Pop Art Movement and Chronology

"Pop is everything art hasn't been for the last two decades. It's basically a U-turn back to a representational visual communication, moving at a break-away speed...Pop is a re-enlistment in the world...It is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naïve."

Robert Indiana

Synopsis

Pop art is now most associated with the work of New York artists of the early 1960s such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg, but artists who drew on popular imagery were part of an international phenomenon in various cities from the mid-1950s onwards. Following the popularity of the Abstract Expressionists, Pop's reintroduction of identifiable imagery (drawn from mass media and popular culture) was a major shift for the direction of modernism. The subject matter became far from traditional "high art" themes of morality, mythology, and classic history; rather, Pop artists celebrated commonplace objects and people of everyday life, in this way seeking to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art. Perhaps owing to the incorporation of commercial images, Pop art has become one of the most recognizable styles of modern art.

Key Points

By creating paintings or sculptures of mass culture objects and media stars, the Pop art movement aimed to blur the boundaries between "high" art and "low" culture. The concept that there is no hierarchy of culture and that art may borrow from any source has been one of the most influential characteristics of Pop art.
It could be argued that the Abstract Expressionists searched for trauma in the soul, while Pop artists searched for traces of the same trauma in the mediated world of advertising, cartoons, and popular imagery at large. But it is perhaps more precise to say that Pop artists were the first to recognize that there is no unmediated access to anything, be it the soul, the natural world, or the built environment. Pop artists believed everything is inter-connected, and therefore sought to make those connections literal in their artwork.
Although Pop art encompasses a wide variety of work with very different attitudes and postures, much of it is somewhat emotionally removed. In contrast to the "hot" expression of the gestural abstraction that preceded it, Pop art is generally "coolly" ambivalent. Whether this suggests an acceptance of the popular world or a shocked withdrawal, has been the subject of much debate.
Pop artists seemingly embraced the post-WWII manufacturing and media boom. Some critics have cited the Pop art choice of imagery as an enthusiastic endorsement of the capitalist market and the goods it circulated, while others have noted an element of cultural critique in the Pop artists' elevation of the everyday to high art: tying the commodity status of the goods represented to the status of the art object itself, emphasizing art's place as, at base, a commodity.
The majority of Pop artists began their careers in commercial art: Andy Warhol was an highly successful magazine illustrator and graphic designer; Ed Ruscha was also a graphic designer, and James Rosenquist started his career as a billboard painter. Their background in the commercial art world trained them in the visual vocabulary of mass culture as well as the techniques to seamlessly merge the realms of high art and popular culture.
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Beginnings

Great Britain: The Independent Group

In 1952, a gathering of artists in London calling themselves the Independent Group began meeting regularly to discuss topics such as mass culture's place in fine art, the found object, and science and technology. Members included Edouardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, architects Alison and Peter Smithson, and critics Lawrence Alloway and Reyner Banham. Britain in the early 1950s was still emerging from the austerity of the post-war years, and its citizens were ambivalent about American popular culture. While the group was suspicious of its commercial character, they were enthusiastic about the rich world pop culture seemed to promise for the future. The imagery they discussed at length included that found in Western movies, science fiction, comic books, billboards, automobile design, and rock and roll music.

The actual term "Pop art" has several possible origins: the first use of the term in writing has been attributed to both Lawrence Alloway and Alison and Peter Smithson, and alternately to Richard Hamilton, who defined Pop in a letter, while the first artwork to incorporate the word "Pop" was produced by Paolozzi. His collage I Was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947) contained cut-up images of a pinup girl, Coca-Cola logo, cherry pie, World War II fighter plane, and a man's hand holding a pistol, out of which burst the world "POP!" in a puffy white cloud.

