Archive for the ‘Pop Art’ Category

The Pop Art Movement

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


Pop Art, born slightly after the Abstract Expressionist movement, is seen by many as both a reaction and an expansion on the ideas which that movement was presenting.  The idea of Pop Art is one which seeks to challenge traditional approaches to art. The definition of Pop Art maintains that when an artist uses an image or theme that is a mass-produced quantity, their work is still valid and should be classified as Fine Art because they are removing any of the original meaning from the context and are making a unique statement with the materials which they use.  The entire idea behind Pop Art does not relate so much to the art itself as to the attitudes of the artists about the pieces.

Pop Art has roots with Pop Music as well, with the movement toward expressing popular ideas and beliefs instead of the more traditional elitist views toward beauty in art and life.  Both elements make heavy use of irony while making their points.  It is usually seen as a way of responding to the personal symbolism that Abstract Expressionism brought, making art more accessible to the public with impersonal works filled with irony and parody to make a point.

Though it began in America during the late 1950s, Pop Art took its strongest hold during the 60s, when artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol had found a place in the art world.  Due to the absorbing of modern art into the increasingly sophisticated advertising world, the American public didn’t have a far leap to make into Pop Art.  The struggle with the artists came in the form of finding deeper meaning in the popular images of the day, an exercise which the public took very well to.  The strength with which the artists imbued their work was forceful, however.  The bold and striking images which came from the Pop Art movement are ones which can still find resonance today.

Andy Warhol

Monday, October 5th, 2009

One of the most influential artists of the pop art movement during the 1960s, Andy Warhol is a name which is known to many, although perhaps they don’t exactly know why.  Arguably most famous for his quote that, “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol made a number of statements, both literal and through his art, which provide some very clear definitions on the role of pop culture in our society, both from the 1960s and today.  His work is generally the most identifiable when it represents an iconic American product or image. He made pieces during his career of both famous American celebrities and classic American products, both types of which have grown into beloved representations of Warhol’s art.

Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928, to working-class immigrants.  He was sickly as a child, forcing him to spend a great deal of time in bed.  He would pass the time by drawing, collecting photos of famous movie stars, and listening to the radio.  In interviews, Warhol has claimed that this time frame was one of the single most influential periods of his development.  Warhol studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology before moving to New York City in 1949 to work as a magazine illustrator.  Once in New York, his drawings began to attract attention and he began to produce more and more work that he enjoyed.

The 1960s presented Andy Warhol with the height of his artistic expression.  He produced a number of pieces which grew notorious in the public eye before continuing on to form “The Factory,” a studio where a number of artists of all forms, musicians, writers, and celebrities could mingle and express themselves.  During the 60s, Warhol began to produce works of art on silkscreen, making his pieces mass-produced and able to be marketed to the general public.  He helped bring about the advent of a love of pop culture, showing America the beauty in the mundane.

Pop Art Portraits

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Pop Art is an interesting way of looking at something which usually already exists in some capacity and taking something entirely new from it.  The medium can use paintings or photography which has been manipulated and through this, make the public view the image in some way they had never considered before.  For example, Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Diptych is a series of portraits of famed movie star Marilyn Monroe.  He took one single image of her, a publicity still from 1953, and copied the image 50 times, in a series of 5 rows and 10 columns.  The 25 images on the left all have striking, unnatural color added to them, which give the image a larger-than-life quality.  The 25 images on the left all are presented in black and white, with some images having different tones of black than others.  This half of the artwork all is starkly bleak, giving the viewer a reminder that anything can be faded away or forgotten.  The work as a whole is largely symbolic of the overwhelming presence that celebrity can have as well as the mortality that all of us will experience.

These portraits usually have some major elements in common.  Most often, they are taken from a photograph of a person, although they can also easily be drawn.  The portrait is then traditionally bleached out, leaving only the outline and faint traces of color where it used to be.  If it is hand-drawn, only an outline is traditionally created.  Colors are then filled in throughout the portrait in direct contrast to what they normally should be.  Backgrounds are usually filled with bright colors, hair is often distorted, and faces are often presented as either one flat color or with an abundance of what would be makeup.  The portraits are loud, bringing the piece much attention.  Perhaps more interesting, however, is the way that attention is drawn to details which might have otherwise gone unnoticed in a more traditional representation of the subject of the portrait.  This is where Pop Art makes its mark, making someone see something new in an image that they would otherwise look at everyday.

