Television and art are not often regarded as being remotely in the same league, but the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is proving the influence that avant-garde art had on television in its nascent years. Organised together with the Jewish Museum in New York and the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, ‘Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television’ pulls together two cherished pillars of American culture.
Spanning the late 1940s to the mid 1970s, the exhibition presents how American television took on a modernist aesthetic as its inspiration. Over 250 fine art objects and examples of graphic design, including works from artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Saul Bass, Roy Lichtenstein and Georgia O’ Keeffe, stand alongside television memorabilia, clips and ephemera from iconic television series and shows, such as The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and even The Twilight Zone. From the Pop Art aesthetics reflected in early Batman epsiodes to Op Art-esque commercials for Kodak and sets for The Ed Sullivan Show, the connections are rather unexpected, to say the least.
In addition to a showing of early advertising, which still exude an exciting quality and were revolutionary at the time, the exhibition also highlights the ‘New Advertising’ revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, where Andy Warhol and Ben Shahn created advertising and commercial campaigns for CBS.
And finally, to prove just how entwined television and art were in popular culture, the exhibition also documents how artists like Salvador Dali, Willem de Kooning, Ray Eames and Marcel Duchamp became household names, thanks to television appearances that were broadcast nationwide. A series of rare TV clips forms part of the experience.