Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, and/or combined with unrelated material. The concept of pop art refers not as much to the art itself as to the attitudes that led to it.
Pop art employs aspects of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. It is widely interpreted as a reaction to the then-dominant ideas of abstract expressionism, as well as an expansion upon them. And due to its utilization of found objects and images it is similar to Dada. Pop art is aimed to employ images of popular as opposed to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any given culture, most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists' use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques.
Pop art and minimalism are considered to be art movements that precede postmodern art, or are some of the earliest examples of Post-modern Art themselves.
Pop art often takes as its imagery that which is currently in use in advertising. Product labeling and logos figure prominently in the imagery chosen by pop artists, like in the Campbell's Soup Cans labels, by Andy Warhol. Even the labeling on the shipping box containing retail items has been used as subject matter in pop art, for example in Warhol's Campbell's Tomato Juice Box 1964, (pictured below), or his Brillo Soap Box sculptures.
The origins of pop art in North America and Great Britain developed differently. In the United States, it marked a return to hard-edged composition and representational art as a response by artists using impersonal, mundane reality, irony and parody to defuse the personal symbolism and "painterly looseness" of Abstract expressionism. By contrast, the origin in post-War Britain, while employing irony and parody, was more academic with a focus on the dynamic and paradoxical imagery of American popular culture as powerful, manipulative symbolic devices that were affecting whole patterns of life, while improving prosperity of a society. Early pop art in Britain was a matter of ideas fueled by American popular culture viewed from afar, while the American artists were inspired by the experience of living within that culture.
Similarly, pop art was both an extension and a repudiation of Dadaism. While pop art and Dadaism explored some of the same subjects, pop art replaced the destructive, satirical, and anarchic impulses of the Dada movement with detached affirmation of the artifacts of mass culture. Among those artists seen by some as producing work leading up to Pop art are Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, and Man Ray. Some of the work of Alex Katz anticipated Pop art.
United Kingdom: The Independent Group
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 on popular culture implications from such elements as mass advertising, movies, product design, comic strips, science fiction and technology. At the first Independent Group meeting in 1952, co-founding member, artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi presented a lecture using a series of collages titled Bunk! that he had assembled during his time in Paris between 1947–1949. This material of "found objects" such as, advertising, comic book characters, magazine covers and various mass-produced graphics that mostly represented American popular culture. One of the images in that presentation was Paolozzi's 1947 collage, I was a Rich Man's Plaything, which includes the first use of the word "pop″, appearing in a cloud of smoke emerging from a revolver. Following Paolozzi's seminal presentation in 1952, the IG focused primarily on the imagery of American popular culture, particularly mass advertising.
Subsequent coinage of the complete term "pop art" was made by John McHale for the ensuing movement in 1954. "Pop art" as a moniker was then used in discussions by IG members in the Second Session of the IG in 1955, and the specific term "pop art" first appeared in published print in an article by IG members Alison and Peter Smithson in Arc, 1956. However, the term is often credited to British art critic/curator, Lawrence Alloway in a 1958 essay titled The Arts and the Mass Media, although the term he uses is "popular mass culture". Nevertheless, Alloway was one of the leading critics to defend the inclusion of the imagery found in mass culture in fine arts.
Although Pop Art began in the late 1950s, Pop Art in America was given its greatest impetus during the 1960s. The term "Pop Art" was officially introduced in December 1962; the Occasion was a "Symposium on Pop Art" organized by the Museum of Modern Art. By this time, American advertising had adopted many elements and inflections of modern art and functioned at a very sophisticated level. Consequently, American artists had to search deeper for dramatic styles that would distance art from the well-designed and clever commercial materials. As the British viewed American popular culture imagery from a somewhat removed perspective, their views were often instilled with romantic, sentimental and humorous overtones. By contrast, American artists being bombarded daily with the diversity of mass-produced imagery, produced work that was generally more bold and aggressive.
Two important painters in the establishment of America's pop art vocabulary were Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. While the paintings of Rauschenberg have relationships to the earlier work of Kurt Schwitters and other Dadaists, his concern was with social issues of the moment. His approach was to create art out of ephemeral materials and using topical events in the life of everyday America gave his work a unique quality. Johns' and Rauschenberg's work of the 1950s is classified as Neo-Dada, and is visually distinct from the classic American Pop Art which began in the early 1960s.
