Past Events

The Art of Brutalism in 1950s London

Lecture – Ben Highmore

  • 22 February 2017
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Abstract painting Amongst the Independent Group of artists, critics and architects who met in London’s ICA in the 1950s, the term ‘brutalism’ signalled an array of commitments to modernism, to the raw power of found objects and images, and to un-varnished materials and vernacular forms. The artists associated with this group have often be thought of as early pop artists (Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, John McHale) but they would have thought of themselves as ‘brutalists’ (if they had to identify themselves with an aesthetic tendency). In this talk I will introduce the art of brutalism and pay particular attention to the use of collage amongst this group of artists.

About the speaker

  • With a background in fine art and art history Ben Highmore teaches cultural studies at the University of Sussex. In 2017 he published two books: The Art of Brutalism: Rescuing Hope from Catastrophe in 1950s Britain (Yale University Press) and Cultural Feelings: Mood, Mediation, and Cultural Politics (Routledge). The first looked at a tight-knit group of artists, critics and architects to explore how they responded to the immediate postwar years. The second book expanded that approach to look across the postwar period in terms of feelings and moods. For the last couple of years, he has been working on a book about postwar English taste and the emergence of the new middle classes. This is being published in February next year as Lifestyle Revolution: How Taste Changed Class in Late-Twentieth-Century Britain (Manchester University Press). Currently he is writing a book on playgrounds – particularly those that emerged out of the bombsites of London and elsewhere. Previous books include The Great Indoors: At Home in the Modern British House (Profile Books) and Ordinary Lives: Studies in the Everyday (Routledge).