It’s about living in the now. It’s about not taking life too seriously. It’s about going out with a bang. This is pop art and it exploded through classical and traditional art. Pop art is modern, ironic and colorful with a twist of reality. While looking at pop art, instant gratification burst and it caused a release of endorphins. It’s fun, sassy, and bright. It is art with an attitude. Pop artists created their works using vivid images of everyday modern life. It was art that society could easily relate. The pop culture was able to penetrate to all levels of the society and make a connection to the highly diversified populace in this modern day culture. This paper talks about what pop art is all about, its history, and its influence to the society and consumerism.
The definition of Pop art is highly complex and complicated. Lichtenstein saw Pop art as an anti-movement that opposed and deviated from the traditional ideas of the past. Another known artist, Indiana, defined Pop art as “a U-turn back to a representational visual communication it is libertine, free, and easy with the old forms” (ArtNews). Pop Art broke free from the modern introspection of the Abstract Expressionists. It easily magnetized the modern population because it offered a new concept of doing things. It originated in the 1950s in London by a band of writers, architects and artists called the Independent Group. That group included architects Allison and Peter Smithson, writer, Lawrence Alloway and artists, Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton. “They looked out at the drear of 50s London and shuddered. They found their art world blinkered, driven back unto its own past, unwilling to address what the postwar world order meant to the creation of art in that place at that time” . Soon pop art rapidly spread to the United States where both cultures started to vastly express pop art. In fact, they would feed off each other while pop art traveled from one country to the next during World War II. One collage of pop art created by Eduardo Paolozzi, named “I Was a Rich Man’s Plaything” actually flew in between the wings of a B-52 . Pop art grew and spread so fast that even though it originated in Britain, it propagated instantly in the United States blurring the gap of the time of its influence.
Pop art was not really about the style. It was more about the collective term that described the artistic phenomena where the concrete expression became dominant. Pop art pertained to works that were able to perform a balance between the euphoric, the progress-oriented outlook, and the pessimistic, or the catastrophic prospect (Osterworld, p6). Most of the works of Pop art can be characterized by the use of vivid and multiple color tones. Evidently, the application of pop art in graphics revealed that they were made as attractive and creative as they can be. The use of color in the modern day culture portrayed realities that can be ironic, bright, and sassy.
Some of the most influential pop artists were Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Eduardo Paolozzi. Andy Warhol was a pop art legend during the 1960s. His Technicolor prints and paintings of everyday consumer goods became instant hits during that time. Another renowned artist Roy Lichtenstein, was known for his inversions of comic book paintings using the Benday dot technique where he used small dots to create an image from afar. Claes Oldenbrug was known for his larger than life sculptures of everyday items and consumer goods. Eduardo Paolozzi, another known artist, was the pioneer and forefather of pop art. His work “I Was a Rich Man’s Plaything” was considered as one of the first pieces of pop art. Viewing the works of these artists was anything but boring. They were very easy to relate to because the images on their works were things that come from the everyday activities. As Robert Indiana stated, “Pop is everything that art hasn’t been for the last two decades. It’s basically a U-turn back to the representational visual communication, moving at a break-away speedPop is a reenlistment in the worldIt is the American dream, optimistic, generous, and naïve” .
Pop art bridged the classical and hierarchical art to modern art. There was really no strong presence of social class in pop art. Instead, it was a realm of expression that many people from various society levels could relate to. Most critics thought that pop art was not art at all. However, they were proved wrong as many works of Pop art were in demand in the market where some were sold in large quantities at high prices. Because this type of art reached many people on all levels of social class, it revolutionized and created a new perspective on society This in turn was the transition to the 60s era. The 60s was a culture like no other, including rebellion, freedom of speech, activism and many other liberating ventures .
Pop art was interlaced with commercial art. As Lichtenstein put it, pop art used commercialism as their painting’s subject matter. It attracted the consumers all over the world since their arts reflected the stark reality of life. Almost all painters in the past were painting images that expressed their sense of Utopia. In Pop art though, it portrayed the threatening and barren aspect of the society and culture. The humanity’s subjects of hate were put into canvass and people appreciated them nevertheless. “Pop Art looked out into the world, it appeared to accept its environment, which was not good or bad, but different – state of mind” (ArtNews). The strong connotations expressed in the canvasses of the Pop artists, criticized as trash by the conventional art dogma, commanded high demand offered at the highest prices in the market. It was then that the art world became threatened by these works, ending up recognizing them further in the eyes of the public.
