POP Art was a movement that developed in the mid-20th century. It utilized elements from popular culture including advertisements, magazines, product logos and mass media to challenge traditional notions of art. It also employed satire to question the consumerism and industrialism of American culture. Below are some of the most iconic contributors to the POP Art movement and their most famous works, which spanned a range of mediums and influences.
POP Art Artist Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup, Marilyn Monroe and Popular Culture
Andy Warhol was an American artist and filmmaker who was a leading member of the POP Art movement. His work is renowned for its appropriation of popular media, celebrity culture and advertisements. He produced art in a variety of mediums including painting, screen-printing, film, sculpture and photography. He is remembered as one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century and his art is internationally recognizable by its bright colors and simplistic nature.
Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)
Campbell’s Soup Cans consists of multiple canvases that are aligned linearly, as if on a grocery store shelf. Each one features a Campbell’s soup can in a different flavor. Although every canvas is hand-painted, they are all uniformly replicated, indistinguishable from one another except for their different flavors. The piece thus exemplifies POP Art’s use of the mass production advertising style.
Marilyn Diptych (1962)
Marilyn Diptych is a multi-canvas composition of portraits depicting Marilyn Monroe. Each canvas is rendered in neon, block colors with an overlapping silkscreen effect. One half of the composition is done in color while the other half is monochrome black and white with a faded printing effect. It exemplifies the heightened materiality of the mid 20th century, asserting that even people could be objectified and commodified.
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Brillo Boxes (1964)
Brillo Soap Pads Box represents Warhol’s experimentation with product-style sculpture. He commissioned several carpenters to create replicas of supermarket boxes from plywood, then painted them with product information and logos. These boxes were nearly identical to their functional counterparts. The ‘Brillo Soap Pads’ logo became the most prolific of these, because of its mundanity which challenged what is considered art and how society interacts with it.
Roy Lichtenstein: Comic Books and POP Art
Roy Lichtenstein was an American artist who was a significant member of the POP Art movement. His work is widely recognized for its use of parody through mimicking mass media outputs. Specifically, he is associated with commercial, comic-strip style art and his signature use of Ben-Day dots. He received considerable criticism during his career for his satirical comic book pieces but has been posthumously remembered as a revolutionary of 20th-century art.
Whaam! is a composition of two canvases that portray one fighter plane striking down another with a missile. The entire piece is rendered in a comic-strip style, with a limited, primary color palette and a block color design. It also features characteristic comic word bubbles and block letter sound effects. The work was inspired by a comic strip from DC Comics’ All-American Men of War, drawn by Irv Novick and published in 1962.
Drowning Girl (1963)
Drowning Girl depicts a young woman drowning in Lichtenstein’s signature comic-strip style. Her face is central to the piece, surrounded by water. It also features a thought bubble with the phrase, “I DONT CARE! I’D RATHER SINK — THAN CALL BRAD FOR HELP!” The dialogue in the panel, clearly disjointed from the remainder of the story’s plot, adds an element of satire to the piece. It is copied from DC Comics’ ‘Run For Love!’ from the Secret Love comic book series.
Keith Haring’s Art: Street Murals and Activism
Keith Haring was an American artist associated with the POP Art movement and known for his street art. He was strongly influenced by the political climate of New York City in the 1980s. His work reflects this through his use of sexual and often shocking imagery to spur social activism. He addressed several social and political topics at the time, including the AIDS epidemic and Apartheid. He is regarded as a revolutionary who used the accessibility of street art to spread awareness of social issues.
Crack is Wack (1986)
Crack is Wack is a street mural located at East 128th Street and 2nd Avenue in New York City. The piece is a reaction to the crack epidemic in New York City and serves as a warning against drug use. It features large, comic-style block letters within an apparent cloud of smoke. A chaotic crowd of people appears below the letters. They are overshadowed by a skeleton holding a pipe and a burning dollar bill, to represent the danger of drugs. The mural was initially done without city permission but was subsequently protected by the city as a memento of anti-drug activism.
David Hockney’s Paintings: POP Art and 20th-century Modernism
David Hockney is a British artist, photographer and draftsman who remains one of the most important contributors to the POP Art movement. His oeuvre is very eclectic, spanning mediums and movements including cubist painting, photographic collage, advertisement posters and landscape paintings. It is this variation that has made him an enduring influence on 20th-century art. During his studies, he interacted with expressionist artist Francis Bacon and was also influenced by the work of Cubism icon Pablo Picasso and leading impressionist Henri Matisse.
A Bigger Splash (1967)
A Bigger Splash portrays a swimming pool outside of a California home. It is a snapshot moment of a splash in the pool directly after someone jumped into it. It was inspired by a photograph in a book Hockney encountered on how to build swimming pools. The painting is part of a series that Hockney produced of swimming pools outside homes between 1964 and 1971. The series represents the more relaxed, Californian way of life that Hockney experienced in juxtaposition to the fast-paced, stressful one in New York.
American Collectors (Fred and Marci Weisman; 1968)
American Collectors is a double portrait of art collector couple Fred and Marci Weisman. The pair is shown next to each other, with Fred looking to the side and Marci facing forward. They are framed by two sets of sliding doors and surrounded by four objects: three sculptural works of art and a tree. The piece questions the relationship between object and subject, giving it a slight edge of ironic humor.
Richard Hamilton: Genesis of POP Art
Richard Hamilton was an English collagist and painter who was an early contributor to the POP Art movement. His collage work was particularly seminal in the development of POP Art, inspired by life’s mundanity and the vapidity of mass media production. He mentored several prominent artists during the 1950s including David Hockney and Peter Blake, cementing his place as a leading contributor to mid-20th-century modernism. He also designed the cover of the Beatles’ White Album (1968).
Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956)
Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? is considered the first prominent work of the POP Art movement. It is a collage depicting the interior of a home formed by cutouts from magazines. It includes contemporary Adam and Eve, surrounded by numerous elements of postwar consumerism and mass media culture. It features a considerable amount of ironic humor, including Adam covering his genitals with a massive lollipop rather than the traditional fig leaf. This humor parodies the consumerism of the mid-20th-century industrial and advertising boom.
POP Art Artist Claes Oldenburg: Sculpture and Everyday Objects
Claes Oldenburg is a Swedish-American sculptor who is known for his replicas of commonplace objects. He has cited that his art is notably ‘non-meaningful’ in nature, which allows viewers to have their interpretations of it. His earlier work focused on soft sculpture everyday objects, which developed into more realistic representations. He produced several works in collaboration with his wife, Coosje van Bruggen until she died in 2009.
Pastry Case, I is a replica sculpture of a display case full of food. It is made from muslin, plastic and enamel. Within the display case are a cake, a rack of ribs, a bitten caramel apple, a banana split and various other desserts. It is both appetizing and repulsive, emphasizing the juxtaposition between products and the obvious falsity of advertisements. Oldenburg labels these ‘frustrating expectations,’ as the objects in the case cannot be consumed.