Jasper Johns a Pop Artist?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Another strong contender in the world of Modern Art would be the famous artist Jasper Johns, who challenged the way that Americans looked at many commonplace items in our iconography.  For the fact that he often used many images from popular culture, Jasper Johns has often been classified as a Pop Artist, although this is not exactly the best classification for him.  A more appropriate label might be one of Neo-Dadaism, for the use of popular images, modern materials, and absurdism.  Johns, in his work, often aimed to make us look at the absurd qualities of many things that we as the American public took for granted.

Jasper Johns is potentially most well known for his painting Flag, which simply depicts a flag, painted heavily over found materials, such as crumpled up newspapers.  Found materials would play heavily into Johns’ work, as Johns would make a point of incorporating the world as it is into the pieces of art that he would produce.  Jasper Johns would commonly paint different maps and flags that were richly worked and detailed and often-evoked conflicting emotions in critics.  The art world seemed to be looking for something with the same emotional vulnerability and honesty as Abstract Expressionist works produced, yet having more subject matter and substance than simple painting which evoked an emotion on its own.  The work of Jasper Johns would provide that, both to the delight and the wrath of many.  His attention to detail and painting form was much more involved than the work of Abstract Expressionists, yet his subject matter was presented in an absurd way, making people feel that the process of painting the portrait conveys some of Johns’ thoughts on the matter.

His work has always been simple yet refined.  Johns has always carried the ability to inflict strong emotions in the viewers of his paintings, largely because of his unerring emotional honesty.  His work has clearly earned a place in art history.

Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn Diptych)- Third Most Influential Work of Modern Art

Monday, May 4th, 2009


Andy Warhol no doubt has a strong influence on the modern art movement as his works have become some of the classic definitions of what modern art stands for.  His 100 Soup Cans or Marilyn Diptych have taken an iconic place in art history, being easily identifiable as a Warhol piece by even the most casual of observers.  Some pieces, however, have placed more influence on modern art than any of the others and out of all of these, Marilyn Diptych perhaps more than any other.  In 2004, this Warhol piece was named the third most influential work of modern art in a survey conducted between 500 artists and art critics.

The piece was constructed in the four months following Marilyn Monroe’s untimely suicide in August of 1962.  Upon hearing the news of the star’s passing, Andy Warhol began to construct a work of art in dedication to her, which some have come to believe represents the mortality of her glamorous life.  50 images of the actress, all the same, were used in the construction of this piece in a grid of 5 rows and 10 columns.  The single image used was taken from a publicity photograph of Marilyn Monroe from the 1953 film Niagara.  The 25 images on the left hand side of the artwork are all in startling color, dramatized for a loud effect.  The 25 images on the left hand side of the piece are all in black and white, providing a stark contrast to the bright colors of the other side.

It has been postulated that Andy Warhol wanted to touch both upon the frailness of human life and the presence that celebrity can have in the everyday life.  Marilyn Monroe, by and large, was a household name and the repetitiveness of her image in Marilyn Diptych reinforces the fact that everyone knows who she was.  The color scheme reminds us all that she, like all of us, will eventually fade away and that as bright as we may be at one time in our lives, we will eventually fade to black as well.


The Art of Roy Lichtenstein

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Roy Lichtenstein - Kiss V

Widely regarded to be one of the leading influences in the world of Pop Art, Roy Lichtenstein was a famous artist who helped to usher in the Pop Art period of the Modern Art movement.  His works were often incredibly stylistic, based on different panels, which he took from comic books and adapted into his paintings.  Lichtenstein felt that his work was not representative of American art, however, but was of a more industrial nature.  One of his aims was to find art where it already existed in the world and if the piece was particularly striking to him, to reproduce it through his own eyes, giving it his own interpretation and vision.  There are many critics out there who feel that Lichtenstein merely copied works of other artists, but this is simply not true.  By representing the image through his own eyes, with his own interpretation, Roy Lichtenstein makes a commentary on what exactly it is in art that speaks to us.

Born in New York City in 1923, Lichtenstein was exposed to art during his school years, at an early phase.  He took a quick interest and studied art all through his early school years.  He went to Ohio State University for its studio courses in fine arts, pausing partway through his studies to serve in the Army during World War II and after.  Later, upon graduation, he was granted an MFA and began teaching off and on, while working as a painter experimenting in Cubism, Expressionism, and Abstract Expressionism.

