Artworks
Master of the Universe
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rzarlif's picture

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Master of the Universe is Paolozzi’s tribute to the heroic X-Man Cyclops, a.k.a Scott, whose radiation-induced mutation gave him a devastating optical ray.

With the benefit of a special visor, which makes him look like the one-eyed Greek god Cyclops, and a little practice he learns to control this special power. With a gaggle of other mutants led by Professor X, Cyclops uses his special power for the benefit of humanity, in a period of great anti-mutant sentiment. The movies are almost as good as the comics.

Art historians would have us believe this sculpture was inspired by poet/painter William Blake's painting of Isaac Newton. Blake hated Newton’s efforts to measure and order the world, with his laws of motion, calculus, and other rubbish. All this constrained the human spirit. He wasn't just anti-science though, Blake also hated organized religion for pretty the same reasons.

Sure, Master of the Universe has some similarities to Blake’s famous painting of Newton – both have a muscular man crouched over a compass in great concentration. But Master has the one-eye visor to avoid blasting the compass to smithereens. His body is held together by steel brackets, bolts, and pins – clearly he’s a post-Hiroshima mutant. Plus, Paolozzi loved science fiction and particle accelerators, far more than he did museums and art galleries.

The crouching figure looks vulnerable and surprisingly human despite his giant size and all the metalwork holding him together. Maybe the optical blast power comes at a price. The sad figure could be mourning his myopic a view of the world, where measurement and rationality prevail over imagination and spirit.