Art Styles: Pop Art

Roy Lichtenstein benday dots pop art painting" M-Maybe"Pop Art appeared in the 1950’s and endured through to the 1960’s. Pop Art celebrated simple every day objects such as soup cans, soap, washing powder, pop bottles, and comic strips, and in effect, turned commonplace items into icons. Pop Art was directly influenced by Dadaism in that it pokes fun at the traditional art world by using images from the streets and supermarkets, and suggesting that they are art forms in themselves. Pop Art encompasses definitions of the popular, the expendable, the mass produced, the young, witty and sexy, and the glamorous.

The term pop art is an abbreviation of the artistic movement ‘popular art,’ which was first used by Lawrence Alloway, an English Critic. The Independent Group (IG), founded in London in 1952, is regarded as the precursor to the pop art movement. They were a gathering of young painters, sculptors, architects, writers and critics who were challenging prevailing modernist approaches to culture as well as traditional views of Fine Art.

The group discussions centered around popular culture implications from such elements as mass advertising, movies, product design, comic strips, science fiction and technology. Pop art emerged in the 1950’s in Britain and became one of the major artistic movements of the twentieth century. Pop art caught on in America in the early 1960’s and tended to be used in advertisements and comic books.

Andy Warhol pop art display of "Brillo Pads"Pop art is widely interpreted as either a reversal or reaction to Abstract Expressionism or an expansion upon it. Pop Art aimed to employ images of popular culture as opposed to elitist culture in art, often emphasizing kitsch and thus targeted a broad audience. It was easy to understand, easy to recognize because it was iconic and accessible to the mass public. Pop art is sometimes considered to be very academic and unconventional, but it was always easy to interpret.

Pop artists also liked to satirize objects, sometimes enlarging those objects to gigantic proportions. Pop Art merged the divide between the fine arts with the media and advertising commercial arts, a divide that had been prominent for hundreds of years making pop art a major success. Pop art had the ability to look glamorous and polished even though it was massed produced and relevantly low cost but this added to the beauty of it. It captured the changes in society; the enormous economic growth and instant Hollywood success with celebrities.

Andy Warhol was an American artist and a central figure of the pop art movement. Not only was Warhol very successful as an artist but he was also talented at writing and producing records and films, however it was Warhol’s paintings that made him so famous worldwide. His painting of Campbell’s soup tin which was used for a commercial has become extremely well known and praised along with his screen-print of Marilyn Monroe which reflects Warhol’s own insight on American fame and stardom.

Of equal importance to American pop art is Roy Lichtenstein (his work is shown at top of page). Lichtenstein's work probably defines the basic premise of pop art better than any other through parody. Selecting the old-fashioned comic strip as subject matter, Roy Lichtenstein produces a hard-edged, precise composition that documents while it parodies in a soft manner. The paintings of Lichtenstein, like those of Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and others, share a direct attachment to the commonplace image of American popular culture, but also treat the subject in an impersonal manner clearly illustrating the idealization of mass production.

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