Pop art: history and main artists

Pop art: history and main artists
Isabel del Rio

Pop art = Popular art is an art for ordinary people as its name says. Then, it’s the art of a middle class fed up with the expensive paintings and difficult topics of previous movements.

Pop Art by Andy Warhol

Pop Art by Andy Warhol

We must look for its origin in Great Britain and in the United States. However, motivations were different. In Great Britain, Pop art was a rebellion against the Second World War and the established powers which caused that monstrosity. There, a group of young artist (The Independent Group (IG), founded in London in 1952), following the old Dadaist ideas, started to create works of art with ‘found objects’ such as, advertising, comic book characters, magazine covers and various mass produced graphics that mostly represented American popular culture, a country seeing as the paradise of the democratic middle class society. Maybe, the most famous work of this Independent Group was the collage made by Paolozzi titled ‘I was a Rich Man’s Plaything’, which includes the first use of the word “pop″, appearing in a cloud of smoke emerging from a revolver.

In the United States, Pop art had a slower gestation and its greatest impetus was in the 60’s with artists as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Wayne Thiebaud, Claes Oldenburg, David Hockney, or Alex Katz. As in Great Britain, they employed the irony and the parody, bold colors, collages and found objects, and ordinary topics. However, America was proud of itself and they were not criticizing its society and way of life but looking for personal icons far of the old icons of Europe. Then, Aphrodite or Apollo were replaced by Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley; and a bottle of Coca-Cola or a can of soup (Campbell) started to be seen as important icons. Irony? Yes, of course, but a happy irony of the winner country of the Second World War. Parody? Yes, but a sweet parody of the society of the welfare state.

Pop art, by Tom Wesselmann

Pop art, by Tom Wesselmann

Bear in mind that a precursor of Pop art was Jasper Johns (he is usually classified as Neo-Dada) and his main topic was the flag of the United States… Definitely, American people were proud of their achievements.

In fact, Pop art supposed a revolution and changed the way of understand art, seeing it as an accessible part of a culture which everybody can share and possess and where everybody can identify itself and identify its everyday actions and objects: comics, publicity images, brands, photos, gadgets… Of course, Dadaism is an antecessor but with less influence and brief length, since Pop was still today an important movement and it has spread all around the world. For example, the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who emerged from Madrid ‘La Movida’ subculture (80’s) making low budget super 8 pop art movies, he is subsequently called the Andy Warhol of Spain; and in Japan, Yoshitomo Nara, is today famous for their graffiti-inspired art or Takashi Murakami is making mass-produced plastic or polymer figurines.

Only we need to visit some current exhibitions to see and artist who is using the techniques and topics that characterize Pop.

[flagallery gid=7 name=Pop Art Masters]


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