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New York City: The Emergence of Neo-Dada

By the mid 1950s, the artists working in New York City faced a critical juncture in modern art: following the Abstract Expressionists or rebel against the strict formalism advocated by many schools of modernism. By this time, Jasper Johns was already troubling conventions with abstract paintings that included references to: "things the mind already knows" - targets, flags, handprints, letters, and numbers. Meanwhile, Robert Rauschenberg's "combines" incorporated found objects and images, with more traditional materials like oil paint. Similarly, Allan Kaprow's "Happenings" and the Fluxus movements chose to incorporate aspects from the surrounding world into their art. These artists, along with others, later became grouped in the movement known as Neo-Dada. The now classic New York Pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol emerged in the 1960 in the footsteps of the Neo-Dadaists.

Concepts and Styles

Once the transition from the found-object constructions of the Neo-Dada artists to the Pop movement was complete, there was widespread interest on the part of artists in the incorporation of popular culture into their work. Although artists in the Independent Group in London initiated the use of "pop" in reference to art, American artists soon followed suit and incorporated popular culture into their artwork as well. Although the individual styles vary widely, all of the artists maintain a commonality in their choice of popular culture imagery as their fundamental subject. Shortly after American Pop art arrived on the art world scene, mainland European variants developed in the Capitalist Realist movement in Germany and the Nouveau Réalisme movement in France.

Richard Hamilton, Edouardo Paolozzi, and the Tabular Image

The Pop art collages of Paolozzi and Hamilton convey the mixed feelings Europeans maintained toward American popular culture; both exalting the mass-produced objects and images while also criticizing the excess. In his collage, Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?? (1956), Hamilton combined images from various mass media sources, carefully selecting each image and composing the disparate elements of popular imagery into one coherent survey of post-war consumer culture. The members of the Independent Group were the first artists to present mass media imagery, acknowledging the challenges to traditional art categories occurring in America and Britain after 1945.

Roy Lichtenstein, and Pulp Culture

Roy Lichtenstein proved that he could fulfill demands for a "great" composition even though his subject matter derived from comic books. In addition to using the imagery from these mass-produced picture books, Lichtenstein appropriated the techniques used to create the images in comic books to create his paintings. He not only adopted the same bright colors and clear outlines as popular art, his most innovative contribution was his use of Ben-Day dots: small dots used to render color in mass-manufactured comics. Focusing on a single panel within a comic strip, Lichtenstein's canvases are not an exact facsimile, but are rather the artist's creative re-imaging of the composition in which elements may have been added or eliminated, scale could shift, and text might be edited. By hand-painting the usually machine-generated dots, and recreating comic book scenes, Lichtenstein blurred the distinction between mass reproduction and high art.

James Rosenquist and the Monumental Image

James Rosenquist also directly appropriated images from popular culture for his paintings. However, rather than produce rote copies, Rosenquist exerted creative control through his surrealistic juxtapositions of products and celebrities, often inserting political messages. As part of his method, Rosenquist collaged magazine clippings from advertisements and photo spreads, and then used the results as studies for his final painting. Rosenquist's training in billboard painting transitioned perfectly into his realistic renderings of those collages expanded onto a monumental scale. With works often much larger and wider than 20 feet, Rosenquist imbued the mundane with the same status previously reserved for high, sometimes royal, art subjects.

Andy Warhol and Repetition

Andy Warhol is most famous for his vividly colored portraits of celebrities, but his subject matter has varied widely throughout his career. The common theme amidst the different subjects is their inspiration in mass consumer culture. His earliest works depict objects like Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell's Soup Cans, reproduced ad infinitum, as if the gallery wall were a shelf in a supermarket. Warhol transitioned from hand painting to screenprinting to further facilitate the large-scale replication of pop images. Warhol's insistence on mechanical reproduction rejected notions of artistic authenticity and genius. Instead, he acknowledged the commodification of art, proving that paintings were no different from cans of Campbell's soup; both have material worth and could be bought and sold like consumer goods. He further equated the mass-produced status of consumer goods with that of celebrities in portraits like Marilyn Diptych (1962).

