Known primarily as a sculptor, Eduardo Paolozzi emerged on the British art scene in the early 1950s as a founding member of London's forward-looking Independent Group, a loose-knit organization of artists, architects, and writers focused on the impact of popular culture on modernism. Through his involvement with this group, he spearheaded radical thinking about art and mass media that fostered the development of a Pop aesthetic on both sides of the Atlantic.
Paolozzi has obsessively collected vast quantities of printed ephemera—from pulp books and magazines to engineering diagrams and weaving patterns—which served as the basis for his many collages. Although he has worked in nearly all of the printmaking techniques, and completed several hundred printed works as well as some illustrated books, he has made a particular contribution in the screenprint medium, which he revolutionized in his translations of these collages into printed art. In the 1960s, Paolozzi's experimental approach with his longstanding printer Christopher Prater of Kelpra Studio, and later with Chris Betambeau of Advanced Graphics, played a significant role in overturning established ideas about originality and collaboration in printmaking. In the 1970s and 1980s he also worked extensively in etching using an abstracted vocabulary that appeared simultaneously in prints and relief sculptures.
Among the earliest examples of Pop printmaking in England, As Is When is Paolozzi's homage to the Viennese philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose texts are judiciously excerpted on each of the book's screenprints. Wittgenstein's study of linguistic systems coincided with Paolozzi's fascination with games and influenced his approach to the repetition and juxtaposition of elements in his own vocabulary. Despite the abstract qualities of Tortured Life, the imagery clearly suggests the cinema as spools of film cascade from boxlike cameras. Paolozzi had made two films himself in the early 1950s, and Wittgenstein was a known enthusiast of American popular films.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Wendy Weitman, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 173.