazines, comics, Hollywood movies, Pop songs and music videos.… They embody a new ideal that will spur an unprecedented moral revolution in the late 1960s.

Next to these paper’s representations, these fantasized figures, other real heroines take part in the invention of a new artistic language: the Pop. Their comic-book-like works are full of rainbow colors, sensual and vibrant which free themselves from the limits of the line. It is thus an odyssey of the senses to sound the death knell of a post World War II period in Europe, a black and white one - still traumatized by its losses and the horrors of the extermination camps. Under the sway of the United States, it fumbles in its plan to pacify states and constantly wonders if humanism was still conceivable, achievable.

The plural voices of Pop artists respond to this context in a constructive way. They envision a different world, with dreamy forms but whose accesses seem real, whose paths can be taken ... as long as we like the sweet thrill of risk. Objects, arrangements, environments are unfolded to bet on the construction of a better world rather than to create an artificial amnesia of the past. This positioning will harm them in the decades that follow. They will be accused of a lack of lucidity, of critical foreknowledge regarding the advent of a more homogeneous, global, voracious world...

Until 1973, the progressive future seems attainable: an archaeological world for us, contemporaries. This world of tomorrow would appear as an Eden where innocence is associated with self-curiosity with others, pleasures alone or with others. An environment that is no longer limited to the only Earth’s sphere. This discovery, from the Moon and space, of a “finite world” generate a points of view’s inversion and allows relations with other cultures… extraterrestrials. In this wake, machines, robots are perceived as vectors of harmony. By themselves, they go beyond the questions of gender, race and social class and motivate a whole spiritual, pacifist and counter-cultural movement marked by: Love is all we need.

However, artists are lucid about the obstacles that cover this time bubble from 1961 to 1973. Their positions faced with the various imperialist and colonial wars are affirmed and deployed in art’s spaces and in life. The world's frontiers and its distribution are changing very rapidly, with very strong geopolitical polarities. Television, a new media, brings a direct connection with the world. The relationship between the rural and urban world are undergoing a revolution. They are accompanied by social and cultural changes. The spectrum of a devouring modernity is already glimpsed. In this sense, the pop of the Amazons becomes complex and squeaky…not without a hint of dark humor.

"She-Bam Pow Pop Wizz! The Amazons of Pop" thus deploys, behind the Franco-American Niki de Saint Phalle, emblematic figure of the MAMAC collection, nearly 40 European and North American artists who have boldly and flamboyantly contributed to the invention / redefinition of international pop.

--Hélène Guenin and Géraldine Gourbe, Exhibition curators

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June 9, 2021

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She-Bam Pow Pop Wizz! The Amazons of Pop celebrates MAMAC's 30th anniversary

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