Pop Art turned form the highly personal abstraction of Abstract Expressionism to images from popular culture. Pop Art was a movement from late 1950's to the early 1960's, predominantly in London and New York. Pop Artists looked at popular culture for their source of inspiration. Andy Warhol established and enhanced the status of Pop Art.
Warhol's screen-print, "Green Coca Cola" 1962 consists of multiple images of coca cola. By the repetition of such a banal object, the audience is reminded of mass production, which was a reflection of their modern day consumer society. Repetition and lack of foreground, middle ground and background has resulted in loss of reality in the artwork which challenges traditional art. It is obvious that Warhol makes a conceptual comparison between celebrities, like Marilyn Marrow, Elvis Presley and Jacqueline Kennedy and commercial products like Coca Cola in his artworks, implying that they are all just corporation products intended for mass consumption. Warhol was obsessed with fame, food, sex and death and these were the influences of his subject matter. He often depicted horrific car crashed, suicides, electric chair and riot images which he gathered from newspapers.
"Red Race Riot" 1963 is a silkscreen taken from photographs of an infamous riot in Southern America. Each image seems to be laid down randomly in a busy manner. The repetitiveness has the effect of deflating the disturbing content of the images, which reflects the publics' immunity to disturbing images of that sort as a result of the media. Abstract Expressionism was a highly complex style of art making and its understanding was restricted to certain intellectual few. The sudden use of Pop's banal subject matter had critics up in arms, the Abstract Expressionist were angry that they were loosing their spot light in the art market. Any ordinary person could appreciate Pop Art as a result of the images he depicted and there was a high demand for them by the rich and famous.
From Campbells soup cans to Elvis Presley, Warhol brought art down from highbrow into lowbrow. He challenged the unique value of a one-off artwork and went against the modernists' idea of the originality of the artist as he mass produced his artworks. He referred to his art studio as his "factory" and "want (ed) to be a machine." He had a team of workers to help him produce his silkscreen as a result; Warhol had little person involvement in the artworks. He challenged and radicalized peoples view of what art really was. Claes Oldenburg is a Pop Artist who enjoys playing with the audiences perceptions of what is real and what is fake. Through sculpture he represents commercial foods humorously and transforms these banal objects by changing the size, texture, color, density, and context.
"Show String Potatoes Spilling from a Bag"1965-6 is a sculpture piece more than 2 meters high of vinyl French fries spilling from a giant vinyl paper bag. This give the audience a strange and new perspective of the products they consume everyday. Potato chips were originally a food of desire; however, Oldenburg has represented them in an unappetizing and unhygienic way. By enlarging the size, the chips have the effect of cascading down onto the audience.
The change in texture and color creates a floppy and dirty feel and because it's displayed on the floor, the chips become highly uneatable. The bag represents the mass production nature of the 1960's. Oldenburg is attempting to ruin people's appetite for mainstream fast foods. "2 Cheese Burgers with Everything" absolutely ruins the audience appreciation for fast foods. The droopy, mushy layers of food oozing out of the saggy buns give the audience a shock, as well as a laugh. The presentation of "Floor Cone" 1962 is so off putting due to the unexpected change in size, texture and context.
Presented flopped on the floor, the ice-cream is as tall as a person, and texture is as soft as a cushion. The representation of the foods juxtapose the glorification the media feeds the world. Oldenburg's public sculptures are humorous and ironic. He challenges traditional sculpture by representing banal object like "Spoon and Cherry Bridge", as apposed to heroic masculine men.
"Clothespin" 1976 stands nearly as high as the multistory building behind it dwarfing the world below it. It ironically makes fun of society's dependence on prized house hold goods. Oldenburg's work is an attempt to move art out of its traditional domain and to truly make it popular. Roy Lichtenstein was the master of the stereotype. He painted comic like images of romance, science fiction and violence. Mimicking comic book style techniques "the dot method" gave the effect of flat prints whilst rejecting the basic principles of art.
