Pop Art

We explain what Pop Art is, its background, origin and characteristics. In addition, we tell you who are its outstanding artists and main works.

Lichteinstein by art
Pop Art is a very representative movement of modern art.

What is Pop Art?

Pop Art (“Pop Art” in Spanish) It is an artistic movement that emerged in the mid-20th century. (1950-1960) in Great Britain and the United States, and which constituted a response to the abstract expressionism that prevailed in the plastic arts of the time.

Inspired by mass culture and the imaginary of capitalist consumption, Pop Art was characterized by its popular and commercial aesthetics, which made use of advertising, comics, cinema and the most everyday consumer objects. The spirit of this movement is summed up in the famous work of Andy Warhol Campbell’s soup cans (1962), consisting of 32 canvases with painted soup cans, from a very popular brand at the time.

It is important to understand that, contrary to what is often thought, Pop Art did not consist of an easy artistic movement, in which everything could be done because everything qualified as art. On the contrary, It was a clearly political movement, which constituted a mirror in which the postwar consumer society could be seen.: everything was produced in series, packaged and ready to be consumed, in a massive and dizzying way, but at the same time repetitive, standardized, anonymizing.

Pop Art is not a popular art, that is, it is not an art that vindicates the customs, folklore or the traditional point of view of the peoples. Its name has to do with the category of “pop”, that is, what becomes fashionable in the consumer society, what appears on the covers of magazines and in advertising. This name was used for the first time to describe the movement in 1956 in the magazine Arcbut its invention is attributed to John McHale.

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The slogan of Pop Art, borrowed from the famous French artist Marcel Duchamp, was that “art should be, above all, intelligent”: it should invite the viewer to a critical reflection on society and culture.

Pop Art was a great international success and soon had important repercussions in Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and other countries. It is considered a very representative movement of modern art and a precursor of postmodern art.

See also: Contemporary art

Characteristics of Pop Art

Warhol pop art
Pop Art approached the banal from a critical point of view.

Pop Art is characterized by the following:

  • It was a movement contrary to abstract expressionism, which sought the reunification of life and art. through the “cooling” of emotions, that is, distancing the viewer from the work so that they can think about it. In addition, he moved away from the Surrealist heritage and instead embraced the Dada tradition.
  • His look at the artistic object wanted to reflect the superficiality and anonymity of the consumer society and mass culture. Therefore, the artist’s subjectivity was set aside: it was hidden from the viewer of the work.
  • His main sources of material were advertising, comics and magazines, graphic design and film. In addition to taking them as material, Pop Art also dabbled in painting, sculpture, collage, film, and graphic design.
  • in his works intense colors abound, serial forms or portraits of celebrities, and repetitive formats. These works are not always consistent with each other, since they use very different techniques and methods, but always starting from the same artistic attitude.
  • The inconsequential, the everyday and the banal were some of its key concepts, although approached from a critical point of view, which invited the viewer to reflect on society, art and culture.
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Background of Pop Art

pop art eduardo paolozzi background origin
I was a Rich Man’s Plaything by Eduardo Paolozzi is considered the first work of Pop Art.

pop art is an heir to the Dada aesthetic, a nihilistic art movement of the 1920s, whose central axis was the ridicule of the pompous Parisian art. This movement arose out of the cultural shock of World War I, in which traditional Western values ​​began to shake under the weight of the horrors of war; This allows us to assume that Pop Art had a similar origin in the post-World War II period.

Among the great precursors of Pop Art are names such as Marcel Duchamp, famous for his urinal turned into a work of art for an exhibition; or the dadaists and also surrealists Man Ray and Max Ernst; or the Dadaist sculptor Jean Arp. The work of Yves Klein, who experimented with monotony and aesthetic indistinctness, as well as experiences with cubist collage, was also fundamental.

Nevertheless, the most direct predecessor of Pop Art in the United Kingdom was the Independent Groupfounded in London in 1952, which brought together numerous painters, sculptors, writers and art critics who wished to oppose the prevailing modernist trend in British arts at the time. In fact, the work I was a Rich Man’s Plaything (“I was a rich man’s toy”) by Eduardo Paolozzi, co-founder of the group, is properly considered the first work of Pop Art.

Among the main names associated with Pop Art are the following:

  • Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Of American origin, this plastic artist and actor is probably the most representative of the authors of Pop Art. His world-renowned works serve as an emblem of the movement, especially his serigraphs and serial reproductions of objects, photographs of celebrities and politicians (Marilyn Monroe, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara, etc.). In addition, he is credited with the famous phrase: “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”, which somehow sums up the spirit of Pop Art and of the time. His work consists of paintings, filming, literary writings and musical pieces.
  • Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997). Born in the United States to a Jewish family, Lichtenstein dabbled in painting and sculpture with great success. His most famous works incorporate the comic language and cartoon aesthetics of the moment, using industrial colors (usually primary) and Ben-Day dots in his creation.
  • Keith Haring (1958-1990). American artist and social activist, her work is iconic of the 1980 generation. She dabbled in music and painting as well as sculpture, with the aim of breaking down the barriers between these three genres. Her images were simple, accessible to the general public and above all generic, serialized, typical of industrial design or logo design. One of the most famous and representative sculptures of her is the Red Dog (1985) installed in Ulm, Germany.
  • Tom Weselman (1931-2004). An American painter and one of the last great masters of Pop Art, he produced striking works, most notably his daring female nudes. He experimented with lithography, screen printing, and aquatint, as well as sculpture, using cut plates.
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Some of the most representative works of Pop Art are the following:

Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) by Andy Warhol by art
Campbell’s soup cans (1962) by Andy Warhol.
Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol pop art
Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol.
Blam (1962) by Roy Lichteinstein by art
Blam! (1962) by Roy Lichteinstein.
In the Car (1963) by Roy Lichtenstein pop art
In the car (1963) by Roy Lichtenstein.
The Great American Nude (1970) by Tom Wesselmann pop art
the great american nude (1970) by Tom Weselmann.
Radiant Baby (1991) by Keith Haring pop art
Radiant Baby (1991) by Keith Haring.

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  • “Pop Art” on Wikipedia.
  • “Pop-Art (1955-1980)” in HA!
  • “Pop Art” at TATE (United Kingdom).
  • “Pop art” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Categories Art