Pop Art - Art for the Masses

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

Pop Art can be called art 'for the masses'. The artistic style known as 'Pop-Art' began in New York and London in the mid 1950's. The term itself was coined by British art critic, Lawrence Alloway. It is a style characterized by the use of common, everyday imagery, and bold, vibrant colors. Common sources of Pop Art iconography included advertisements, consumer products, comic strips, and celebrity photos. As a style, its intent was to narrow the divide between the commercial arts and fine arts.

Pop Art's Origins

The movement was, in general, a British and American cultural phenomenon of the late 1950's and early 60's.  Americans Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Claes Oldenburg, as well as Britons David Hockney and Peter Blake, were the early masters of the style. Pop Art represented a rejection of the elitism which had, heretofore, been associated with fine arts. It was purposefully banal, kitschy, and presented subjects 'out of context'. Even so, it was generally executed with a painterly, expressive technique.

Until the mid 1950's, the thrust of mainstream art was Abstract Expressionism, though that style had not really been connecting with the general public. Pop Art, like nearly all the significant preceding art styles, was a reaction against the status quo, and the conventional seriousness of contemporary French and Italian art.

The Artists

With his silk-screen prints of Campbell's soup cans, Andy Warhol is the first name that comes to mind in the genre. But he was certainly not alone. Roy Lichtenstein’s 'magnified' comic strip paintings, using the dots and flat tones of the commercial printing technique, is quite well-known. While Claes Oldenburg’s soft plastic sculptures of mundane objects, such as bathroom fixtures, typewriters, and gigantic hamburgers, foreshadowed the 'Conceptual Art' genre, later made famous by Yoko Ono and others. Other 'Pop' artists include Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Pop Art represented a break from tradition, and was, in a way, a statement declaring that 'anything' can be art, and 'anyone' can create art. But, just as the many styles that precede it, Pop Art continues to be just as inspirational.

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