Though pop art was revolutionary in the art world and had many admirers, there were some people who felt that it was out of context when used for foundations of various consumer goods. Many critics thought pop art was frivolous and entirely too calculating. Artists were turning a new leaf in the postwar era and making a statement of expression in a new form. This form was anything but usual since it contained bold messages that was seemingly ironic and yet so real at the same time. Pop art also created a lot of materialism. Due to the massive effect of pop art it caused the products to look enticing. It drove the people to feel the need to consume more. Essentially, it was effective for the marketing and advertising as these works attracted consumers. Pop art completely revamped commercialism as the product labels affected the buying attitude of the consumers. Pop art instantly became a gold mine labeling them as materialistic and commercial art.
The emergence of Pop Art influenced the modern graphics designing. Andy Warhol, was one of the artists that started off as a commercial and graphics artist. He was an inspiration among the artists during that time as he hit it big time during his time. He took pop art to the extreme and his works of consumer goods launched a new era in branding. There was a breakthrough in product labeling and packaging due to his contributions. He was able to put a lot of creative leverage in business marketing, branding and advertising, and laid down a pathway for more opportunities for artists to express themselves while making a living. The role of the Pop artists such as Andy Warhol in the field of art is considered as vague and even unacceptable by the contemporary and traditional minded people. However, their contributions in the graphics designing were uncontestable. It was their output that was mass produced and sold to the market. These artists expressed their figurative arts through bold, novel, and innovative chromatic aesthetics (Novin).
The idea of Pop art attracted a lot of people influencing their social psyche of the society. Most people were magically drawn to them since they represent aspects about rock music, pop and beat rhythms, drug scenes, and other manifestations of the ‘underground’ and ‘subculture’. It became synonymous with having a new lifestyle for the young and new generations. This lifestyle promoted rebellion against authority, aspects of liberation, and new culture and norms in the society. Accordingly, there was an emancipaton euphoria that spread like virus that affected the young generation. Pop in the wider aspect, became the amalgam in most of the political and public activities for the leftists. It was Pop that liberated the arts from the traditional and monumental boredom, breaking free from the confines of the Abstract Expressionism and contemporary and traditional art that has been going around in an endless cycle ever since (Huyssen).
A negative impact of this art though, is that it paved way to the birth of conceptual art during the 1990’s where the art world has been filled with uncreative garbage produced all for the sake of consumerism and profit. There was a devastating impact to the art classification as various charlatans created counter culture concept trash art works. There was a virtual art scene degeneration as they were counted as part of the counter culture pop art, but they are devoid of value both in the aesthetics and figurative aspect. As Barbara Kay stated:
“Conceptual faddishness soon colonized art schools, where pranks and performance theatre replaced serious skills building”, and that, there is “an airing of the art world’s unhealthy deference to ‘an entire idea of art’that concept is all, technique nothing” (Kay).
Pop art is very close to the younger generations. There is so much realism in Pop, where its expressions closely resembled the images, objects, and various reproductions from the everyday life. It stimulated the relationship of art with life, reality and image, and new and old. There was liberation of art that has long been caged in a bourgeois society. It eliminated the historical separation of the non-aesthetic and aesthetic value reconciling art with reality. Due to these reasons, pop became profane. It was able to establish a sense of identity that was suitable of the public reception thereby deemed worthy for mass production. Pop art then became popular as they were rapidly mass produced through graphics and posted in various medium (Huyssen).
Pop art initiated a lot of new things to the society. In one of the works of Andy Warhol where he modified and reproduced the face of Marilyn Monroe through silk screen technique, he added this caption “Art thus becomes the reproduction of a reproduction”. Pop art provided a secondary reality that magnetized people to it. Doing a portrait of a mass idol turned into a cliché image printed along various media and soon penetrated the public’ awareness and consciousness. Furthermore, more artists created Pop art that society accepted as mere repetitions of art provocations. Thereafter, they were associated with product brands as images were printed on Coca-Cola bottles, soup cans, and others. The polemic works eliminated the thin line that once existed between arts from non-art. The advertising slogans of the works of Warhol made a subtle switch of ads to ideas: that was, they did not simply proclaim products, rather their reproductions were actually works of art. Pop art became a trivial representation of the daily life imagery at a face value. It had subjugated art by the rules of the capitalist society commodity production (Huyssen).