Of equal importance to American pop art is Roy Lichtenstein. His work probably defines the basic premise of pop art better than any other through parody. Selecting the old-fashioned comic strip as subject matter, Lichtenstein produces a hard-edged, precise composition that documents while it parodies in a soft manner. Lichtenstein used oil and Magna paint in his best known works, such as Drowning Girl (1963), which was appropriated from the lead story in DC Comics' Secret Hearts #83. (Drowning Girl now is in the collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York.) Also featuring thick outlines, bold colors and Ben-Day dots to represent certain colors, as if created by photographic reproduction. Lichtenstein would say of his own work: Abstract Expressionists "put things down on the canvas and responded to what they had done, to the color positions and sizes. My style looks completely different, but the nature of putting down lines pretty much is the same; mine just don't come out looking calligraphic, like Pollock's or Kline's." Pop art merges popular and mass culture with fine art, while injecting humor, irony, and recognizable imagery and content into the mix.
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. Andy Warhol is probably the most famous figure in Pop Art, in fact, art critic Arthur Danto once called Warhol "the nearest thing to a philosophical genius the history of art has produced". Warhol attempted to take Pop beyond an artistic style to a life style, and his work often displays a lack of human affectation that dispenses with the irony and parody of many of his peers.
Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine and Tom Wesselmann had their first shows in the Judson Gallery in 1959/60. In 1960 Martha Jackson showed installations and assemblages, New Media - New Forms featured Hans Arp, Kurt Schwitters, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine and May Wilson. In 1961, Oldenburg created a store for Martha Jackson's spring show Environments, Situations, Spaces. In December he showed The Store at his studio. Andy Warhol held his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles in early July 1962 at Irving Blum's Ferus Gallery where he showed 32 paintings of Campell's soup cans, one for every flavor. Warhol sold the set of paintings to Blum for $1,000; in 1996, when the Museum of Modern Art acquired it, the group was valued at $15 million.
In the 1960s Oldenburg who became associated with the Pop Art movement; created many so-called happenings, which were performance art related productions of that time. The name he gave to his own productions was "Ray Gun Theater". The cast of colleagues who appeared in his performances of included artists Lucas Samaras, Tom Wesselman, Carolee Schneemann, Oyvind Fahlstrom and Richard Artschwager, dealer Annina Nosei, art critic Barbara Rose, and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer. His first wife (1960–1970) Patty Mucha, who sewed many of his early soft sculptures, was a constant performer in his happenings. This brash, often humorous, approach to art was at great odds with the prevailing sensibility that, by its nature, art dealt with "profound" expressions or ideas. In December 1961, he rented a store on Manhattan's Lower East Side to house "The Store," a month-long installation he had first presented at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York, stocked with sculptures roughly in the form of consumer goods.
In London, the annual RBA exhibition of young talent in 1960 first showed American Pop influences. In January 1961, the most famous RBA-Young Contemporaries of all put David Hockney, the American R B Kitaj, New Zealander Billy Apple, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier, Joe Tilson, Patrick Caulfield, Peter Phillips and Peter Blake on the map - Apple designed the posters and invitations for both the 1961 and 1962 Young Contemporaries exhibitions. Hockney, Kitaj and Blake went on to win prizes at the John-Moores-Exhibition in Liverpool in the same year. Apple and Hockney travelled together to New York during the Royal College's 1961 summer break, which is when Apple first made contact with Andy Warhol - both later moved to the United States and Apple became involved with the New York pop scene.
Opening October 31, 1962, Willem de Kooning's New York art dealer, the Sidney Janis Gallery, organized the groundbreaking International Exhibition of the New Realists, a survey of new to the scene American Pop, French, Swiss, Italian New Realism, and British Pop art. The fifty-four artists shown included notably Richard Lindner, Wayne Thiebaud, Roy Lichtenstein (including his painting Blam), Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Tom Wesselmann, George Segal, Peter Phillips, Peter Blake (The Love Wall from 1961), Yves Klein, Arman, Daniel Spoerri, Christo and Mimmo Rotella. The show was seen by Martial Raysse, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely, then in New York, who were stunned by the size and the look of the American work. Also shown were Marisol, Mario Schifano, Enrico Baj and Öyvind Fahlström. Janis lost some of his abstract expressionist artists, as Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb and Philip Guston quit the gallery but gained Dine, Oldenburg, Segal and Wesselmann. Later that evening, October 31, 1962, at an opening-night soiree thrown by the wealthy collector Burton Tremaine, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Wesselmann, Rosenquist, and Indiana were all being served drinks by uniformed maids when de Kooning appeared in the doorway and was swiftly turned away by Tremaine, who ironically owned a number of de Koonings works. Rosenquist recalled that "at that moment I thought, something in the art world has definitely changed". Turning away Willem de Kooning, a respected abstract artist, proved that as early as 1962, the pop art movement began to dominate art culture in New York.
