art-info Pop Art by qbp14515


  »Pop is love, for it accepts everything …
   Pop is dropping the ‘bomb.’ It is the
   ‘American Dream,’ optimistic, generous
   and naïve …«
                             Robert Indiana

No other current of 20th-century art has had such a decisive impact on our ideas
about aesthetics, design and the American Way of Life as Pop Art, largely because
no other form of artistic expression has become as deeply involved in the everyday
life of an entire generation and its successors. Just as the world of media and con-
sumer goods in the industrialized society suddenly became a subject for art in the
late 1950s, art became focus of attention in society.

The effects of these mechanisms are still felt today. They are evident in the positions
of many contemporary artists who, like Jeff Koons and Keith Haring, see themsel-
ves as the successors to the great Pop Artists. And the public continues to show
strong interest in exhibitions devoted to such prominent exponents of Pop Art as
Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wessel-
mann, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Indiana – to name only a
few. The movement’s currency is also underscored by observable tendencies in the
field of design. In interior architecture, fashion, fabric design or packaging, our
sense of style is still influenced by Pop Art today.

Yet it is not as easy as it might seem to identify a uniform style within the category
of Pop Art. When the movement later referred to as Pop Art began to emerge in
London and then in New York in the early 1960s, the artists in question were pri-
marily concerned with overcoming conventional cultural barriers, with eliminating
the boundaries between high and popular culture, between the trivial and the intel-
lectual. Visual art, music, literature and even fashion, advertising, design, photogra-
phy and film all reflected an attitude toward life that was characteristic of a youn-
ger generation in the major cities of Western industrialized societies. As the Beatles
and the Rolling Stones were to music and Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor to the
world of the movie screen, so were figures such as Andy Warhol and Robert
Rauschenberg to art.

Their works of art spoke of a life in which everyone can become a star, regardless
of his or her social class. What counted was performance, looks, and talent. The
U.S. became a model for the whole world in those years – as a nation of industry
and culture. New York on the East Coast and San Francisco on the West Coast set
the pace of a pulse whose beat was heard as far away as Europe.

The term “Pop Art” was discovered more or less accidentally in London when the
letters “P-o-p” appeared in a collage by painter Richard Hamilton. “Pop” describes
the sound of a shot or small explosion, and it is also an abbreviation for “popular.”
And “popular,” in the sense of “in tune with the tastes of the masses and the laws
of the media and the market,” was what these artists wanted to be. The motifs they
selected for their paintings, prints and sculptures could not have been more banal:
Coca-Cola bottles, swimming pools, red hearts, street intersections, blondes, cars,
ice-cream, cigarettes, flags, dollar bills – nothing was so insignificant that it wasn’t
worth painting, drawing, printing or photographing. Artists wanted to respond to
mass fashion trends just as quickly as newspapers and magazines, and they wan-
ted their art to be just as much fun, yet ironic and subversive at the same time.

To beat the market with its own weapons – that was the goal. This particular aspect
of Pop Art is often overlooked today, however. Nearly everyone is familiar with the
face of Marilyn Monroe in the vivid colors of Andy Warhol’s portrait and with his
images of Liz Taylor and Elvis Presley. His Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup
cans are well known, but only few people have taken a closer look as his electric
chair. “It will be hard to believe,” he wrote, “how many people will hang a picture
showing an electric chair in their living rooms – especially when the color of the
picture matches the curtains.”

Yet the artists’ fascination with clichés and stars, with mass media and department-
store charm, with comics and nightlife was also tinged with melancholy and irony.
They recognized that the American Dream of becoming more beautiful, faster and
richer would become turn into a nightmare for many people, that some would be
left behind because they could not withstand the power of the laws of the media
and the market, that there was no place for weakness and idiosyncrasy. Thus faith
in progress and enjoyment of illusory beauty also went hand in hand with loneli-
ness and fear of the future. It is no mere coincidence that most of the movie heroes
Andy Warhol painted were stars destroyed by their own success. And even the
blonde girlish faces in Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-style pictures often have a desperate
and anxious look despite their prettiness.

Very little of the lifestyle that emerged during the 1960s has changed in the meanti-
me. On the contrary, after the collapse of the East Block, the American capitalist
model has emerged from the Cold War period as the ultimate winner. Perhaps that
is why the images of Pop Art still speak to us so directly. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis
Presley, John F. Kennedy and Andy Warhol died long ago, the laws of the industri-
al society have remained the same. Even Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones conti-
nue to sing of their yearning for “satisfaction.”

                                                                 Petra von Olschowski
Pop Art Telegram

Sources of inspiration: the ideas of Marcel Duchamps and the Dadaists
Time frame: After emerging in England in 1956, Pop Art reached its zenith in
the U.S. during the 1960s.
Most prominent representatives: Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi in
England, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the U.S.
The term “Pop Art”: The term was coined by art critic L. Alloway in 1955
(derived from the English word “pop” for the sound of a shot and the abbreviation
for “popular”)
Subjects: Mass society and its idols, especially the trivial images of the media,
advertising and entertainment industries
Formal characteristics: imitation of popular culture at the formal and technical
level as well, i.e. use of everyday items (“pictures of pictures”), depersonalization
through the use of technical production processes
European variants of Anglo-American Pop Art: Nouveau Réalisme/Neuer
Realismus; artists such as Daniel Spoerri and Arman

Literature on Pop Art published by Hatje Cantz
David Hockney. Zeichnungen 1954–1995
Roy Lichtenstein – Spiegelbilder 1963–1997
Claes Oldenburg
Pop Art. U.S./U.K. Connections, 1956–1966
Sammlung Sonnabend New York. Von der Pop-art bis heute. Amerikanische
und europäische Kunst seit 1954
Andy Warhol. A Factory
Andy Warhol. The Last Supper
Andy Warhol. Watercolour
Tom Wesselmann 1959–1993


Keith Haring. Das druckgraphische Werk 1982–1990
Keith Haring. Heaven and Hell
Jeff Koons. Easyfun – Ethereal

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