Pop art was selling millions of dollars and was even debuted in films. Society adopted this new form of art and it was well sought after by businesses for their marketing and advertisement campaigns. This was an outlet for business ventures and because they used pop art, it attracted consumers and increased their sales. Pop art became one of the general marketing basics where businesses needed to get on the wagon of what was happening during that time and use that outlet to target their audience. One enticing way to target the audience was by utilizing the ever growing epidemic of pop art. Even today, businesses such as Apple used pop artwork images to mainstream their branding. The image certainly popped as evidence that art was essential in business.
What makes things interesting is to take a simple product or thing and make it pop and then that product or thing becomes something different. It makes the normal things become exciting setting off creative wings for artists to continue their freedom of expressions. Pop art contributes highly to the elimination of the monotonous and dry aspect of life. For example, Andy Warhol created the can of beef Campbell’s soup to look so interesting by using vivid and bright colors. The whole package became enticing and totally different. Pop art leads the world into positive direction. Its influence affected the other aspects of art in various cities where sculptures are displayed. Many people who live and visit these cities use these pop art sculptures as a photo prop. The famous “Spoon Bridge with Cherry”, sculpted by Claes Oldenburg brings joy to the sculpture garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The sculpture is brilliant and bright and serves also as a bridge which makes art a working piece of construction. The cherry of the spoon is the pop factor of the sculpture. It’s the wow factor and the fact that it is on top of a spoon is the other factor that makes the whole piece amazing and truly a work of art. It inspires the imagination and sets it off to endless artistic possibilities.
All it takes is one innovator or one group to change the face of an industry forever. Nirvana changed the music industry in rocking out with the alternative song “Smells like Team Spirit”. That was it for the music industry, it was never the same after that. It was an evolution that occurred so fast, that the “hair bands” hardly knew what to do with themselves. Society can learn from the example that history is made and culture is changed when innovation exists. It’s the flame to the fire that will ignite others to create and put a little twist in what they do best. And this is exactly what pop are did, not only for the art world but for society and culture as a whole.
Pop art is more than just art. It is a revolutionary phenomenon. It creates a shift in the society rerouting the world to a different direction. It is actually an anti-tradition movement that screams for total expression. Today it is pop culture. It’s the type of society that is in full force of expression with not much limitation. Humor, art, and storylines of the media represent a philosophy of meaning covered in pop art. The way society expresses itself is nothing much of traditional but the meaning is still there. Pop culture is pop art’s baby all grown up and with modern day practices, there has been a spin in a new direction. Artists still use these concepts of irony in expression, trying to catch the viewer off guard so that it becomes different and more powerful. Sometime, there is a need to catch the society off guard. People need a shocking factor that would make them look twice and realize that they have been captivated. It is what society today desires .
Life and art is not about money and fame. It’s about expression and honesty. Pop art is actually a rebellion against Abstract Expressionism. Abstract Expressionism is considered as an arrogant form of art, which is fairly typical. It is an art form that is very refined and not so easily accessible. Artists need a breakthrough to express themselves without being classically trained or having lots of financial backing. Pop art is more than just about the economic purposes. It revolutionized art due to significant reasons. The evolution of the Pop art accelerated after the war as most people focus on the postwar aspects of the culture, fashion, and social mobility. It served as a pivotal period that reshaped the contemporary world of art giving way to the complicated modern art styles. These modern art styles were highly interlaced with commercialism as the mass consumerism was at early stage of stardom. Many of the Pop Arts were published in magazines and other papers that further escalated its fame. Despite the critic’s mockery of calling these works as inconceivable art works, the prices for the Pop Art works continued to soar. Pop was then viewed as part of the consumer terms, equating hem as cultural commodity revealing the society’s buying styles (Doss).
In essence it has been discovered how pop art was and still is revolutionizing and very alive in today’s culture. The same concept applies when dealing with static positions in life, the one way to put some life into anything stagnant is to do something different and something positive. The origin of pop art and how it came to be is historical in providing society with an outlet in almost any critical time. Many artists can embrace pop art for every positive aspect it has to offer and use that to their benefit for the ultimate creative experience. The infamous role models and pop artists will live on forever and stand strong in their contributions to society and the art world. It’s always good to have something that pops in life because pop is positive.
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