Through witty, subversive artworks, Los Angeles-based English artist Derek Boshier has confronted the politics of pop culture, government power, and globalisation since the 1960s.Read More
Boshier was born in Portsmouth, England in 1937. Over the 1950s, he studied at the Yeovil School of Art and Guildford College of Art, and then went on to study at London's Royal College of Art alongside David Hockney and Allen Jones, graduating with an MFA in 1962.
In 1980, the artist moved to Texas, and then went on to teach at the University of Houston. He later taught at the California Institute of Arts in Los Angeles. The intersections of British and American popular culture would become a fruitful source of commentary for the artist's expansive practice.
Derek Boshier's deft handling of consumerist icons in paintings, drawings, film, and photography draws its political potency from current events.
Boshier's paintings in the 1960s explored themes of mass production and advertisement, pulling iconography from pop culture and embedding it in bright, graphic canvases. England's Glory (1961) depicts the iconic British matchbox invaded by stars and stripes, in a critique of American expansionism during this period. In Pepsi High (1962) and The Identi-Kit Man (1962), the Pepsi logo and Colgate toothpaste stripes are similarly appropriated to form critical commentaries on corporate branding identities.
In 1962, Boshier appeared in Ken Russell's documentary film Pop Goes the Easel with Pauline Boty, Peter Phillips, and Peter Blake, cementing his status as a founding figure in the British pop art movement. However, Boshier stopped painting in the 1970s to focus on other media including film, photography, collage, installation, and printmaking.
The 1980s saw Boshier returning to painting following his move to Houston. The 'Cowboy' series (1980) presents fleshy pink cowboys in the nude, set against apocalyptic cityscapes. The awkward vulnerability of the figures is contrasted against their emblematic masculinity in a playful subversion that is characteristic of Boshier's practice.
Derek Boshier is known for his long-term friendship and collaborations with David Bowie, designing cover art for Bowie's LP Lodger (1979), as well as Let's Dance (1983), which featured Boshier's painting A Darker Side of Houston (1980) projected onto Bowie's bare chest. Bowie also commissioned Boshier to design stage sets for his Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983. Boshier's influence in the punk scene saw his drawings in The Clash's 2nd Songbook (1979), with ongoing commissions from the industry throughout his career.
The impact of fame and celebrity status is further explored in Boshier's 'Chemical Culture' (2008) series of paintings depicting various celebrity archetypes disintegrating into cubist blocks. The comic book aesthetic and hard-edged figuration of his early practice are carried through into these works, where Boshier scrutinises the power of celebrity culture.
Boshier continues to make work that exposes the power of images and the ways they can be used to construct identity. Previously drawing on a proliferation of print advertising imagery, works such as the series Paris France, Paris Texas, Paris Hilton (2011) translate his ongoing concerns into the virtual realm. Paintings in this series show cartoon-like iPhone screens cascading through space, in a reference to the spectacle of 24/7 digital media exposure. Boshier's socially responsive artworks reveal his engagement with contemporary politics and culture—gun rights, Trumpism and K-pop are all fair game for his humorous critique.
In 2016, Boshier was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Art. In 2017, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Derek Boshier has been the subject of solo and group exhibitions worldwide.
Select solo exhibitions include On the Road, Gazelli Art House, London (2017); Imaginary Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London (2013); The Artist as Film Maker: Derek Boshier, British Film Institute Theatre, London (2012); Heroes and Villains, Springfield Museum of Art, Ohio (2011); 99 Cent War (Iraq): Installation and Paintings, Galerie Du Centre, Paris (2005); and Texas Works, Contemporary Arts Museum, Texas (1981).
Select group exhibitions include David Bowie is influencing your behaviour, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2013); Glam! The Performance of Style, Tate Liverpool (2013); At Work: Government Art Collection, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2011); Pop Art Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London (2007); 12th International Biennial Print and Drawing Exhibition, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan (2006); and Art and the 60s, Tate Britain, London (2004).
Derek Boshier is represented in public collections worldwide, including the British Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Peter Derksen | Ocula | 2021