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Where Did Pop Art Come From?

September 1, 2017

Pop Art is an impactful art movement in Britain and the US that emerged in the mid-50s and flourished in the 60s. The term “Pop Art” was coined in 1955 by Lawrence Alloway, a British curator and critic. Pop Art was the art of popular or “material” culture and was a revolt against the status quo and the traditional views of what art should be. It was a new form of “popular” art that was low cost and mass produced.

London, New York City and California artists elevated popular culture to the level of fine art through their dominant avant-garde styles of painting and sculpture that drew on inspiration from Dada-Surrealism and artists such as Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali. Pop artists were looking to rebel against Abstract Expressionism and its pretentious and emotional perception and what they created was art that was young, fun and brash.

Some of the most well-known pop artists began their careers in commercial art. Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Claes Oldenberg to name a few. Andy Warhol was responsible for bringing Pop Art into the public eye with his Campbell’s soup cans and Coke bottles. Works that now sell for millions. Before reaching stardom, Andy was a very successful magazine illustrator and graphic designer and used commercial methods he learned, such as silkscreening, to create his most popular works.

Andy Warhol had a real interest for celebrities and used Marilyn Monroe and many others as models. He was fascinated with Hollywood stars and their almost mythical status and set out to portray these glamourous icons as consumer items that could be mass produced at low cost. Like other pop artists of his time, Andy would duplicate and reproduce his work making it seem like it had been produced by a machine.

In some ways, Pop Art mocked the established art world by appropriating commonplace objects of everyday life and images drawn from mass media, comic books, pop music, Hollywood movies, fan magazines, fictional characters and popular imagery at large. Young artists were looking to make their mark by connecting pop culture imagery and fine art traditions. Roy Lichtenstein did so through his work inspired by popular advertising and comic strips using bright dominant colours such as red, yellow and blue.

Pop art also coincided with the pop music phenomenon and artist Peter Blake, referred to by some as the Godfather of British Pop Art, was best known for co-creating the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts album cover. Alongside British artists Richard Hamilton and David Hockney, Peter sourced imagery from pop culture to create colourful and powerful works of art that have had a lasting impression.

Today, Pop Art is stronger than ever and Romero Britto, Steve Kaufman and James Rizzi are very successful artists using elements of the pop style to create modern works. Pop Art was more than a statement and after 45+ years, it continues to fascinate our culture to this day.

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