In celebration of American Artist Appreciation Month, I thought that I would highlight the one art style/movement that always struck with me as interesting ever since high school: Pop art. Yes, Warhol with his soup cans and Lichtenstein with his comics and all that. Why pop art? First off, you don’t get to judge me. Second, I took a humanities course in high school for fun and learned a great deal about art history, artistic styles, and how to think about art in a more formal way. While I’m certainly not a proficient art connoisseur, I feel as if the class engendered a very early appreciation of art that I carry with me still. Let’s get into it!
Now, while I was in that aforementioned art class, a travelling exhibition of pop art had come to the Joslyn Art Museum (located in Omaha, NE, for those of you not located in the area). The art instructor for the course arranged for an outing for our small class to go to the exhibition as a way to end the class with a movement that was found in the modern/postmodern art era. I recall that the exhibition, titled “The Great American Pop Art Store: Multiples of the Sixties”, had an installation of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds, the infamous Campbell’s soup can bag, a stack of Brillo boxes, as well as a huge Roy Lichtenstein painting. Sadly, that’s all I can recall from fourteen years ago.
I should mention that pop art, for those not familiar with the movement (as it is an artistic movement and not a style of artwork), is art that is based on pop culture of the time it was created, taking a critical and sometimes ironic eye at the traditional art values as to what is art. It uses everything from found materials, celebrity images, trademarked emblems, and comics (in the case of Roy Lichtenstein) to evoke emotion and thought from the viewer. Colors and composition are often chosen with great care, as well as the type of message one wishes to communicate with each piece. Not all pop art is one-to-one recreations; sometimes the manipulations of imagery, using collage or found art, are used for fabrication of each piece.
Andy Warhol is likely the most well-known artist of the movement. In an interview for ARTnews with G.R. Swenson, he is on record as saying that pop art is all about “liking things” and being able to reproduce things that allow others to share in similar feelings. He says, perhaps ironically, that “Everybody looks alike and acts alike, and we’re getting more and more that way (Livingston, 1992, p. 59-60).” Interestingly enough, I think that the satirical nature of pop art mirrors our society quite well. Clothing, food, electronics, and entertainment are all homogenized, simplified, and reproduced in a way that appeals to the largest set of humans possible to maximize profits. Something to think about as a consumer and American as you look at pop art.
Fascinatingly, there is a book with the same title as the exhibit which you can purchase used from Amazon (sadly, we don’t own the title and it is out of print). It contains images and information pertaining to each item I imagine that can only be found in the title. I’ve hunted for a list of the exhibition, but perhaps that is considered something under copyright. Another point is that perhaps no one cares about an art exhibit fifteen years ago and, if they do, they would simply track down a copy of that book.
Here is a list of items that I have found to be fairly exceptional:
Pop art : an international perspective
Preferred Shelf Number N6494.P6 P654 1992
Preferred Shelf Number N6490.C6
Advertising & art : international graphics from the affiche to pop art
Preferred Shelf Number NC998.4 .A38 2007
Lippard, Lucy R.
Preferred Shelf Number N6490.L53
James Rosenquist : pop art, politics, and history in the 1960s
Preferred Shelf Number ND237.R723 L63 2009
Pop art portraits
Preferred Shelf Number N6512.5.P6 M66 2007
Art : the world of art, from aboriginal to American pop, Renaissance masters to postmodernism
Preferred Shelf Number N5300.A693 2002
Who is your favorite American Artist? Let us know in the comments below!