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The Pictures Generation

The Pictures Generation Collage

Started: 1974

Ended: 1984

"re-presentation, not representation"

Douglas Crimp

Summary of The Pictures Generation

The Pictures Generation was a loose affiliation of artists, influenced by Conceptual and Pop art, who utilized appropriation and montage to reveal the constructed nature of images. Experimenting with a variety of media, including photography and film, their works exposed cultural tropes and stereotypes in popular imagery. By reworking well-known images, their art challenged notions of individuality and authorship, making the movement an important part of postmodernism. The artists created a more savvy and critical viewing culture, while also expanding notions of art to include social criticism for a new generation of viewers saturated by mass media.

Key Ideas

Influenced by the ubiquity of advertising and the highly saturated image culture of the United States, Pictures Generation artists produced work that itself often resembles advertising. In thus challenging traditional art forms that appear handcrafted, these artists situated themselves at the center of postmodern debates about authenticity and authorship while in the process creating art that is slick and has the appearance of mass production. Their works blur the lines between high art and popular imagery.
Though many artists in the group were trained formally in traditional disciplines such as painting and sculpture, they elected to utilize their skills in unorthodox ways - re-examining composition, particularly within popular image production. The ready availability of cameras allowed artists to reconsider photography's stance as an artistic medium, composing images with conceptual frameworks.
Like photography, video is the perfect medium through which to explore the blurry boundaries between originals and reproductions. The advent of the portable video camera along with the first examples of video art in the 1960s allowed Pictures Generation artists to analyze and critique television for the first time.
The Pictures Generation Image


The artists who would be involved in the Pictures Generation grew up in the 1960s when consumerism and mass media began to have a large impact on society. They were the first generation of artists raised with television.

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