Claes Oldenburg and Pop Sculpture

Renowned for his monumental public sculptures of everyday objects and his "soft" sculptures, Claes Oldenburg began his career on a much smaller scale. In 1961 he rented a storefront in New York City for a month where he installed and sold his wire and plaster sculptures of mundane objects, ranging from pastries to men's and women's undergarments, in an installation he dubbed The Store. Oldenburg charged a nominal fee for each piece, which underscored his commentary on the role of art as a commodity. He began his soft sculptures shortly after The Store, constructing large, everyday objects, like a slice of cake, an ice cream cone, or a mixer, out of fabric and stuffing so the end result collapses in on itself like a deflating balloon. Oldenburg would continue to focus on commonplace objects throughout his career, moving from soft sculptures to grand public art, like the 45-foot-high Clothespin (1974) in downtown Philadelphia. Regardless of the scale, Oldenburg's work always maintains a playful attitude toward re-creating mundane things in an unconventional way in order to upend viewer's expectations.

Los Angeles Pop

As opposed to New York City, the art world of Los Angeles was much less rigid, lacking the established galleries, critics, and hierarchies of the east coast; this openness is reflected in the styles of the artists who lived and worked there. The first museum survey of Pop Art, New Painting of Common Objects, was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1962, and showcased Warhol and Lichtenstein as well as many artists living in Los Angeles including Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode, Phillip Hefferton, Wayne Thiebaud, and Robert Dowd. Other Los Angeles artists, like Billy Al Bengston, incorporated a different kind of aesthetic into their version of Pop, utilizing new materials such as automobile paint and referencing surfing and motorcycles in works that make the familiar strange through new and unexpected combinations of images and media. By shifting the focus away from specific consumer goods, these artists allowed Pop art to move beyond replication to incorporate experience and evoke a particular feeling, attitude, or idea, while also pushing the boundaries between high art and popular culture.

Ed Ruscha and Signage

On the roster at Ferus Gallery, Ed Ruscha was one of the pivotal artists of Los Angeles Pop who worked in a variety of media, with the majority of his Pop works typically printed or painted. Emphasizing the omnipresence of signage in Los Angeles, Ruscha used words and phrases as subjects in his earliest Pop art paintings. His first reference to popular culture was the painting Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights (1962), where he appropriated the 20th Century Fox logo in a simplified composition with the hard edges and clear palette of a cartoon, echoing the similar billboards. His subsequent paintings of words further blurred the lines between advertising signage, painting, and abstraction, undermining the divisions between the aesthetic world and the commercial realm, some even incorporating three-dimensional objects like pencils and comic books on the canvases. Ruscha's work presages the Conceptual art of the later 1960s, driven by the idea behind the artwork rather than the specific image. Ruscha's exploration of a variety of commonplace images and themes went beyond merely reproducing them, but to examining the interchangeability of image, text, place, and experience.

Capitalist Realism in Germany

In Germany, the counterpart to the American Pop art movement was Capitalist Realism, a movement that focused on subjects taken from commodity culture and utilized an aesthetic based in the mass media. The group was founded by Sigmar Polke in 1963 and included artists Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg as its central members. The Capitalist Realists sought to expose the consumerism and superficiality of contemporary capitalist society by using the imagery and aesthetic of popular art and advertising within their work. Polke explored the creative possibilities of mechanical reproduction and Lueg examined pop culture imagery, while Richter dissected the photographic medium.

Nouveau Réalisme in France

In France, the equivalent of Pop art was Nouveau Réalisme, a movement launched by the critic Pierre Restany in 1960, with the drafting of the "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism," that proclaimed, "Nouveau Réalisme - new ways of perceiving the real." The declaration was signed in Yves Klein's workshop by nine artists who were united in their direct appropriation of mass culture, or in Restany's words, "poetic recycling of urban, industrial, and advertising reality." This principle is evident in the work of Villeglé, whose technique of "décollage" involved cutting through layers of posters to create a new image. While the movement echoed the American Pop artists' concerns with commercial culture, many of the Nouveau Réalistes were more concerned with objects than with painting, as is the case with Spoerri, whose "snare-pictures" used food, cutlery, and tabletops as artistic media. Other key proponents of the movement included Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Arman, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Christo.

