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Evolution of Pop Art

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The Evolution of Pop Art


Marius Janavicius

Critical and Cultural Studies

Caroline Archer

August 2011

During the 1960s Art Deco and Art Nouveau already were already established movements, which did not have the labels of “contemporary” styles. People were looking for something new, and shocking. Reactions towards established moral standards, social tensions which included race relations, sexual mores, women’s rights gave birth to total reassessment of old values.

It was born twice: first in England and then again, independently, in New York. During the early 1950s, several London artists transformed the artifacts and mass media imagery of American popular culture into critical, satirical art works. They were responding to a flood of American postwar export of consumer goods, movies, magazines, comics and advertising.

However, Pop Art became popular movement in United States. After the Second World War came the birth of the consumer society. The American way of life, with its emphasis on growth, quantity, consumption and fun, dominated western values. However, underneath many of the same old dark forces raged on: war - Berlin, Korea, Vietnam; racial unrest; the political intolerance of the early 1950s. Among the young, new values awoke, and protest movements sprang up. Pop art mostly opposed abstractionism, represented by Jackson Pollock. It was said that Pollock’s work terminated all connections with visible reality. Young artists blamed him for making art a mean of amusement for higher ranks of society.

The biggest influence on Pop Art had Dada movement:

Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of anti-art to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.[1]

In Dada, there were no system, rules, just “accidentally” created art. Both Dada and Pop Art developed in part to counter the status quo, standing up in opposition to the established "high art" of their times. The Dadaists rose up in reaction to the bourgeois society of the pre World War I society. A society whose "rottenness" was exemplified for the Dadaists in the destructive nature of World War I. Believing that the traditional artist was a mere prop of the elite, a paid marionette for the powerful, the Dadaists revoked the status quo by creating art which was anti aesthetic. Pop Art replaced satirical, destructive and anarchic elements of the Dada movement by having an admiration for mass culture and consumerism.

“Pop art has given rise to a cult of linking, that obscures the contribution it has made. Because it is easy to look at and often amusing, recognizable and therefore relaxing, Pop has been enjoyed and applauded on an extremely superficial level[2]”

The main domains where Pop Art emerged were Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein. Warhol had an obsession with Hollywood fame and glamour. He used photographic silkscreen to create his famous portraits of Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy. He used technique by creating a large number of printing and although they weren’t aesthetically pleasing in terms of their composition, but they referred to a popular culture very well.

Andy Warhol said about his favorite technique:

In August 62 I started doing silk-screens. I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect. With silk-screening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. When Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face the first Marilyns.[3]

The colors used by the Pop Art artists were vivid and did not depict artist’s inner feelings of the world. They actually referred to a popular culture and inspired Warhol to use silkscreen technique, which was used for the mass production.

Roy Lichtenstein developed style that was based on comic strip. Features of his style were Ben-Day dots, lettering and speech balloons. As Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein also used vivid primarily colors, outlined with black lines.

“The Ben-Day dots allow Lichtenstein’s painting to look both more and less artificial. They signify mechanical reproduction, but they also add suggestions of light and reflection, shifting colors and variations in touch. The reflections would eventually lead to Lichtenstein’s many portrayals of mirrors, but first they seem to have spawned ceramic sculptures and works in porcelain enamel on steel, a small selection of which is included in the Gagosian show. On their shiny surfaces, fake reflections and shadows — like the aggressive, tattoolike scattering of Ben-Day dots on “Head With Red Shadow” — compete with real ones.”[4]

His work showed that comic slips have stylistic characteristics that follow aesthetic code. His works had traces of various styles including Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism:

“All my art is in some way about other art, even if the other art is cartoons.”[5]

Roberta smith of New York Times wrote:

“The perfection of his paintings was achieved through extensive and beautiful preparatory studies, as indicated by his drawings retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987.”[6]

What she wanted to say, was that Roy Lichtenstein was confident with his style and was true explorer of new trends. He was not a charlatan who would hide his talent behind some philosophical nonsense – which nowadays is a practice all too common.

Many commonalities exist between Warhol and Lichtenstein. They both explored similar themes in their work including comics, advertisements, politics, portraits and nature. In particular, both Warhol and Lichtenstein used the process of printmaking, which mimicked the commercial sources of their imagery and allowed the artists to easily create multiple pieces.


Left: Andy Warhol. Superman. 1981. Right: Roy Lichtenstein. Whaam. 1963;

To make art more approachable, Pop Art artists suggested using images of everyday objects, products that surrounds us and the environment of modern city.

Pop choose to depict everything previously considered unworthy of notice, let alone of art: every level of advertising, magazine and newspaper illustration, Times Square jokes, tasteless bric-a-brac and gaudy furnishings, ordinary clothes and foods, film stars, pin – ups, cartoons.[7]

However, the works of pop art wasn’t as popular as the products it was depicting. Cultural chaos that caused the loss of aesthetic values gave rise to the emergence of a new class of untalented artists. In many cases, it really suffered graphic design, and was responsible for a flood of uncreative pieces of work, produced by pseudo – artists who found the art market that accepted their products as “art”.

