Barney Bubbles: rare and influential

Admirers of the late great Barney Bubbles have two shows to enjoy this month: a selection of one-off specially-commissioned pieces by the designer are on display at Paul Smith’s Albemarle St shop in London while Graham Wood has a show of prints inspired by one of Bubbles’ posters for Oz magazine at Red Gallery

Admirers of the late great Barney Bubbles have two shows to enjoy this month: a selection of one-off specially-commissioned pieces by the designer are on display at Paul Smith’s Albemarle Street shop in London while Graham Wood has a show of prints inspired by one of Bubbles’ posters for Oz magazine at Red Gallery

The Paul Smith show features some rarely seen furniture and abstract paintings by Bubbles, including The Electric Plug Desk (1981), complete with plug-shaped stool, shown top, and The Vinyl Mogul (1980), an abstract oil on canvas portrait of maverick music business entrepreneur Jake Riviera (founder Stiff Records, manager of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe), signed with the pseudonym ‘Jacuzzi Stallion’.

 

The Rebel (1981), inspired by the Tony Hancock film of the same name, signed with the pseudonym Sal 81.

 

Also included in the show are two posters, created with ‘Sid Squeak’ and others, for Oz magazine in 1968 – Demand Can Be Destroyed and Existence is Unhappiness

 

The latter inspired designer Graham Wood to make a series of prints titled Magick is Freedom! (after Barney Bubbles) which will be on show at London’s Red Gallery until June 20.

In an interview with Barney Bubbles biographer Paul Gorman, Wood explains that what drew him to the original was its “Exuberance, richness, single-mindedness, love, vibrancy, mystery, magic. Life.”

However, he goes on to say that “I’m not a massive fan of Bubbles’ entire output. Yes, Existence Is Unhappiness is easily among my five favourite graphic things, but I’m not sure he would be in my top 10 designers (as if anyone cares but anyway…).

That said, his diversity is amazing, his lack of conceit or (visual) prejudice, his willingness to explore beyond known realms, to seemingly allow an aesthetic to grow, arise out of a situation rather than necessarily be imposed on it . . . his ability to create things that transcend. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

 

 

Barney Bubbles x Sir Paul Smith is at Paul Smith, 9 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BL. Photos: Nina Sologubenko

Magick is Freedom! (After Barney Bubbles) is at Red Gallery, Rivington St, London EC2, until June 20

 

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