Pop Art Portraits

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.

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