Peter Blake: Homage to Rauschenberg
He graduated in 1956, received a Leverhulme Research Award to study popular art, and travelled extensively, drawing inspiration as he roamed. Sir Peter Blake's fondness for popular culture can be clearly seen in much of his eclectic collages and silk screen prints with images of Marilyn Monroe mixing with Mona Lisa.
Since his emergence in the early 1960s as a key member of the burgeoning Pop Art movement, Peter Blake has been one of the best-known British artists of his generation. His 1961Self Portrait with Badges, where he stands in his denim jeans and jacket, wearing Converse trainers and holding an Elvis album, is one of the iconic images of the time and is now in the Tate collection, but Peter Blake's reputation from the outset, reflecting his broad art education, was based on working across media. He has produced collage, sculpture, engraving and printmaking, as well as commercial art in the form of graphics and, notably, album covers.
Peter Blake is never particularly critical of the cultural iconography he plays with, just amused. Perhaps his best known work is the album cover for the Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. This strange, colourful huddle of people exemplifies Blake's style: among Beatles dressed in psychedelic uniform are Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and a child wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt. Of all the various forms of Pop Art, Blake's is the most affirmative, his humour the most sincere.
Peter Blake creates collages that are undoubtedly odd but never jarring or disruptive. His taste for cut-and-paste techniques does not, like most Dada art, culminate in black humour; Blake is nothing if not light. He opposes nothing and negates nothing but instead basks in the icons of popular culture. His prints indulge the utmost veneration for Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, the Beatles, and Elvis. If Warhol's aim was to render culturally salient images meaningless, Peter Blake puts his heroes on a pedestal, paying homage to them with neither irony nor ambiguity.