A couple of enterprising New Yorkers are attempting to do for the Crayola crayon and the seviceable Ticonderoga yellow pencil what artist Andy Warhol did for the Campbell's tomato soup can: They want to give them class and permanence, through artful replication in blown-up sizes, but at a fraction of Mr. Warhol's prices.
Partners Robert Malkin and Phyllis Prinz are now offering as "pop sculpture" a crayon 59 inches tall and a yellow pencil 70 inches high. Both not only look but feel like the real objects they reproduce. Fancy too, a five-foot long toothbrush with real bristles, a giant golf ball eight inches in diameter, and a 54-inch long tennis racquet, all especially superscaled for home and office decoration. Other outsized reproductions, true in every detail, include such familiar household and office items as a huge can opener, a wire mesh strainer, a paperclip, and a memo pad.
The partners say their sculptures are simply a new aspect of the pop art movement that has been around since the 1960s. "Pop art was originally supposed to be for the masses and sell at affordable prices," Robert Malkin says, "but it immediately became an expensive, elitist thing. But the pop artist is still here. And a popular market is still here for our price range of $3.50 to $165. With the return to realism in all phases of art, pop representations are very timely."
Mr. Malkin brings an industrial back-ground, as a manufacturer, to the business. Phyllis Prinz, who was with one of the country's leading art publishers, contributes her skill as an artist. They sell their giant pop sculpture, produced for them by 15 or more manufacturers, only through their own Pop/Eye Gallery at 130 Thompson Street in New York's SoHo art neighborhood or by mail, with a catalog available for $1. The title of their shop and their production company simply means, they say, "that we have an eye for pop art."
Both consider their three-dimensional sculpture an alternative to the framed two-dimensional posters and prints that have long been the decorative standby of people who must decorate on a tight budget. It also gives people a choice between very small, as seen in the fascination with miniatures, and very big, as demonstrated in their ultra-sized pop pieces, which are produced by modern industrial technology but expertly crafted. "It is when objects are turned out of scale that people reperceive them and that they take on a whole 'other' character," Mr. Malkin explains.
The partners hope their pop sculpture will be perceived as witty and as fun to have around. They have observed that most people buy a piece that reminds them of their childhood or of their work. Lawyers and judges, for instance, love the giant gavel. Writers like the big pads, and accountants choose the tall-as-a-man pencils. Homemakers fill the enormous white cup and saucer with fruits or flowers as a dining table centerpiece.
Phyllis Prinz and Robert Malkin refer to their pop products as nonserious and nonprecious art, which is made in multiples. Mr. Malkin says the giant crayon, standing rakishly in the corner of any room or office, never fails to bring a smile to people's faces. He thinks the world could use a little more "laughable" art.
Although the Pop/Eye partners developed most of their items to sell on an exclusive basis themselves, the giant kitchen utensils they show are part of the Great Gourmet Group of accessories made by Artisan House of Los Angeles. The outsized whisk, can opener, and metal strainer are customer favorites, not only at Pop/Eye in New York, but at numerous other outlets across the country, including Marshall Field's in Chicago and May Company stores in the West.