Space, Speed, Sex by James Holland-Hibbert

An extract from the catalogue for the exhibtion Space, Speed, Sex: Works from the early 1960s by Gerald Laing at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London, 2006.

Drag racers, film starlets and skydivers were subjects I found very useful at this time, because they were all excellent example of individuals formalised and rendered heroic by their accoutrements.
Gerald Laing quoted in exhibition catalogue, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

It was perhaps inevitable that Gerald Laing should have moved to New York after his graduation from London's St MArtin's School of Art in 1963. He had shown a profound interest in the subject matter of the American Dream and the popular imagery that attracted his attention was indeed more closely associated with AMerican rather than British Pop. His depictions of female starlets and bikini babes, male astronauts, skydivers and racing drivers represented the spirit of the time and it was a change of attitude that revoltionised his paonting from 'the peeling stucco of wartime neglect'. These images derived from mass-media sources that were pure Pop.

However, although his Pop phasecoincided exactly with the years that he ws living in New York, Laing was always a British Pop artist. America might have been the catalyst but Laing's inclusion in an exhibition of Contemporary British Painting and Sculpture at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, in autumn 1964, confirmed his close association with the London group of artists, that included Boshier, Hockney, Jones, Kitaj, Philips and Tilson. These young contemporaries shared a common approach to a movement that was both exciting and 'of the moment' and this was depicted in a subject matter that often overlapped with each other. Laing's works might resemble the 'Ben-Day' dots and enlarged half-tone reproductions of Roy Lichtenstein but his black dots, which were painted and not stencilled, juxtaposed with areas of flat colour were entirely independent and generated in London. If anything, Laing's link with American Pop was more relevant to the silk-screen paintings of the media-consumed stars that were later produced by Andy Warhol.

The title for this exhibition, Space, Speed, Sex, derived from the name of a performance event that the artist put on at the Slade in 1964. It summed up the age and happy-go-lucky attitude to everything sexy and everything fast. The work matched the cultural impact of the early 1960s and acted as a perfect counterpart to what was happening at the time.