Pop art was a very colourful movement that made its debut in the 1950s and has remained a prominent artistic movement since then. The movement really marked the end of modernism and is often hailed as the start of contemporary art. Pop art is a distinctive genre of art that first appeared in post-war Britain and America. It was characterized by an interest in popular culture and imaginative interpretations of commercial products. The movement is hailed as being innovative in its approach to art, making it accessible to the masses. Renowned for its bold imagery, bright colour palette and repetitive approach, their work was both quirky and critical and commented on contemporary life and events at the time.
Everyday objects were used as subject matter and were often physically incorporated in the work. Artists like Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein were particularly well known for this. They took inspiration from all walks of popular life, from television to comic books, movies to magazines. Advertising particularly was a point of interest for the pop artists due to its mass production and ease of access. Pop art used images and icons that were popular in the modern world. This included items, people, comic books and even soup cans. These artists created work that used these items in many different ways, from repetition to collage and even changing the colour and texture of the original thing to something outlandish and over the top.
Pop Art represented an attempt to return to a more objective, universally acceptable form of art after the dominance of Abstract art in the US and Europe. It rejected the notion that “high art” was somehow more important. They thought that earlier forms of art were too elite and as such, Pop art threw away these highbrow pretences and laid art down for what they thought it was at its core. Something to be consumed, visually. Although the critics of Pop art described it as vulgar, sensational and a joke, those who did believe in it saw it as a democratic, nondiscriminatory way to bring people together.
Pop art was a descendant genre of Dadaism, which ridiculed the seriousness of contemporary art in Paris and beyond. Some of the most striking forms of Pop art emerged out of artists like the ones mentioned above. Roy Lichtenstein’s stylized reproductions of comic strips used coloured dots and flat tones that was seen often in commercial printing. Andy Warhol’s meticulous paintings and silkscreens featured ordinary objects as well as celebrities and Claes Oldenburg made soft plastic sculptures of objects like bathroom fixtures, typewriters and gigantic hamburgers that were larger than life in scale. All of these artworks showed a single unifying theme in that there was very little of the “personal” in them. They aspired to an impersonal, refined attitude in their works. Some, however, were subtly criticising social structures. For example, Andy Warhol repeated would take an image and then repeat that same plain image, over and over in many of his works. This effect had an undeniably disturbing effect and hammered home the comment on mass consumption and consumerism that had swept the land.
American Pop art tended to be anonymous and aggressive, with the personal feelings of the artists coming through very little. On the other hand, English Pop Art expressed an almost romantic view of Pop culture, perhaps because it wasn’t right in the hub of it. While the Americans were living pop culture, the English tended to deal with it as a theme and in some cases, metaphor. Warhol even said once, “I think everyone should be a machine,” and he tried to produce works that a machine would have made.