Pop Art: The young and fun move­ment

Pop Art cel­e­brates com­mon ob­jects and ev­ery­day life. It is young, fun, en­er­getic, im­per­ti­nent and ir­rev­er­ent to­wards es­tab­lished art. It chal­lenges fine art tra­di­tions and draws its in­spi­ra­tion from pop­u­lar and com­mer­cial cul­ture such as ad­ver­tis­ing, news

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - By Mona Iskdan­dar

The move­ment started in Bri­tain in the mid 1950s and the U.S. fol­lowed soon af­ter, adopt­ing it and mak­ing it its own. In Europe, it was a re­volt against the tra­di­tional view of what art should be, and young artists felt that gal­leries and mu­se­ums did not rep­re­sent them or what was hap­pen­ing around them. Also, un­der­neath there is crit­i­cism of con­sumer cul­ture that de­vel­oped in the US af­ter World War II, and a re­jec­tion of the Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ist move­ment that was dom­i­nant in both Europe and Amer­ica.

Pop Art, nick­named “Ma­te­rial Cul­ture’ de­picts the visual world around us. Also re­ferred to as ‘the Amer­i­can dream, op­ti­mistic, gen­er­ous, naïve’, it brings iden­ti­fi­able ob­jects that ev­ery­man can un­der­stand. By us­ing un­emo­tional sub­jects and items, artists moved away from per­sonal feel­ings in art, re­plac­ing it with irony, hu­mour and wit.

The strong­est in­flu­ence on Pop Art is Mar­cel Duchamp (1887-1968), who broke the bar­rier be­tween art and our sur­round­ings with his ready ob­jects like the bi­cy­cle wheel and the uri­nal, which he ti­tled ‘Foun­tain’.

The Bri­tish Pop artist Richard Hamil­ton (1922- 2011) is be­lieved to be the first to use the term Pop Art. He de­fined the move­ment to a friend in 1957 as: “Pop Art is: Pop­u­lar (de­signed for a mass au­di­ence), Tran­sient (short-term so­lu­tion), Ex­pend­able (eas­ily for­got­ten), Low cost, Mass pro­duced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gim­micky, Glam­orous, Big busi­ness.”

The dif­fer­ence be­tween Pop Art in the U.S. and Europe is that the lat­ter is less a re­flec­tion

of the con­sumer so­ci­ety but bears the scars of its past. The Bri­tish move­ment started by satiris­ing Amer­i­can con­sumerism, when the Euro­peans were still suf­fer­ing from the af­ter war aus­ter­ity. Though slightly en­vi­ous, they ad­mired Amer­ica’s free­dom from the bur­den of Europe’s her­itage.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) per­son­i­fies Pop Art, and is prob­a­bly its best-known artist. He is fa­mous for his multi-coloured por­traits of celebri­ties, of Coca Cola bot­tles and of Camp­bell’s soup cans, some­times repli­cated to fill the wall like on su­per­mar­ket shelves. He would say that art is not dif­fer­ent from a soup can, as they both can be bought and sold.

Warhol orig­i­nally worked as a com­mer­cial artist, and his im­agery is de­rived from ad­ver­tis­ing, comic books, tele­vi­sion, and cin­ema. He was fas­ci­nated with the ba­nal, like soup cans, soap car­tons or Coca Cola bot­tles. He would metic­u­lously paint them and wanted all his paint­ings to be the same size, ex­plain­ing: “I think ev­ery paint­ing should be the same size and the same colour so they’re all in­ter­change­able and no­body thinks they have a bet­ter or worse paint­ing.” By putting the glam­orous Mar­i­lyn next to a soup can was his way of crit­i­cis­ing Amer­i­can ob­ses­sion with star­dom. The great­ness of Amer­ica for him is that poor peo­ple and the rich­est buy the same prod­uct, both pres­i­dent and bum con­sume Coca Cola.

Warhol’s work was pro­duced in an im­per­sonal, me­chan­i­cal man­ner, call­ing his stu­dio ‘The Fac­tory’ where an army of helpers worked. He is known for ex­pres­sions like:” I am a deeply su­per­fi­cial per­son,” and, “art should be mean­ing­ful in the most su­per­fi­cial way”.

Roy Licht­en­stein’s (1923-1997) paint­ings pro­vide another pic­ture of con­tem­po­rary U.S. cul­ture. He de­rived his sub­jects from comic books, us­ing com­mer­cial meth­ods, strong colours and black out­lines. His paint­ings were filled with small ma­chine cre­ated dots that were used in print­ing comics. There is hu­mour and satire in his work, leav­ing no place for emo­tions.

Claes Olden­burg (1929) was born in Swe­den but now lives and works in the U.S. He makes sculp­ture, es­pe­cially soft plas­tic ob­jects like cig­a­rette tips, type­writ­ers and the fa­mous gi­gan­tic ham­burger. Like other Pop artists, Claes was in­ter­ested in con­sumer goods, say­ing:” I am for Kool art, 7UP art, Pepsi art, Sun­shine art, 39 Cent art. . .”. He played with the size of ob­jects like recre­at­ing huge spoons or cake slices or clothes­pins, re­flect­ing:” I like to take a sub­ject and de­prive it of its func­tion com­pletely”, and by play­ing with its scale, he de­stroys its use­ful­ness.

Some Pop Artists want to show the su­per­fi­cial­ity and ex­cesses of mod­ern so­ci­ety, oth­ers recog­nise it as a fact, while some crit­i­cise its dis­re­gard of tra­di­tion. Though it was not al­ways taken se­ri­ously, it even­tu­ally gained ac­cep­tance be­cause of its eas­ily un­der­stood im­ages. Its pro­po­nents saw it as demo­cratic, while its re­jecters con­sider it vul­gar and sen­sa­tional, with­out depth or aes­thetic qual­i­ties. Pop Art is still pop­u­lar be­cause it re­lates to our cul­ture, is demo­cratic, and not elit­ist.

Andy Warhol “Mar­i­lyn” – 1967

Jasper Johns “Tar­get with four faces” – 1968

Andy Warhol “Nina Jack­ies” – 1964

Roy Lincht­en­stein “Girl in Win­dow” – 1964

Al­lan D’ar­can­gelo “Madona & Child” – 1963

Claes Olden­burg “Giant Fa­gends” - 1967

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