Derek Boshier: Reinventor edited by Helen Little

Holy wow, y’all, I think I fell in love, at least a little bit, with this artist here.

Even given my acknowledgement of my vulnerable state of mind at present, it was so refreshing to read of the thought processes of a person and artist so much after my own heart. Derek Boshier was born in 1937 in the United Kingdom. Post-WWII Britain was a time of social upheaval, and the then young boy was thrust from his working class background into middle class schools by government edict. Motivated by his art master to apply to art school instead of returning to his working class roots and becoming a butcher, young Derek swiftly became part of Britain’s Pop Art pantheon alongside David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Allen Jones and Peter Phillips.

A scholarship to India changed much of his worldview. Losing all the works made during this stay allowed the young man to embrace optimistic fatalism, and to begin a lifelong process of reinvention. Derek Boshier: Reinventor chronicles all this via a collection of essays and an interview that spans his entire career, accompanied by plates of most of his significant pieces (one notable exception is Airmail Letter, 1961, which is mentioned more than once in the text, making its exclusion something of a puzzle.) It is utterly fascinating to watch his evolution as an artist, from Pop to sculpture to film and back to paint again, and from criticizing the American influence on Britain to criticizing the myth of America from its very heartland.

But this is not an artist who pontificates from on high. His work always, always comes with a keen eye on and sympathy for contemporary political and social movements and events. This is a man who cares deeply about society and is also starkly aware of his own place in contributing to the ongoing global conversation. This sense of responsibility infuses his works, especially his earliest and latest ones, with a satisfying symmetry that only brings more meaning to what’s essentially a retrospective of his career.

Launched in conjunction with not one but two exhibits in England — a solo exhibition at London’s Gazelli Art House (through November 18,) and a survey exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (through January 21 2024)– this book deftly captures the spirit of a fascinating artist. I freely admit that the pdf review copy of this book that I received does not do justice to the art itself: I had to look up images on the Internet to get a better handle on the colors, especially, used in his works. Aside: the Gazelli Art House graciously invited me to come to their exhibit’s opening if I was in town which, let me tell you, made me miss London even more than I usually do!

That said, I’m certain that the final physical book will be visually arresting. It’s well worth it for the behind-the-scenes photography and riveting essays and interview alone.

Derek Boshier: Reinventor edited by Helen Little will be published February 22 2024 by Lund Humphries and is available for pre-order from all good booksellers, including

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