Pop Art Movement
Pop Art is a form of art that uses popular culture such as social media, music, celebrities, and other forms of modern culture by incorporating items such as magazines, soup cans and other ordinary objects. The images produced are then displayed with what some critics call humor or criticism of the art’s origin. Pop Art retaliated against the status quo of abstract expressionism. Abstract expressionism consisted of mostly non-figurative paintings that serious art lovers and museum owners classified as art. As abstract expressionism grew in fame, a need for a more realistic artwork that appealed to mainframe society and captured the attention of all grew in society. Thus, the Pop Art Movement was born and it easily overthrew Abstract Expressionism because it decreased the refined elegance required.
Pop Art derives from Dada, which is an art movement that ridiculed modern Parisian art and the political circumstances that resulted in war in Europe. Marcel Duchamp is considered to be the pioneer of Dada because he attempted to merge the gap between art and real-life by incorporating mass-produced objects in his work (Editors of Britannica, 2008). Pop Art was fun and exciting, a way for artists to use real-life objects and social media in conjunction with paintings or other art forms. The message that Pop Art gives is a response to the Pop Culture, either a sarcastic response or one of approval.
One artist who contributed greatly to the Pop Art Movement was Andy Warhol. Warhol became famous because of his ambiguous works and his explanations of the meanings behind the works. For example, one of Warhol’s famous quotes was “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” (Editors of Britannica, 2008). Instead of focusing on the beauty of art, he changed the vision of society to see beauty in the commercialism of art. His most famous art pieces consisted of repeating images continuously until the infamous image lost its allure. He even went so far as to hire people to mass produce his works which he would then sign and sell off as original pieces of work (Jones, 2013). As a result, it is very difficult for people to determine whether a piece of art signed by him is authentic or if one of his workers created it and forged Warhol’s signature. This method of creating mass pieces of art created a stir in society as some saw Warhol as an “aesthetic fraud” and others as a voice of satire against the world’s love of consumerism. Warhol’s paintings caused a stir in society because it mocked the way in which society placed value on material things. Some believed that Warhol idolized the images that he created; others believed that he detested and made fun of these very images. Regardless of which perspective is accurate, the fact that society took notice of the message and began controversial topics on Warhol’s pieces of art proves that Warhol made a social statement.
Another artist famous for Pop Art and causing a stir in mainstream American society is Robert Rauschenberg, who produced “a huge body of provocative, secretive art that questioned the cultural standards, and heterosexual norms, of the day” (Doss, 2004, p. 144). One such work of Rauschenberg that challenged the norms of society was “Odalisk”, which was a work of art consisting of naked female figures on top of a wooden leg and having a male rooster head. The message conveyed by the painting was that of a sexual and sexist fascination with the mainstream American society (Doss, 2004).
Pop Art and Originality
Pop Art in fact mocked the idea that originality and art needed were synonymous with one another. By employing people to work in his factory and reproduce many of the images that he sold, Warhol commercialized art and downgraded its elite status. Both Warhol and Rauschenberg employed the silkscreen process in their works, which enabled the artists to repeat the same image countless times using numerous colors. With the silkscreen process, when the screens are created and the artist has chosen the colors to be used in the work, the artist can spread the different ink colors evenly over the screens with a squeegee. The process makes repetitive and nearly identical images. The differences that do appear are thought to be accidental to the process instead of decisions or mistakes made by the artist (Jones, 2013). The screen created is similar to an artwork that has been manufactured instead of handmade, which seemingly detaches the artist from the work and implanting his emotions into the work. For example, in Warhol’s Marilyn’s Diptych, Warhol copies a magazine photograph of Marilyn Monroe as the subject of his painting.
In the painting, Warhol uses “broad planes of unmodulated color, and removes the three dimensional shading effect from the piece” (Jones, 2013). By using these methods, Warhol eliminates the emotion from the celebrity photograph and gives it a “flatness”, delivering an automated effect in the work (Jones, 2013). The effect is that an original icon is stripped of originality, rendering a conventional, commercialized sex symbol instead of the celebrity deity Marilyn Monroe represented to society.
Other Pop artists also mocked originality by employing common objects in their artwork, such as newspapers, wood, tires and other mundane objects. By using images from photographs, the silkscreen process and employing repetition, pop artists made art about the culture or society in which they lived, not about being original or showcasing their own thoughts.
- Pop Art is still a popular style of art because it successfully communicates the culture of the times to mainstream society. Pop Art includes artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, who challenged Abstract Expressionism by automating art works and using process that commercialized art. Though not widely respected by the art world, the popularity it has speaks to the complexities and strong messages it presents to conventional society.
Doss, E. (2004). Twentieth Century American Arts. Oxford, England: University Press.
Jones, J. (2013). Spilling the soup on Andy Warhol’s legacy. The Guardian. Retrieved fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/jul/24/andy-warhol-legacy-foundation-lawsuits.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2017). Pop Art. Retrieved fromhttps://www.britannica.com/art/Pop-art.
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