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European + American Art Pop Art

Pop art is an international movement based on consumerist imagery and mass culture: figurative and hard-edged, it often makes use of photographic techniques. In the mid-1950s, 55% of American homes had television sets and by the early 1960s archetypal images shaped by vernacular and contemporary mass culture were impossible to ignore.

American Pop emerged separately from its British counterpart because it was regarded initially as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. The first exponents of Pop were called Neo-Dada, as their use of commonplace objects and subjects suggested an affinity with Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. Artists associated with Pop ― Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol ― adopted impersonal machine-like surfaces, often duplicating commercial techniques by hand. Many Pop objects blur the boundaries between painted illusion and reality.

Lichtenstein comments on the role of advertising in the promotion of affluence and consumerism: his Kitchen range retains the copyright symbol of its original form as an advertisement. Jim Dine began to attach real objects to his canvases in the early 1960s. An animal establishes a witty dialogue between the energy of paint and real ‘life’ fur. Oldenberg’s Leopard chair was a prototype for an ambitious project to recreate an entire motel bedroom. In spite of the tongue-in-check jokiness and banality of much Pop art, it also has a darker side. Warhol’s screen printed, repeated images of the electric chair, of riots and car crashes, are still disturbing. Celebrity photographic portraits capture an obsession with fame.