Pop generally involves the use of existing imagery from mass culture already processed into two dimensions, preferably borrowed from advertising, photography, comic strips and other mass media sources. Pop emphasizes flatness and frontal presentation. Pop artists use mechanical and other deliberately inexpressive techniques that imply the removal of the artist's hand and suggest the depersonalized processes of mass production. Pop Art is characterized by an unapologetic decorativeness. It delves into areas of popular taste and kitsch previously considered outside the limits of fine art. Pop concentrates on the contemporary subject matter integral to the ready-made sources the artists have used.

However, Pop Art brought many innovation and fresh ideas into the graphic art. Typical for the attitude of the Pop Art movement was Andy Warhol's use of serigraphy, a photo-realistic, mass-production technique of printmaking. Pop Art intruded into the media and advertising. The differences between the fine arts and commercial arts were removed.

The role of a graphic design was also highly influenced by Pop Art. It laid the foundations for consumer culture. Andy Warhol once said:

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.”[8]

Nowadays the magazines, television, newspapers and Hollywood are producing new images every day, meaning that they are constantly enlarging popular culture. Everything that surrounds modern society is just an image ready to be consumed.

Artists still use today most of the features of the Pop Art as inspiration for their artworks. Artists nowadays use various illustrations, prints and posters with details like: dotted image, strong and multiple colors, series of images on one print, famous people faces (especially on movie posters) and home utilities.

In conclusion, the Pop Art was a turning point of mass production art. Popular culture had become too much a part of everyday living for artists, not to take note of it and bring it into their work, especially the form of popular culture that was most equivalent to fine art: graphic design. Not only was graphic design a legitimate subject for fine artists, but its motifs became accepted as aprt of visual language of art.

Pop art is lots of things that high-art isn't - it's mass-produced, it is expendable, it is low-cost, glamorous, witty with bright lights and big celebrities - there's no sign of the impoverished artist slaving away in a tiny studio in this movement. With the techniques, available designers were enabled to produce large numbers of prints and helped the commercial art to:

“Leap out of Soapbox Covers, Soup Cans, Plastic Packing, and Advertising, into a respectable bona fide art form.”[9]

These aspects are the essential for the modern graphic designers, because nowadays they are not just an artists, but also suppliers, IT specialists and manufacturers. They are forced to keep constantly themselves in touch with the latest technology upgrades and various printing techniques; their work needs to be produced quickly and usually in big numbers. Graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products which are generated. Pop Art gives modern graphic designer massive choice of inspiration.


• Lucy R. Lippard. 2004. Pop Art. London. Thames & Hudson Ltd.

• David Bjelajac. 2000.American Art. A Cultural History. London. Laurence King Publishing.

• Patrick Cramsie. 2010. The Story of Graphic Design. London. The British Library.

• Debbie Hagan. Pop art's beat goes on: modern-day pop artists, inspired by renowned masters from the 1960s and '70s, bring joy in difficult times.

• Marc Lowenthal. Translator's introduction to Francis Picabia's I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, And Provocation

• Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, (New York: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1980), 7

• Annete Labedzki. A Study of Mass Production in Art - Andy Warhol

• Roberta Smith. The Painter Who Adored Women. New York Times. June 11, 2008

• Roy Lichtenstein. J. Hendrickson. Roy Lichtenstein. Cologne 2000.

• Gombrich E. H. History of art. Vilnius, 1995 (Lithuanian edition)

• Smith Lucie. Directions of Art. Vilnius, 1997. (Lithuanian edition)

• Richard Hollis. Graphic Design. A Concise History.

[1] Marc Lowenthal, translator's introduction to Francis Picabia's I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, And Provocation
[2] Lucy R. Lippard. 2004.Pop Art. London. Thames & Hudson Ltd.
[4] Roberta Smith. The Painter Who Adored Women. New York Times. June 11, 2008
[5] Roy Lichtenstein. J. Hendrickson. Roy Lichtenstein. Cologne 2000
[6] Roberta Smith. New York Times. January 12. 2007.
[7] Lucy R. Lippard. 2004.Pop Art. London. Thames & Hudson Ltd.
[8] Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, (New York: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1980), 7.
[9] Annete Labedzki. A Study of Mass Production in Art - Andy Warhol.

Jackson Pollock, “Mural,” 1943,

Mick Jagger Series. Andy Warhol 1975.

Andy Warhol. Marilyn Monroe. 1967

Roy Lichtenstein. Drowning girl. 1963

Roy Lichtenstein, In The Car, 1963

Andy Warhol (right) and Roy Lichtenstein (left) inspired T-shirt design

Pop Art inspired design of perfume packaging.…...

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