Sunday, 19 June 2016

Swop Shop ┃Jo Brocklehurst (1970)



I think a lot of us can identify with this one, most couples have probably borrowed an item or two from each others wardrobe at some point in a relationship, or failing that, will have at least shopped for ourselves in the clothing departments of the opposite sex on occasion, either way, I love these illustrations from The Boyfriend book (1970). But what really interests me about them is the illustrator's name, it's signed as Brocklehurst, the signature runs vertically up along the girl's right trouser leg, the print is very small, so i've enlarged it in the third scan for your perusal, because the only artist that I am familiar with who worked under that name is Jo Brocklehurst—most widely acclaimed as chronicler of subcultures and nightclub life in the 1970s and 1980s. Anyone who is aware of her output from that period will know that the work is completely different to what you see here, it's much rawer and in a similar vein to that of Egon Schiele. I can actually remember the first time that I came across it, I was still in school at that stage, but from one singular image I knew instantly that whoever this person was—they definitely had their finger on the pulse of life outside the mainstream, and immediately wrote the name on the inside of my art folder for future reference (I still have it btw, see final photograph). 

If you Google search Jo Brocklehurst online, the only images which regularly show up are the drawings from the punk and club scene crowd of the 1980s, even though she had a long career prior to that ever since graduating from art college as a teenager, first working as a commercial artist before moving into fashion illustration and then lecturing later in life, while continuing to work on personal projects throughout. According to her close friend and muse Isabelle Bricknall, she had in fact documented the emerging bohemian/counterculture scene in London as far back as the 1960s, and had been drawing people in clubs since the 1950s before that. I've never actually seen any examples, these illustrations from 1970 are the earliest representations that I am personally aware of to date. Apparently, she was in the process of curating a museum of her own work at her home in Westbere Road towards the end of her life, but since her death in 2006 the ownership of much of it has been the subject of an ongoing legal dispute, and the rest are scattered amongst friends.

As a prolific artist who worked constantly over a 50 year period, documenting subculture from within the epicentre of each scene as it was actually happening from decade to decade, I think this unknown work sounds like it has the makings of a really interesting retrospective on many levels.  And now more so than ever before, because so much has changed in London over the past ten years as we increasingly move further away from the uniqueness of these eras in all respects with each passing day. While researching material for this post, the same information turned up time after time, she was a very private individual judging by any of the accounts given, which sadly, were mainly via obituaries written shortly after her death, with the exception of one in depth article by Tom Jenkins for Vice UK last year. However, I decided to have a last look for current news articles and I'm pleased to say that i've found one! There is a forthcoming exhibition at The Gallery Liverpool featuring the work of Jo Brocklehurst and photographer Sheila Rock later this year, it's called Typical Girls and runs from the 19th of August - 4th September, 2016.

She will borrow...his knee-length socks, his watch, his black trousers, his tie (worn squaw-like round her head), his troubadour shirt, and in mad moments, will dab his aftershave behind her ears. 

The artist's signature (1970).

Jo Brocklehurst's signature on the front of a poster which advertised an exhibition of her London Drawings in 1984―it's almost identical to the example from 14 years earlier. I can also see some traces of similarity in the execution of the facial features between this girl and the chap from 1970 below.

He will borrow...her hairdryer, her rollers, her belt with enormous buckle, her waistcoat, her boots, and no one will recognize it as being hers!

 Jo Brocklehurst in Rome, 1966. Photo courtesy of Fershid Bharucha. 

My old school art folder with the insert of Jo's name in the bottom right corner, which I'd written on the inside on the day that I first discovered her (as mentioned earlier). The folder itself is in pretty shabby condition these days and showing signs that it is on the way to falling apart, but there's still a lot of Bowie on there, along with David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Steve Strange, Edwyn Collins & Eddie Cochran, amongst others.

All images scanned for the Sweet Jane blog from the Boyfriend book 1970. All illustrations by Jo Brocklehurst. Art Folder photograph by Sweet Jane. Remembering Jo Brocklehurst, the Artist Who Documented London's 1980s Anarcho-Punk Squatters. Discover more about the artist Egon Schiele. Read an excerpt from Sex and Unisex: Fashion Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution by Jo B. Paoletti on Pop Matters and visit Gender Mystique the author's blog. The New York Dolls rocking some outfits from Biba in 1973.  The white dress Mick Jagger wore for the 1969 Rolling Stones' Hyde Park concert epitomised the swinging Sixties, says Mick Brown. You'll find fashion & anti-fashion, street style and much more on the excellent Ted Polhemus in the 21st Century. Shapers of the 80s - British youth culture at its finest. View His and Hers—the 2010 exhibition exploring the relationship between gender and fashion over the past 250 years which is still available to view on the FIT archive. And finally, Where Were You? Dublin Youth Culture & Street Style 1950-2000 by Garry O'Neill.

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