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Later Developments

Pop art would continue to influence artists in later decades, with artists like Warhol maintaining a larger-than-life presence within the New York art world into the 1980s. Pop fell out of favor during the 1970s as the art world shifted focus from art objects to installations, performances, and other less tangible art forms. However, with the revival of painting at the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s, the art object came back into favor once again, and popular culture provided subject matter that was easy for viewers to identify and understand. One of the leading figures of the Neo-Pop movement was Jeff Koons, whose appropriation of pop culture icons such as Michael Jackson and mass-produced objects like Hoover vacuum cleaners further pushed the boundaries of high art. In Japan, the work of Takashi Murakami has been cited as a more recent example of Neo-Pop, due to his use of popular anime imagery in his "Superflat" style and his successful partnering with fashion labels like Louis Vuitton. Such artists continue to break down the barrier between high and low art forms, while reevaluating the role of art as a commodity in and of itself.



Original content written by Justin Wolf
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QUOTES

"Everything is beautiful. Pop is everything."
- Andy Warhol

"Popular (designed for a mass audience); transient (short-term solution); expendable (easily forgotten); low cost; mass produced; young (aimed at youth); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and last but not least, Big Business."
- Richard Hamilton, defining what Pop art means to him

"Everybody has called Pop Art 'American' painting, but it's actually industrial painting. America was hit by industrialism and capitalism harder and sooner and its values seem more askew... I think the meaning of my work is that it's industrial, it's what all the world will soon become."
- Roy Lichtenstein

"Pop is everything art hasn't been for the last two decades...It springs newborn out of a boredom with the finality and over-saturation of Abstract-Expressionism, which, by its own esthetic logic, is the END of art, the glorious pinnacle of the long pyramidal creative process. Stifled by this rarefied atmosphere, some young painters turn back to some less exalted things like Coca-Cola, ice-cream sodas, big hamburgers, super-markets and 'EAT' signs. They are eye-hungry; they pop..."
- Robert Indiana

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Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was an American Pop artist best known for his prints and paintings of consumer goods, celebrities, and photographed disasters. One of the most famous and influential artists of the 1960s, he pioneered compositions and techniques that emphasized repetition and the mechanization of art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Andy Warhol
Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein was an American painter and a pioneer of the Pop art movement. His signature reproductions of comic book imagery eventually redefined how the art world viewed high vs. lowbrow art. Lichtenstein employed a unique form of painting called the Benday dot technique, in which small, closely-knit dots of paint were applied to form a much larger image.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Roy Lichtenstein
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist is an American Pop artist whose paintings feature fragments of faces, cars, consumer goods, and other items in bizarre juxtapositions. With their realist rendering and attention to surface textures, his works take up the visual language of advertising and entertainment.

Modern Art Information James Rosenquist
Claes Oldenburg
Claes Oldenburg
The Swedish-American artist and architect Claes Oldenburg, an early figure in New York happenings and Pop art, is best known for his floppy sculptures and larger-than-life public works of consumer goods, musical instruments, and everyday objects.

Modern Art Information Claes Oldenburg
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Abstract Expressionism
Ed Ruscha
Ed Ruscha
Ed Ruscha is a California-based painter, photographer, and printmaker, recognized as one of the leading figures of Pop art and Conceptualism on the West Coast. From his iconic images of gasoline stations to his 'word paintings,' his work is deeply influenced by the graphic arts and deals largely with themes of commercial culture, language, and the mundane.

Modern Art Information Ed Ruscha
Eduardo Paolozzi
Eduardo Paolozzi
Eduardo Paolozzi was a Scottish sculptor, printmaker and multi-media artist, and a pioneer in the early development of Pop art. His 1947 print I Was a Rich Man's Plaything is considered the very first work of Pop art. He was also a founder of the Independent Group in 1952.

Modern Art Information Eduardo Paolozzi
Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton is an English painter and collage artist, and is best known as a founding member of the British Inedpendent Group, which arguably launched the mid-century Pop art movement. Hamilton's 1956 collage Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? is widely considered one of the first works of Pop art.

Modern Art Information Richard Hamilton
Alison and Peter Smithson
Alison and Peter Smithson
Alison and Peter Smithson were a British architectural duo who collaborated on several important, yet controversial, buildings, housing complexes, and schools during the mid-twentieth century. Celebrated as pioneers of New Brutalism and early proponents of Pop art, the Smithsons sought linearity and integration as key elements of their designs.

Modern Art Information Alison and Peter Smithson
Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns is an American artist who rose to prominence in the late 1950s for his multi-media constructions, dubbed by critics as Neo-Dada. Johns' work, including his world-famous targets and American flags series, were important predecessors to Pop art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Jasper Johns
Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Rauschenberg, a key figure in early Pop art, admired the textural quality of Abstract Expressionism but scorned its emotional pathos. His famous "Combines" are part sculpture, part painting, and part installation.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Robert Rauschenberg
Allan Kaprow
Allan Kaprow
Allan Kaprow was an American painter, collagist, assemblagist and performance artist. Kaprow was best known for trailblazing the artistic concept "happenings," which were experiential artistic events rather than single works of art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Allan Kaprow
Happenings
Happenings
The term "happening" was coined by artist Allan Kaprow in 1957 to decribe a series of multi-media artworks on display in a single locale. In general, a happening is an art event, often staged or pre-scripted, that requires active participation from an audience to come to full fruition. This relatively new form of artistic media could be called participatory.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Happenings
Fluxus
Fluxus
Fluxus was an international network of "intermedia" artists of the 1960s who worked in fields ranging from music to performance to the visual arts. Taking their name from the Latin "to flow," Fluxus artists adopted an often anarchic and satirical approach to conventional forms of art, and their ideas paved the way for Conceptual art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Fluxus
Neo-Dada
Neo-Dada
Neo-Dada refers to works of art from the 1950s that employ popular imagery and modern materials, often resulting in something absurd. Neo-Dada is both a continuation of the earlier Dada movement and an important precursor to Pop art. Some important Neo-Dada artists include Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Morris and Allan Kaprow.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Neo-Dada
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual art describes an influential movement that first emerged in the mid-1960s and prized ideas over the formal or visual components of traditional works of art. The artists often challenged old concepts such as beauty and quality; they also questioned the conventional means by which the public consumed art; and they rejected the conventional art object in favor of diverse mediums, ranging from maps and diagrams to texts and videos.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Conceptual Art
Sigmar Polke
Sigmar Polke
Sigmar Polke was a German painter and photographer. In 1963 Polke founded the painting movement "Kapitalistischer Realismus" (Capitalistic Realism) with Gerhard Richter and Konrad FIscher. It is an anti-style of art, appropriating the pictorial short-hand of advertising.

Modern Art Information Sigmar Polke
Daniel Spoerri
Daniel Spoerri
Daniel Spoerri is a Swiss artist and writer born in Romania. Spoerri is best known for his snare-pictures, a type of assemblage or object art. He was one of the original signers of the manifesto creating the Nouveaux Realistes art movement.

Modern Art Information Daniel Spoerri
Yves Klein
Yves Klein
Yves Klein was a French Neo-Dadaist artist who produced a series of monochrome works in 1957. He is credited with creating an entirely new color of blue, eventually called International Klein Blue. He employed this color in his paintings made by covering naked bodies with pigment and using them as "paintbrushes," an important antecedent to later performance art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Yves Klein
Jean Tinguely
Jean Tinguely
Jean Tinguely was a Swiss painter and sculptor. He is best known for his sculptural machines, or Kinetic art, in the Dada tradition; known officially as metamechanics. Tinguely's art satirized the mindless overproduction of material goods in advanced industrial society.

Modern Art Information Jean Tinguely
Arman
Arman
Born Armand Pierre Fernandez, Arman is a French painter who moved from using the objects as paintbrushes, to using them as the painting itself. He is best known for his "accumulations" and destruction/recomposition of objects.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Arman
François Dufrêne
François Dufrêne
François Dufrêne was a French artist and poet, closely associated with the development of the Nouveau Réalist and Letterist International movements of the post-war period. A herald of décollage, sound poetry, and hypergraphy, Dufrêne aimed to transgress the boundaries of both visual and linguistic representation in his work, exploring alternative modes of expression through interdisciplinary approaches to art-making.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information François Dufrêne
Raymond Hains
Raymond Hains
Raymond Hains was a French artist and photographer. In 1946-47 he did his first abstract photographs, inspired by Surrealism, using mirrors or capturing objects through distorting glass. In 1950 he invented the concept of the "Ultra-lettre" and devoted himself to his lettres éclatées (shattered letters).

Modern Art Information Raymond Hains
Niki de Saint Phalle
Niki de Saint Phalle
Niki de Saint Phalle was a French sculptor, painter, and filmmaker, whose multimedia work explored the various roles and representations of women in society. Her innovative use of found objects, unconventional materials, natural environments, graphic aesthetics, and assemblage in her art made her a prominent figure of the 1960s Nouveau Réalisme movement in France.

Modern Art Information Niki de Saint Phalle
Christo
Christo
Christo is a Bulgarian land and environmental artist, best known as one half of the married artist team Christo and Jeanne-Claude (his wife who died in 2009). Together, Christo and Jeanne-Claude created temporary land art installations, so grand in scale and ambition that controversy often followed. The best known examples of their work include Wrapped Coast (1969) in Little Bay, Australian, Wrapped Reichstag (1995) in Berlin, and The Gates (2004) in New York City.

Modern Art Information Christo
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons is an American sculptor, painter and Neo-Pop artist, best known for mirror-finished stainless steel constructions of animals and everyday objects. Koons' works are often large public installations, in which viewers are invited to interact with his art.

Modern Art Information Jeff Koons
Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami
Japanese artist Takashi Murakami draws on popular culture to create his anime-like style he calls Superflat, notable for its flat planes of bright color. He is very interested in the confluence between high and low art, producing both commercial goods and fine art works.

Modern Art Information Takashi Murakami
I Was a Rich Man's Plaything
I Was a Rich Man's Plaything

Title: I Was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947)

Artist: Eduardo Paolozzi

Artwork Description & Analysis: Paolozzi, a Scottish sculptor and artist, was a key member of the British post-war avant-garde. His collage I Was a Rich Man's Plaything proved an important foundational work for the Pop art movement, combining pop culture documents like a pulp fiction novel cover, a Coca-Cola advertisement, and a military recruitment advertisement. The work exemplifies the slightly darker tone of British Pop art, which reflected more upon the gap between the glamour and affluence present in American popular culture and the economic and political hardship of British reality. As a member of the loosely associated Independent Group, Paolozzi emphasized the impact of technology and mass culture on high art. His use of collage demonstrates the influence of Surrealist and Dadaist photomontage, which Paolozzi implemented to recreate the barrage of mass media images experienced in everyday life.


Collage - Tate Modern, London

Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?
Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Title: Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956)

Artist: Richard Hamilton

Artwork Description & Analysis: Hamilton's 1956 collage was a seminal piece for the evolution of Pop art and is often cited as the very first work of Pop art. Created for the exhibition This is Tomorrow at London's Whitechapel Gallery in 1956, Hamilton's image was used both in the catalogue for the exhibition and on posters advertising it. The collage presents viewers with an updated Adam and Eve (a body-builder and a burlesque dancer) surrounded by all the conveniences modern life provided, including a vacuum cleaner, canned ham, and television. Constructed using a variety of cutouts from magazine advertisements, Hamilton created a domestic interior scene that both lauded consumerism and critiqued the decadence that was emblematic of the American post-war economic boom years.


Collage - Kunsthalle Tubingen, Germany

President Elect
President Elect

Title: President Elect (1960-61)

Artist: James Rosenquist

Artwork Description & Analysis: Like many Pop artists, Rosenquist was fascinated by the popularization of political and cultural figures in mass media. In his painting President Elect, the artist depicts John F. Kennedy's face amidst an amalgamation of consumer items, including a yellow Chevrolet and a piece of cake. Rosenquist created a collage with the three elements cut from their original mass media context, and then photo-realistically recreated them on a monumental scale. As Rosenquist explains, "The face was from Kennedy's campaign poster. I was very interested at that time in people who advertised themselves. Why did they put up an advertisement of themselves? So that was his face. And his promise was half a Chevrolet and a piece of stale cake." The large-scale work exemplifies Rosenquist's technique of combining discrete images through techniques of blending, interlocking, and juxtaposition, as well as his skill at including political and social commentary using popular imagery.


Oil on masonite - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Pastry Case, I
Pastry Case, I

Title: Pastry Case, I (1961-62)

Artist: Claes Oldenburg

Artwork Description & Analysis: Oldenburg is known as one of the few American Pop art sculptors, notorious for his playfully absurd creations of food and inanimate objects. The collection of works in Pastry Case, I were originally displayed in the artist's famous 1961 installation titled The Store, located on New York's Lower East Side. For the project, Oldenburg created plaster sculptural objects including a strawberry shortcake and a candied apple. In addition to replicating consumer items, Oldenburg organized his installation like a typical variety shop and sold his items at low prices, commenting on the interrelation between art objects and commodities. Although sold as if they were mass-produced, the sculptures in The Store were carefully hand-built and the lavish, expressive brushstrokes that cover the items in Pastry Case, I seem to mock the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism, a common theme in Pop art. Oldenburg combines the evocative expressionist gesture with the commodity item in a highly ironic environment.


Painted plaster sculptures on ceramic plates, metal platter and cups in glass-and-metal case - Museum of Modern Art, New York

BLAM
BLAM

Title: BLAM (1962)

Artist: Roy Lichtenstein

Artwork Description & Analysis: Lichtenstein took the image used for BLAM from a 1962 edition of the comic book All American Men of War (#89) by Russ Heath. Lichtenstein's painting is not quite an exact replica of Heath's image, but it would be easy to confuse the two upon first glance, as Lichtenstein altered the image only very subtly. One of his many paintings that appropriate subject matter from popular comics, Lichtenstein defined his career by experimenting with the boundaries between high and low art, which raised such questions about the nature of culture and originality without providing any definitive answers. As with the rest of Pop art, it is unclear whether Lichtenstein is applauding the comic book image, and the general cultural sphere to which it belongs, or critiquing it, leaving interpretation up to the viewer. BLAM and similar works were painted using the Ben-Day dot technique, borrowed from comic book printing. Thus, not only is the larger image itself a reproduction, but it was also painted using a repetitive, almost mechanical technique.


Oil on canvas - Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

Campbell's Soup Cans
Campbell's Soup Cans

Title: Campbell's Soup Cans (1962)

Artist: Andy Warhol

Artwork Description & Analysis: Warhol's iconic series of Campbell's Soup Cans paintings were never meant to be celebrated for their form or compositional style, like that of the abstractionists. What made these works significant was Warhol's co-opting of universally recognizable imagery, such as a Campbell's soup can, Mickey Mouse, or the face of Marilyn Monroe, and depicting it as a mass-produced item, but within a fine art context. In that sense, Warhol wasn't just emphasizing popular imagery, but rather providing commentary on how people have come to perceive these things in modern times: as commodities to be bought and sold, identifiable as such with one glance. This early series was hand-painted, but Warhol switched to screenprinting shortly afterwards, favoring the mechanical technique for his mass culture imagery. 100 canvases of campbell's soup cans made up his first solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, and put Warhol on the art world map almost immediately, forever changing the face and content of modern art.