A bit earlier, on the West-coast, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine and Andy Warhol from NYC, Phillip Hefferton and Robert Dowd from Detroit; Edward Ruscha and Joe Goode from Oklahoma City, and Wayne Thiebaud from California were included in the New Painting of Common Objects show. This first Pop Art museum exhibition in America was curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum . Pop Art now was a success and was going to change the art world forever. New York followed Pasadena in 1963 when the Guggenheim Museum exhibited Six Painters and the Object, curated by Lawrence Alloway. The artists were Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol. Another pivotal early exhibition was The American Supermarket organised by the Bianchini Gallery in 1964. The show was presented as a typical small supermarket environment, except that everything in it — the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc., was created by prominent pop artists of the time, including Apple, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Wesselmann, Oldenburg, and Johns - this project was recreated as part of the Tate Gallery's Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer Culture in 2002.
By 1962, the Pop artists began to exhibit in commercial galleries in New York and Los Angeles, for some it was their first commercial one-man show. The Ferus Gallery presented Andy Warhol in Los Angeles and Ed Ruscha in 1963. In New York, the Green Gallery showed Rosenquist, Segal, Oldenburg, and Wesselmann, the Stable Gallery R. Indiana and Warhol (his first New York show), the Leo Castelli Gallery presented Rauschenberg, Johns, and Lichtenstein, Martha Jackson showed Jim Dine, and Allen Stone showed Wayne Thiebaud. By 1965–1966 after the Green Gallery and the Ferus Gallery closed the Leo Castelli Gallery represented Rosenquist, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Johns, Lichtenstein and Ruscha, The Sidney Janis Gallery represented Oldenburg, Segal, Wesselmann and Marisol, while Allen Stone continued to represent Thiebaud, and Martha Jackson continued representing Robert Indiana.
In 1968, the "Sao Paulo 9 Exhibition - Environment U.S.A.: 1957 - 1967" featured the "Who's Who" of the Pop Art Icons. It could be considered as a summation of the classical phase of the American Pop Art period.The exhibit was curated by William Seitz. The artists were Edward Hopper, James Gill, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann.
It should also be noted that while the British pop art movement predated the American pop art movement, there were some earlier American proto-Pop origins which utilized "as found" cultural objects. During the 1920s American artists Gerald Murphy, Charles Demuth and Stuart Davis created paintings prefiguring the pop art movement that contained pop culture imagery such as mundane objects culled from American commercial products and advertising design.
In Spain, the study of pop art is associated with the "new figurative", which arose from the roots of the crisis of informalism. Eduardo Arroyo could be said to fit within the pop art trend, on account of his interest in the environment, his critique of our media culture which incorporates icons of both mass media communication and the history of painting, and his scorn for nearly all established artistic styles. However, the Spaniard who could be considered the most authentically "pop" artist is Alfredo Alcaín, because of the use he makes of popular images and empty spaces in his compositions.
Also in the category of Spanish pop art is the "Chronicle Team" (El Equipo Crónica), which existed in Valencia between 1964 and 1981, formed by the artists Manolo Valdés and Rafael Solbes. Their movement can be characterized as Pop because of its use of comics and publicity images and its simplification of images and photographic compositions. Filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar emerged from Madrid's "La Movida" subculture (1970s) making low budget super 8 pop art movies and was subsequently called the Andy Warhol of Spain by the media at the time. In the book "Almodovar on Almodovar" he is quoted saying that the 1950s film "Funny Face" is a central inspiration for his work. One Pop trademark in Almodovar's films is that he always produces a fake commercial to be inserted into a scene.
