Pop art is an emerged in Britain and the US during the mid- to late-1950s. The movement challenged the traditions of fine arts by including imagery from popular and mass culture, such as advertisements, comic books and mundane cultural objects. One of its aims is to use images of popular (as opposed to elitist) culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitchy elements of any culture, most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists’ use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques.
Pop art often takes imagery that is currently in use in advertising. Product labeling and logos figure prominently in the imagery chosen by pop artists, seen in the labels of Campbell´s Soup Cans, by Andy Warhol. Even the labeling on the outside of a shipping box containing food items for retail has been used as subject matter in pop art, as demonstrated by Warhol´s Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box, 1964.
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.
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.
The origins of pop art in North America developed differently from Great Britain. In the United States, pop art was a response by artists; it marked a return to hard-edged composition and representational art. They used impersonal, mundane reality, irony, and parody to “defuse” the personal symbolism and “painterly looseness” of abstract expressionism.
By contrast, the origins of pop art in post-War Britain, while employing irony and parody, were more academic. Britain focused on the dynamic and paradoxical imagery of American pop culture as powerful, manipulative symbolic devices that were affecting whole patterns of life, while simultaneously improving the prosperity of a society. Early pop art in Britain was a matter of ideas fueled by American popular culture when viewed from afar. Similarly, pop art was both an extension and a repudiation of Dadaism. While pop art and Dadaism explored some of the same subjects, pop art replaced the destructive, satirical, and anarchic impulses of the Dada movement with a detached affirmation of the artifacts of mass culture.
Featured image – copyright Malin Merok
Andy Warhol: image borrowed from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Warhol
Roy Lichtenstein: image borrowed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein