Pop Art

I first got to know about Andy Warhol and Pop Art at the same time, when I was about 15 years old and got a diary with Warhol`s pictures, as a present. I was amazed by the pictures and photos, which said so much about the nowadays society. When that year was over and so was the diary, I cut the pictures out and put them on a wall in my room. My absolute favourite at that time was a picture of two noses, a long, not really nice one and another, beautiful one.

I have always thought it shows a woman before and after a plastic surgery operation. On one hand the picture is so simple, that you maybe wouldn`t even refer to it as art in the first place, but on the other, this simplicity in fact is that certain point that makes it so great and creative. I have to admit, I really tried hard but did not manage to find out, what the title was and whether my theory was right or not. On the internet I found this mentioned picture with the text “The Jewish Nose, The American Nose” under it.

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I do not know, if this is the original title but if so, it would, of course, give the picture a completely different meaning. But however, it still would be very up-to-date. And exactly that is what I like about pop art. Not only does it manage to connect our lives, our society with art, it also presents “everyday objects”, the things which are so normal for us, in a special way. A way that makes us become aware of certain things, about which we normally wouldn`t think about at all.

In my opinion it has a lot to do with philosophy and psychology and this is the reason, why I am so interested in it. I did not know a lot about it, before I started writing this essay and I have to say it was an ideal opportunity to widen my horizon on this topic. I decided to cover the topics Pop Art in Great Britain and Andy Warhol. In the section Pop Art in Great Britain I also included some of my favourite works by British Pop Artists and in the end I added some of the most famous Warhol`s works as well.

Therefore, the size of my essay turned out to be slightly larger than expected. The abbreviation of Popular Art, Pop Art is a 20th century art movement that utilized the imagery and techniques of consumerism and popular culture. It uses common everyday objects, primarily images in advertising and television. The term Pop art was first used by an English critic, Lawrence Alloway in 1958, in an edition of Architectural Digest. British pop art arose out of a new understanding of contemporary life. It was intellectual, interdisciplinary and programmatic in character.

As quite a lot of sources state, it`s emergence as an artistic phenomenon was gradual, developing out of the wider cultural context in Britain at the time. In the early fifties artists and intellectuals began to realize that their culture was increasingly determined by the mass media, by new technology and by social change, and that this process was also leading to the increased Americanization of Europe. This cultural transformation was not reflected in the introverted, expressive, abstract – figurative art of the older generation of British artists, such as Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland or Barbara Hepworth.

It was, however, with these conditions in mind that the Independent Group was convened in 1952 to hold informal discussions and cultural events at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. The Group was not large, nor did it convene particularly frequently. Despite their heterogeneous cultural and professional provenance, its members found an area of contact in the interdisciplinary interests of the Group. But it was also this heterogeneity which determined the sheer variety of subjects they discussed and the priority they attached to approaching problems from an anthropological rather than artistic point of view.

Two members of the Group, Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, are generally seen as the father of London’s pop art. The starting signal was a lecture held at the first meeting of the Independent Group in 1952. The lecture, entitled Bunk, was delivered by Eduardo Paolozzi, who was born of Italian parents and brought up in Scotland. Bunk was a kind of projected collage using pictures mostly from American illustrated magazines, from comics and science fiction literature; a jumble of images from the media and advertising.

Projected onto screens, their insistent banality and trivial components were intensified to irritating effect. Richard Hamilton was teaching design at the Royal College of Art in London, where the young artists Peter Blake and Richard Smith were studying. Paolozzi taught textile design from 1949-55 at the Central School of Art and Design in London, and from 1955-58 at St. Martin’s School of Art, also in London. Blake and Smith belonged to the second generation of British pop art. Blake’s work inclined strongly towards figurative realism, while Smith tended towards pronounced abstraction.

While the first phase of British pop art had focused on performed media imagery, the impulses for its second phase came from a more immediate appreciation for its changes in society and their influence on the personality. During this period Peter Blake was working on collages, assemblages and paintings which combined mass – produced imagery with abstract signs and suggestively decorative fields of colour. Even abstract painters like Robyn Denny used the pure colours and generous arrangements of form in their non – representational compositions to refer to the new levels of perception and the elation of these to the new subject matter in art – as the ironic tiles of his paintings suggest. The influence of pop art spread quickly in geographical terms (Cambridge University) and among the younger generation. In 1958, R. B. Kitaj came to London on a scholarship and decided to stay on there. It was largely due to his influence that British pop art responded with such intensity to American imagery and the early phase of American pop art. Later, Richard Smith and Peter Blake visited America themselves.

A third phase of British pop art developed and made its presence publicly felt for the first time in exhibition “Young Contemporaries” in 1960 – the first exhibition to provide a general survey of the new art movement. Once again, Lawrence Alloway wrote the text of the catalogue. He did so without using the term “pop art” for these young artists: Barrie Bats, Derek Boshier, Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Allen Jones, R. B. Kitaj, Peter Philips and Norman Toynton.

The representatives of the third, and last generation of pop artists whose use of media language was the most pronounced, the most conceptual and intellectual were Peter Philips, Patrick Caulfield and Joe Tilson. Philips transformed his conception of the machine age into dynamic forms, uninhibitedly exploiting the language of advertising. He sees technology as the mirror of natural and vital laws which technology deceives, commercializes and destroys. His harsh paintings visualize the nightmare of a vicious circle releasing its aggression, propaganda and chaos into an overcharged atmosphere. “The King of Pop Art”

Andrew Warhola was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents were immigrants from Slovakia. His father was a construction worker and died when his son was only 13. Andy showed an early talent in drawing and painting. After high school he studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in commercial art. Then he moved to New York City and worked as an artist. His first moment of fame was in August of 1949, when he was hired by Glamour Magazine to do some illustrations for a section titled “Success is a Job in New York”.

However, the credit misspelled his last name as Warhol, which caused him to drop the final “a” from his last name. His first solo exhibition was opened at the Hugo Gallery in New York in 1952. He also had a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1956. He was hired to draw more advertisements and at age of 31 he was one of the most successful fashion illustrators. But however, he was not satisfied with himself or his artwork. He began taking images from lower culture, magazines, newspapers, and incorporating them into his work.

He knew this would cause a controversy because this imagery was not made for the exclusive, but for those in lower societal positions. Warhol began to experiment with his newfound medium and began working in repetition. At first he started by using rubber stamps, but found that the results were ‘too homemade’ and wanted something more commercialistic. It was then that he coined his technique of “photosilkscreening” that brought his so much acclaim and fame. This is also the method that he used to create his popular Campbell’s soup can and other images, beginning in 1962.

In 1962, he founded an art studio called The Factory. It was an art studio that hired artists to mass produced everything from prints to shoes. In the 1960s, Andy began making bizarre experimental films. Responding to one of his critics he said: “Our movies may have looked like home movies, but then our home wasn’t like anybody else’s. ” From 1963 through 1968 Warhol shot hundreds of these home movies. They are “short and dauntingly long, silent and sound, scripted and improvised, often in black and white though also in colour, still as death and alive to its moment”, as Manohla Dargis describes them in an article.

Moreover she wrote: “Awkward, beautiful, raw, spellbinding, radical – they are films like few others, in part because, first and foremost, they are also sublime art. ” His first such films included “Sleep”, “Empire”, and “The Chelsea Girls”. Then in 1965, he began travelling around the world with a musical group called The Velvet Underground. Warhol, with Paul Morrissey, acted as the band’s manager. In 1966 he “produced” their first album The Velvet Underground and Nico, as well as providing its album art. His actual participation in the album’s production amounted to simply paying for the studio time.

After the band’s first album, Warhol and band leader Lou Reed started to disagree more about the direction the band should take, and the contact between them faded. On June 3, 1968, a woman named Valerie Solanis, a rejected superstar, came into The Factory (Warhol`s studio) and shot Andy in the chest three times. She had worked there on occasion and also formed an organization called “SCUM”, or the Society for Cutting Up Men. At the hospital he was initially pronounced dead, but the doctors managed to massage his heart back into life. Valerie was put in a mental hospital and later given prison for three years.

Andy recovered and started a magazine called inter/view in 1969. He continued to paint over that time and also published a book on his philosophy. During the 70s, he began painting portraits of celebrities and the rich. He also started a popular nightclub, which became one of the hottest places in town. Andy died at 6:31 am on February 22, 1987 in the New York Hospital after complications with a gall bladder operation. His funeral was attended by more than two thousand people and a memorial museum was opened for him in Pittsburgh, in 1994. Today he is remembered as a revolutionary artist that triggered the beginning of the pop art movement.