In Japan, Pop Art would evolve from the nations prominent avant-garde scene. The work of Yayoi Kusama contributed to the development of pop art itself and influenced many other artists, including Andy Warhol. In the mid-1960s graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo would become one of the most successful pop artists and an international symbol for Japanese pop art. He is well known for his advertisements and creating artwork for pop culture itself, such as commissions from The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor amongst many others.
Another leading pop artist at the time was Keiichi Tanaami. Iconic characters from Japanese manga and anime have also become symbols for pop art such as Speed Racer and Astro Boy. Japanese manga and anime would also influence future pop artists such as Takashi Murakami and his superflat movement.
In Italy, Pop Art was known from 1964, and took place in different forms, such as the "Scuola di Piazza del Popolo" in Rome, with artists such as Mario Schifano, Franco Angeli, Giosetta Fioroni, Tano Festa and also some artworks by Piero Manzoni, Lucio Del Pezzo and Mimmo Rotella.
Italian Pop Art originated in 1950s culture, to be precise in the works of two artists: Enrico Baj and Mimmo Rotella, who have every right to be considered the forerunners of this scene. In fact, it was around 1958-59 that Baj and Rotella abandoned their previous careers – which might be generically defined as a non-representational genre despite being run through with post-Dadaism – to catapult themselves into a new world of images and the reflections on them which was springing up all around them. Mimmo Rotella's torn posters gained an ever more figurative taste, often explicitly and deliberately referring to the great icons of the times. Enrico Baj's compositions were steeped in contemporary kitsch, which was to turn out to be a gold mine of images and stimuli for an entire generation of artists.
The novelty lies in the new visual panorama, both inside the four domestic walls and out: cars, road signs, television, all the "new world." Everything can belong to the world of art, which itself is new. In this respect, Italian Pop Art takes the same ideological path as that of the International scene; the only thing that changes is the iconography and, in some cases, the presence of a more critical attitude to it. Even in this case, the prototypes can be traced back to the works of Rotella and Baj, both far from neutral in their relationship with society. Yet this is not an exclusive element; there is a long line of artists, from Gianni Ruffi to Roberto Barni, from Silvio Pasotti to Umberto Bignardi and Claudio Cintoli who take on reality as a toy, as a great pool of imagery from which to draw material with disenchantment and frivolity, questioning the traditional linguistic role models with a renewed spirit of "let me have fun" à la Aldo Palazzeschi.
In Belgium, Pop Art was represented by Paul Van Hoeydonck, whose sculpture Fallen Astronaut was left on the moon during one of the moon missions. Internationally recognized artists such as Marcel Broodthaers ( 'vous êtes doll? ") and Panamarenko are indebted to the Pop Art movement.
For Marcel Broodthaers the great example was George Segal. Another well-known Roger Raveel mounted a birdcage with a real live pigeon in one of his paintings. At the end of the sixties and early seventies Pop Art references disappear from the work of these artists as they adopt a more critical attitude towards America because of the Vietnam War's increasingly gruesome character. Panamarenko, however, has to this day retained the irony inherent in the Pop Art movement.
While in the Netherlands there was no formal Pop Art movement, there was a group of artists who spent time in New York during the early years of Pop Art and drew inspiration from the international Pop Art movement.
Key representatives of Dutch Pop Art are Gustave Asselbergs, Woody van Amen, Daan van Golden, Rik Bentley, Jan Cremer, Wim T. Schippers and Jacques Frenken. They had in common that they opposed the Dutch petit bourgeois mentality by creating humorous works with a serious undertone. Examples include Sex O'Clock by Woody van Amen and Crucifix / Target by Jacques Frenken.
Russia was a little slow on the Pop Art Revolution, and some of the art work that resembles the pop movement only surfaced around the early 1970s. Russia was then a Communist country and bold artistic statements were closely monitored. Russia's own version of pop art was Soviet-themed and was referred to as Sots Art. After 1991, the Communist Party lost its rule and the Russian revolution had begun, and with it came a freedom to express.
That is where pop art took on another form, epitomised by Dmitri Vrubel with his painting titled My God, help me to survive this deadly love in 1990. One may argue that the Soviet posters made in the 1950s promoting the wealth of the nation were in itself a form of pop art.