In 1960, he began to teach at Rutgers University and a fellow professor ignited his interest in Pop Art.  Lichtenstein began to make his paintings, using images that he derived from cartoons and commercial advertising.  His artworks as well as his technique are very expressive, as Lichtenstein often used Benday Dots to express color.  His paintings have since become highly recognizable, as they make bold statements about Pop Culture, often presenting their ideas through the image of pulp comic art.

Roy Lichtenstein Pop Art – Drowning Girl

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Roy Lichtenstein - Drowning Girl

Roy Lichtenstein produced a number of works that he interpreted from various sources, many of them found within the pages of comic books.  These pieces have come to be known as a standard for Pop Art, seeing one will immediately evoke thoughts of Pop Culture and the place where it stands in our society.  There are any numbers of Lichtenstein pieces, which can do this, but Drowning Girl seems to be one of the most identifiable and beloved pieces of the general public today.

The piece is popular both because it is colorfully and texturally rich, as well as the content.  The image, in which a young, beautiful woman is sinking under the water during what appears to be a turbulent storm, thinks to herself that she would rather drown than call for Brad to come help her.  The image is humorous because of the statement that it makes about drama in our culture.  The situation is ludicrous with someone preferring death out of feelings of spite.  However, this is a situation that one would all too easily find in the dramatic presentations of the day.  Drowning Girl serves as a statement about Pop Culture, both the ridiculousness as well as the entertaining, melodramatic quality about it.

Lichtenstein put a great deal of effort into the mechanics of the painting as well.  He took liberties with the original piece, which depicted the boyfriend clinging to a capsized boat in the background as well as different text.  By narrowing in heavily on the drowning girl and slightly changing the words in her thought bubble, Lichtenstein was able to take the one particular element of the original drawing and place all emphasis on the melodrama of the situation.  Additionally, Lichtenstein made heavy use of Benday dots, a form of coloring, which was also frequently used in comic books.  By using these strong colors and textures to highlight the melodrama of the situation, Lichtenstein ensured that Drowning Girl would remain an excellent example of Pop Art.

Pop Art Icon and Other Icons

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

“Life is full of dead spots. Art gives it life”

Big Torn Campbells Soup Can (Pepper Pot) by Andy WarholThis quote was said by Irwin Edman, a 20th century philosopher. He mentioned that artists have a way of making life come alive and have been able to do so through time. Art history is full of icons of every type and nature. They can come in the form of images of Christ or the Virgin Mary or even an icon like “Campbells Tomato Soup Cans” by Andy Warhol. Icons let us connect with culture, nature, our own humanity, our inner self, and our religion.

When an artist gives meaning to a symbol or an image (an icon) then it acquires a certain value to society and to history and mankind.  To an artist the icons he takes on represent a part of himself or of the world he lives in, just as Jesus was a part of the world El Greco lived in and “Campbells Soup” was an icon of the world of Andy Warhol. What makes an icon up to a society depends on the societies beliefs, their tradition, and what they find value in, and these will differ depending on age group and on country.

Contemporary art Vs Pop Culture

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Pop Art Portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Andy WarholToday much of our contemporary art stems from Pop culture and pop art which originated in the United States in the sixties. The purpose in making contemporary art more pop culture related and less abstract, is based on the idea of making a works message more easily understood by society.

Pop culture and art began by integrating popular items of our times into art forms. Most were either paintings or in the form of sculpture. The first items that were integrated into the pop art movement were tires, flags, maps, stuffed animals and even targets. The movement started as a way to get away from the dullness that modern abstract painting began to take on. It was a way of looking at pop culture sarcastically, a way of mocking our modern world.

Much later media advertisement and TV were integrated into the pop movement. Although pop culture and art became popular, it did not supplant the contemporary movement as its original plan was, but instead became an additional movement within modern painting. Today the pop art movement has become an important element of the modern painting era.

Food as a center point in Pop Art

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Coca Cola bottle by Warhol (Pop Art)Most pop artists use modern day images, instances and people as their sources of inspiration. These then get re-interpreted as other forms in a pop art painting. What’s interesting is that in the later years, the work initiated by these painters were widely used in the advertising and marketing industry. For example, the coca cola bottle shape is still a mark of sensuality and represents a world of escapism and fantasy.

As far as the pop art scene in America goes, food seems to have been given a central importance. It represents a major outlet for spending income, while also doubling as a leisure and fun time activity. Thus, the emphasis on bottle feeding as opposed to breast feeding in America! From French fries, to burgers, cakes and beer – food has remained an all time favorite inspiration with American pop culture portrait artists.


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