The Mod or Modernist phenomena has had many words and books written about the right and wrong way to describe its appeal, the look, the thinking, the origins and its never ending appeal. There have been books written on the bands closely associated with mod including The Who, The Small Faces and The Action, with many arguing who are the most distinctive and original mod band amongst the trio. Leading art historian Thomas Crow examines Mod using archive art by the likes of Robyn Denny, David Hockney, Pauline Boty, Bridget Riley and Bruce McLean as his argument piece. Released via Yale University Press via 200 pages of written word and pictures, you know this is going to be good.
The pictures contained within features those that naturally come connected to Mod including model Twiggy standing infront of a psychedelic background whilst she stands eyes centred on the camera wearing a multi-coloured mini skirt, the reknowned jazz players Miles Davis and John Coltrane where back in the early 60s mods would centres their attention on the jazz clubs of London, with the crisp, sharp and simple coloured sleeves as used by Blue Note would be a visual appealer. There are multiple adverts with fonts and clean designs used to visual appeal to the in crowd including one featuring a future 007 Sean Connery in a Matelot Vest. The Great Big Wide art piece painted by the then 29 year old Robyn Denny which The Beatles famously stood in front of showcase the appeal of Denny as does his Place Painting which is basically a huge square of red, with a thinner line of green below it followed by a thin line of white. It’s the simplicity of art that was and is visually appealing to mods.
In chapter 3 we even get some exciting décor from Pierre Koenig, the sort of visual sharp lines and use of internal bold colours by David Hockney the likes of which Kevin McCloud would be drooling over. Again, it’s the simplicity of the shapes, colours and designs that’s the appeal. However with the introduction of pop art there are more complicated shapes and textures that become a staple visual treat to the mod eye. Pauline Boty was an example of this with her use of lettering used that would be more familiar at a circus tent, there are maybe even influences here that Peter Blake used on the Sargent Pepper sleeve, collages and walls full of pictures a picture showing Boty standing proudly infront of.
With expert running commentary throughout from Crow the overall consensus is of a detailed and overly complementary view on Mod with many more references and pictures that explain and sequence their relevance in today’s modern culture. From My Generation to Carnaby Street, the story is all here for the educated and the uneducated to cast your eyes over.
The Hidden Mod in Modern Art – Thomas Crow can be purchased via the following link