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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Pop Art Movement

Pop Art, visual arts movement of the 1950s and 1960s, principally in the United States and Britain. The images of pop art (shortened from “popular art”) were taken from mass culture. Some artists duplicated beer bottles, soup cans, comic strips, road signs, and similar objects in paintings, collages, and sculptures.

Others incorporated the objects themselves into their paintings or sculptures, sometimes in startlingly modified form. Materials of modern technology, such as plastic, urethane foam, and acrylic paint, often figured prominently. One of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century, pop art not only influenced the work of subsequent artists but also had an impact on commercial, graphic, and fashion design.

The historical antecedents of pop art include the works of Dadaists (see Dada) such as the French artist Marcel Duchamp, as well as a tradition, in U.S. painting of the 19th and early 20th centuries, of trompe l'oeil pictures and other depictions of familiar objects. Moreover, a number of pop artists had at times earned their living by working as commercial artists.

The pop art movement itself, however, began as a reaction against the abstract expressionist style of the 1940s and 1950s, which the pop artists considered overly intellectual, subjective, and divorced from reality. Adopting the goal of the American composer John Cage—to close the gap between life and art—pop artists embraced the environment of everyday life.

In using images that reflected the materialism and vulgarity of modern mass culture, they sought to provide a perception of reality even more immediate than that offered by the realistic painting of the past. They also worked to be impersonal—that is, to allow the viewer to respond directly to the object, rather than to the skill and personality of the artist. Occasionally, however, an element of satire or social criticism of pop art can be discerned.

In the United States, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns provided the initial impetus—Rauschenberg with his collages constructed from household objects such as quilts and pillows, Johns with his series of paintings depicting American flags and bull's-eye targets.

The first full-fledged pop art work was Just What Is It That Makes Today's Home So Different, So Appealing? (1956, private collection) by the British artist Richard Hamilton. In this satiric collage of two ludicrous figures in a living room, the pop hallmarks of exuberance, incongruity, crudeness, and good humor are emphasized.

Pop Art developed rapidly during the 1960s. In 1960 the British artist David Hockney produced Typhoo Tea (London, Kasmin Gallery), one of the earliest paintings to portray a brand-name commercial product. In the same year Johns finished his painted cast bronzes of Ballantine beer cans.

In 1961Claes Oldenburg, an American, constructed the first of his garish, humorous plastic sculptures of hamburgers and other fast-food items. At the same time Roy Lichtenstein, another American, extended the range of pop art with his oil paintings that mimic blown-up frames of comic strips. Several pop artists also produced happenings, or theatrical events staged as art objects.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter