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Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Pop Art Art Works

Pop Art

Pop Art Collage

Started: Mid 1950s

Ended: Early 1970s

"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."

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Important Art and Artists of Pop Art

The below artworks are the most important in Pop Art - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in Pop Art. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

I Was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947)

I Was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947)

By: Eduardo Paolozzi

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.

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

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

By: Richard Hamilton

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.

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President Elect (1960-61)

President Elect (1960-61)

By: James Rosenquist

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.

Pastry Case, I (1961-62)

Pastry Case, I (1961-62)

By: Claes Oldenburg

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.


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BLAM (1962)

BLAM (1962)

By: Roy Lichtenstein

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.

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Campbell's Soup Cans (1962)

Campbell's Soup Cans (1962)

By: Andy Warhol

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.

Bunnies (1966)

Bunnies (1966)

By: Sigmar Polke

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.

Standard Station (1966)

Standard Station (1966)

By: Ed Ruscha

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.

A Bigger Splash (1967)

A Bigger Splash (1967)

By: David Hockney

This large canvas measures approximately 94 by 94 inches, derived from a photograph of a swimming pool Hockney had seen in a pool manual, Hockney was intrigued by the idea that a painting might recapture a fleeting event frozen in a photograph. As he said: “I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds: it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds.” The dynamism of the splash contrasts strongly with the static and rigid geometry of the house, the pool edge, the palm trees and the striking yellow diving board, all carefully arranged in a grid containing the splash. This gives the painting a disjointed effect that is absolutely intentional, one of the hallmarks of Hockney’s style. The effect of stylization and artificiality draws on the aesthetic vocabulary of Pop art.


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Related Movements and Major Works

Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany (1919)

Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany (1919)

Movement: Dada

By: Hannah Höch

Hannah Höch is known for her collages and photomontages composed from newspaper and magazine clippings as well as sewing and craft designs often pulled from publications she contributed to at the Ullstein Press. As part of Club Dada in Berlin, Hoch unabashedly critiqued German culture by literally slicing apart its imagery and reassembling it into vivid, disjointed, emotional depictions of modern life. The title of this work, refers to the decadence, corruption, and sexism of pre-war German culture. Larger and more political than her typical montages, this fragmentary anti-art work highlights the polarities of Weimer politics by juxtaposing images of establishment people with intellectuals, radicals, entertainers, and artists. Recognizable faces include Marx and Lenin, Pola Negri, and Kathe Kollwitz. The map of Europe that identifies the countries in which women had already achieved the right to vote suggests that the newly enfranchised women of Germany would soon "cut" through the male "beer-belly" culture. Her inclusion of commercially produced designs in her montages broke down distinctions between modern art and crafts, and between the public sphere and domesticity.

White Flag (1955)

White Flag (1955)

Movement: Neo-Dada

By: Jasper Johns

Johns' use of newspaper and other media dipped in encaustic made each mark distinct and visually linked his work with the Abstract Expressionists, despite the very different processes that were involved. Rather than creating an abstract work like the action painters before him, Johns relied upon the images and signs common to American culture. He shifted the focus from the artist's mark to the interplay of emblems, language, and the media through his use of found objects embedded within the hardened wax "brushstrokes" that constitute the larger image of the American flag. Johns emphasized his interest in semiotics through his use of this familiar symbol and relied upon the viewer's familiarity with the flag to imbue the work with meaning. Johns, who has referred to his paintings as "facts," does not provide an interpretation or critique of the media, language, or signs he paints - he instead relies upon the viewers to derive their own analyses. Through his revolutionary use of mass media and his focus on familiar signs, Johns moved the course of modern art away from formalist abstraction and towards Pop's attention to mass-produced objects, Conceptual art's focus on language, and, ultimately, to postmodernism's deconstruction of language.

The Woman Eating (1971)

The Woman Eating (1971)

Movement: Photorealism

By: Duane Hanson

This sculpture is a life-size woman seated at a cafeteria table, plainly dressed, with her bags and packages by her side. The woman is dressed in actual clothes and her belongs, also, are real objects. Overweight, not particularly attractive, Hanson's statue goes against the grain of artists beautifying the female form. Likely to fool the eye, it is only when the viewer gets up close to the work that the tiniest of brush strokes reveal the work's artificiality. Hanson's statues are usually located in the refined spaces of art museums and galleries, which renders imagery of ordinary folk into fine art. Hanson admitted to presenting a social message via his sculptures, expressing a sense of the resignation, emptiness and loneliness of suburban existence. Here, there is an aspect of pathos to the solitary woman eating alone, especially if we consider that within a museum she becomes an object of study and inadvertent stares. As with Chuck Close, Hanson focuses on human beings as his subject matter, rather than the reflective glass and chrome of other Photorealists. Hanson makes his viewers question who is worthy of being an artistic subject; what is the viewer's social relation to the statue/person and any other association between the strange presence and us.

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