The art that you’re looking at today dates from between 1956 and 1999. This artwork focuses geographically on London, England, the home of Richard Hamilton, and New York City, where Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein worked and died, and where Claes Oldenburg currently lives and works.
Pop art undermines the elitist nature of art, incorporating cultural icon depictions and elements from advertisements, cartoons, and comics, utilizing imagery from mass media. Pop art traces its origins back to the work of the Independent Group, which was a group of artists, architects, and writers in Great Britain in the 1950s, and the work of Richard Hamilton, who was also a member of that group.
Procuring the images from American magazines, Hamilton assembled this composition and displayed it at the art exhibition “This is Tomorrow,” in England in 1956. It’s a selection of magazine clippings that simultaneously acknowledge the pop culture and modernity of the time while departing from the Avant-Garde notions of art proposed by the art critic Clement Greenberg. The influence of Dada collage and Dada artist Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the readymade, or found objects that are turned into a work of art, also cannot be overlooked.
Pop art and Andy Warhol are virtually synonymous. He is likely the most famous member of this genre and one of the most famous American artists of the 20th century. It is often argued that he is the most important American artist of the later 20th century. Like other pop artists, Warhol used art to undermine the exclusive and elitist nature of high art, especially Abstract Expressionism and the ideas of art critic Clement Greenberg regarding the Avant-Garde and kitsch.
It portrays multiples of a single image of Marilyn Monroe, with the left side brightly colored and the right side black and white, eventually fading away. Given the timing of the artwork and knowledge of her personal life, it very well may be symbolic of the duality of her celebrity and personal lives, representing two sides of the same coin: one brightly colored and full of life, the other a monochromatic reality that slowly faded away.
Despite his popularity and status, Warhol seemed grounded in how his art made connections to the culture and values he had been exposed to growing up during the Great Depression. One of his most famous images is that of one of the most recognizable and iconic brands in America:
There are 32 different portraits, each corresponding to the 32 flavors of soup that existed at the time with the Campbell’s Soup Company. When arranged for display, they were positioned with four rows of eight cans, as if on a shelf in a grocery store. There’s an apparent fascination Warhol has with mass production and the iconic status of products within American culture. Like his painting of Coca Cola bottles, “Campbell’s Soup Can” seems to function as both an homage to and recognition of the brand’s ubiquity.
Now, while Andy Warhol tended to depict and immortalize specific icons of American culture, such as products and people, the artist Roy Lichtenstein immortalized a particular genre of American consumption--that of comic books. His images were very faithful to their influence, using identical visual themes and even printing techniques, such as the example below:
An interesting aspect of his work is how it masked more personal themes. He took excerpts from comic panels depicting moments of tension or possible tragedy and created works of art that lasted ad infinitum. In other words, unlike the fanciful reality of the romance comics upon which these images were based, real life doesn’t always end so happily.
Claes Oldenburg is a pop artist whose medium is sculpture. His “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” sculpture depicts his interest in elevating the status of everyday items that he found particularly interesting.
Like other pop artists, he was challenging previous notions of art. Within sculpture, he was challenging the idea that public works of art were limited to historical figures or events. His image of a giant, falling eraser instead commemorates an object of interest from his childhood and immortalizes an object that would typically be forgotten or even discarded.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Ian McConnell