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What Defines Pop Art

Pop art as one of the most recognizable art movements of the 20th century emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Britain and the United States.

Pop Art challenged the traditional notions of art by incorporating elements of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books, celebrities, and everyday objects.

Pop art was an extension of Dadaism. Pop art and Dadaism explored some of the same subjects, however, pop art replaced the destructive, satirical, and anarchic impulses of the Dada movement with a detached affirmation of the artifacts of mass culture.

Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963
Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

Pop art was a reaction and an expansion to the dominant style of abstract expressionism, which was seen as too elitist and detached from reality. Pop art artists wanted to make art more accessible, fun, and relevant to contemporary society.

Pop art is characterized by bright colors, bold shapes, and simple compositions. It often uses techniques such as collage, silkscreen printing, and appropriation to create striking images that are both familiar and ironic.

Pop art is important because it reflects the cultural and social changes that occurred in the post-war era. It also influenced many other artistic movements and genres, such as postmodernism, conceptual art, graffiti, and street art.

Pop art is still relevant today, as it inspires many contemporary artists and designers who use pop culture references in their works. Pop art also appeals to a wide audience, as it connects with their everyday experiences and emotions.

Pop art as a movement presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular and mass culture, such as advertising, comic books, and mundane mass-produced objects.

Pop art utilizes found objects and images, it is similar to Dada. Pop art is considered to be one of the art movements that precede postmodern art.

Pop art uses images of popular culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any culture, most often through the use of irony.

In pop art, the material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, or combined with unrelated material. It's also associated with the artists' use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques.

Pop Art Origins

Although both British and American pop art began during the 1950s, Marcel Duchamp and others in Europe like Francis Picabia and Man Ray predate the movement in utilizing "as found" cultural objects.

During the 1920s, American artists Patrick Henry Bruce, Gerald Murphy, Charles Demuth, and Stuart Davis prefigured the Pop Art movement by creating paintings that contained mundane objects culled from American commercial products and advertising design.

The origins of Pop art in North America developed differently from those in Great Britain. In the United States Pop artists used impersonal, mundane reality, irony, and parody

as a return to hard-edged composition and representational art.

By contrast, Pop art in post-war Britain employed irony and parody in a more academic style, actually, Early pop art in Britain was a matter of ideas fueled by American popular culture when viewed from afar.

British pop artists were inspired by the dynamic, paradoxical imagery, and powerful symbolic devices of American pop culture that were affecting whole patterns of life after World War II.

Amongst the early artists that shaped the pop art movement were Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton in Britain, and Larry Rivers, Ray Johnson, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns among others in the United States.

One of the collages in that presentation was Paolozzi's I Was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947), which includes the first use of the word "pop", appearing in a cloud of smoke emerging from a revolver.

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. Their group discussions centered on pop culture implications from elements such as mass advertising, movies, product design, comic strips, science fiction, and technology.

According to the son of John McHale, the term "pop art" was first coined by his father in 1954 in conversation with Frank Cordell, although other sources credit its origin to British critic Lawrence Alloway.

The term "popular mass culture" is often credited to British art critic/curator Lawrence Alloway for his 1958 essay titled The Arts and the Mass Media.

"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 the article "But Today We Collect Ads" by IG members Alison and Peter Smithson in Ark magazine in 1956.

Pop Art Examples

Pop art often takes imagery that is currently in use in advertising, in 1964, Warhol used the labels of Campbell's Soup Cans and the labeling on the outside of Campbell's Tomato Juice shipping box as subject matter in pop art.

Some of the most famous examples of pop art are Andy Warhol’s "Campbell’s Soup Cans1", Roy Lichtenstein’s "Whaam", and Richard Hamilton’s "Just What is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? 3". These works use images from popular culture to comment on consumerism, media, and identity.

Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup I, 1968
Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup I, 1968

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