Synthetic polymer on thirty-two canvases - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Bunnies
Bunnies

Title: Bunnies (1966)

Artist: Sigmar Polke

Artwork Description & Analysis: After Polke co-founded Capitalist Realism in 1963 in Dusseldorf, Germany, with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Leug, he began to create paintings of popular culture, evoking both genuine nostalgia for the images and mild cynicism about the state of the German economy. He began simulating the dot patterns of commercial four-color printing (Raster dots) around the same time as Lichtenstein started replicating Ben-Day dots on his canvases. In Bunnies, Polke uses an image from the Playboy Club depicting four of their "bunnies" in costume. By recreating the Raster dot printing technique in this painting, Polke disrupts the mass-marketing of sexual appeal, because the closer the viewer gets to the work, the less they see. Bunnies and the rest of Polke's Raster dot paintings, do not invite a deep, personal identification with the image but rather the images become allegories for the self as it lost amidst the flood of commecial imagery. The dissonance between the inviting sexuality of the appropriated image of the Playboy bunnies and the distancing effect of the Raster dots echoes the interplay of feelings and emotions felt by the artist, both yearning for the mass-culture advertised life and repelled by it at the same time. Polke's vision of popular culture is far more critical than any of the New York artists, and is rooted in the skeptical attitude held by the Capitalist Realists. Rather than the "cool" detachment of New York, Polke cleverly critiques popular culture and how it affects the individual using the same mass-market image-making techniques.


Oil on cavas - Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Standard Station
Standard Station

Title: Standard Station (1966)

Artist: Ed Ruscha

Artwork Description & Analysis: The printmaker, painter, and photographer Ed Ruscha was an important proponent of West Coast Pop art that blended the imagery of Hollywood with colorful renderings of commercial culture and the landscape of the southwest. The gasoline station is one of Ruscha's most iconic motifs, appearing repeatedly in his book Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), a documentation of deadpan photographs from a road trip through the American Southwestern countryside. In Standard Station, the artist transforms the banal image of the gasoline station into an emblematic symbol of American consumer culture. Here, through the medium of screenprinting, Ruscha flattens the perspective into a single plane to create an image that evokes the aesthetic of commercial advertising. The work also demonstrates Ruscha's early forays into experiments with language and textual interplay, which would be a principal concern in much of his later, more conceptually oriented work.


Screenprint - Museum of Modern Art, New York

122 rue du temple
122 rue du temple

Title: 122 rue du temple (1968)

Artist: Jacques Villeglé

Artwork Description & Analysis: A central member of Nouveau Réalisme in France, Jacques Villeglé was a pioneer of décollage, the technique used to create 122 rue du temple. Coined as the opposite of collage, which entails adding to an image, décollage involved stripping away layers to create a new work. For this piece, Villeglé removed layers of lacerated movie posters and political notices, related to the May 1968 demonstrations, from a street in Paris and pasted them onto linen. Villeglé has stated 122 rue du temple is a reflection of reality, exemplifying the Nouveau Réalistes ideal of depicting contemporary life as well as their strategy of chance and their refusal to believe painting could still accurately portray the context of the 1960s. The technique of finding objects in the city that would become art exemplifies the central tenets of Nouveau Réalisme, which insisted on transforming everyday advertisements and objects into art. Through this gesture, Villeglé took the appropriation of Pop art to the next level by removing the artist's handiwork in the creation of the artistic piece and insisting upon the anonymity of the found composition - the artist has become a curator that embraces chance and choice alike.


Torn-and-pasted printed paper on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Bibliography
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggests some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.