Book Review: Mod Art

Author: Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson
Published by: Omnibus Press
ISBN: 978.1.78305.968.3
Price: £25
Reviewer: Dave Dry

On reviewing a book with the word ‘Mod’ in the title for an audience of the scooter faithful, the task is a little fraught, as that particular word is often a turn-off for a hard-core of what might otherwise be seen as a target audience. Indeed the casual observer invariably thinks that scooters and Mods equate to the same thing – sadly, this is far from true.

However, in the case of this volume perhaps the unbelievers in the scooter scene might give this book a go, as there’s some pertinent, interesting and valid items waiting for them inside its cover, including a whole chapter on custom scooters and the ‘prophet’ of the type – Eddy Grimstead.

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Of all the youth ‘cults’ one of the most enduring must be Modernism. This can be judged by its many endearing facets and a whole library of books surrounding the subject that include Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson’s seminal Mods the New Religion that is effectively the history, or more correctly, the Genesis of the Mod movement. We now have another volume from this prolific student of the genre in the shape of Mod Art.

Mod Art is the much heralded and long awaited sequel that is far more all-embracing than its predecessor from the point of view that it encompasses the entire stylistic constructs of this movement, removing the temporal focus from the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s for a broad brush approach to the entire development of the Mod art form from its 50s inception to the present day.

As an art book Mod Art, unsurprisingly, majors on the visual perception of its subject with a quite stunning pictorial layout – most of the images being rare, or never seen before items. The subject matter is not, of course, all confined to the ‘art for art’s sake’ depictions, but also features the notably evocative music styles that will be forever tied in with the Mod brand via, perhaps, the ground breaking Ready Steady Go on a Friday night.

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An interesting point is made in the pages of Mod Art about the overlap between music and art and even, possibly – the never before considered concept – of a similar counter textuality between the high profile and archetypical Mod steeds in the form of the Vespa or Lambretta customised scooters and their influence – unlikely as it might sound – on the future of art.

The Mod clothing style featured holds a unique, exacting and possibly ‘last trump’ of the dandy in its attention to detail and often fine tailoring both for the peacock-esque Mod male and its Mary Quant boutique-following females – a fashion high point arguably never exceeded and, obviously mentioned in both the text and in pictorial form within the pages of this book.

A major part of the Mod narrative that is highlighted is the influence of particular pop bands such as the Small Faces and The Who. These bands had the backdrop of carefully styled posters and record album sleeves advertising their presence and, not forgetting The Who’s indelible imprint on the Mod scene in the form of Quadrophenia – both the musical album and the film (despite many modern day Modernist taking a step back from the popularity the film engendered in a lifestyle that had previously been far from main stream and very elitist)!

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All-in-all, Mod Art must be recommended as an unmissable artefact for anyone with the slightest interest in both Modernism and, possibly, scooters with their closely linked, timeless classic style and appeal. Well done Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson for assembling this incomparable opus!

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