He transformed lowbrow comic strips into high art. His works were often ironic and had an element of humor. "We Rose Up Slowly" 1964 is one of his many paintings inspired by "true romance." It's ironic comment of the shallowness and absurdity portrayal of romance and love in their society. The stereotypical young, blond, female often appear in Lichtenstein's paintings, is hopelessly in love the handsome, dark, man. Both characters are highly exaggerated with artificial emotions which creates fake ness. "In the Car" 1963 is another painting inspired by romance.
Another glamorous, love struck blond is the passenger of in a speeding car that is driven by the dark mysterious man. This painting differs to his other artworks as it doesn't contain speech bubbles, which leaves it up to the audiences' imagination to draw the conclusion of this couples destiny. He adopted many features of comic book visual effects; the closely cropped composition with close focus on the faces, flat color, simplified shapes and dark outlines. He made many scenes of explosive action inspired by war comics. Lichtenstein's "Whamm!" 1963 belongs to a group of pictures made in the early 1960 s. As a result of its incredibly large size of 4 meters in width and its dramatic subject matter the audience which was based on heroic images of the comics of World War II battles, "Whamm!" became a historic painting for the Pop generation.
He includes onomatopoeic words like "wha aam!"Snap!"Bop!" and "Crunch!" which energizes the artwork. Lichtenstein was interested in capturing violent emotion in these dramatic scenes. Lichtenstein contrasted the original comic strips with his artwork. Comic strips are usually small, easily disposable and quickly read as a part of a sequence image. However, his artworks were on a large scale, permanent images that craved our attention. He borrowed compositions from famous works of art.
Lichtenstein's "Haystacks" 1968 reduced Claude Monet's "Haystacks" 1891 into its most basic compositional elements. Monet's delicate brush works capturing the light and atmosphere has all been lost and replaced by harsh grids of flat monotone color using crude printing like techniques. All his subjects are detached from real life. He tried to remove all evidence of his own hand and emotion in his artworks and gave them a carefully crafted machine made appearance. His images reflect the banality of the American consumer culture and reaction against the success and seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Robert Rauschenberg stretched the boundaries of the art making process by challenging and braking down tradition.
He was one of the founding artists which bridged the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Rauschenberg was known as "the local recycler of Manhattan," the objects for his "combines" were found on the streets as he walked around his block. "Bed" 1955 was a result of a spontaneous act of art creation, when one day he decided that he "didn't have any money to by canvas" so he used his own bed. Thick glug gy paint was slopped on with both the quilt and the pillow still on. "Bed" was refused entry from New York Spoleto Festival as it was too extreme and outrageous for the traditional art world. Art critics were disgusted and viewed it as "merely a decorative accident with no more meaning than a house-painter's drips and blobs." Rauschenberg often transformed his paintings into free standing three dimensional objects.
He believed that "a painting is more real if it is made out of bits of the real world," therefore in order to represent reality in its truest forms, he has to include bit of everyday life. "Odalisque" 1955 is an assemblage of Manhattan junk. Each object has nothing to do with any other object, except that they are apart of a common sculpture piece. It's the randomness that holds the whole piece together, and is the most essential part of the artwork. "Odalisque" is a humorous piece which got the critics fired up as it challenges all forms of traditional sculpture because it is a ready-made. By duplicating his artworks in "Factum 1", 1957 and "factum 2", 1957, Rauschenberg has challenged the creative spontaneous process.
"Factum 1" is a seemingly random assemblage of collage with paint and dribble. "Factum 2" is a nearly identical copy with the same collage and dribbled paint. Suggestions that Rauschenberg "fakes" his brushstrokes as the identical works show the control the artist has over his brush marks. Rauschenberg's "Persimmon" is an example of his works which has characteristics that are nowadays known as postmodern. He purposely layered down colors, figures and other abstract imagery that stylistically clash. "Apollo" is an example of juxtaposition collage images with bold colored paints that creates a fragmentation.
He does this in an attempt to challenge what art really is. Through his works he challenges tradition and pushes the limits of anti art further and further. Pop Art turned from the highly personal abstraction of Abstract Expressionism to images of popular culture. Abstract Expressionism was a highly complex style of art making and its understanding was restricted to certain intellectual few. Pop Art's use of banal subject matters, which were often lighthearted and humorous, opened art to the wider public. Pop Art innovations have significantly paved the way for contemporary art practices..