ON HEARING OR READING THE TERM “POP ART”, IT’S ANDY WARHOL’S PAINTINGS THAT IMMEDIATELY COME TO MIND, AND WITH GOOD REASON. HIS THIRTY-TWO PAINTINGS OF CAMPBELL’S SOUP, SEEMINGLY THE SAME, BUT STILL DIFFERENT, CREATED IN EARLY 1960S, AS WELL AS A SERIES OF MARILYN PORTRAITS, WERE WHAT LAID THE GROUNDS OF THE POP ART MOVEMENT AND MADE IT POPULAR. HE WAS OFTEN CALLED BY THE CRITICS AND AUDIENCE “THE PRINCE OF POP ART SCENE” AND RIGHTLY SO.
It should be said, however, that already in the early 1950s, a group of British artists and critics, called the Independent Group, created the pop art movement and made a break with tradition of the classical canons of painting and abstract expressionism of the 1940s. The post-war years and admiration towards the American lifestyle, popular culture, consumerism, advertisements and the motion pictures, which were then on the rise, contributed to the radical changes in the artistic creativity of that time.
Painters Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton are the leading artists of the new British art movement. Hamilton’s collage with an unusually long and funny name “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” (1956) is considered to be the first work of Pop Art.
Interestingly enough, Pop Art did not take hold in Britain or elsewhere in Europe, so much as in the US. What surely contributed to this fact was that, by a lucky coincidence, a group of exceptional creators, talented painters with strong personalities and matching tendencies, found themselves in New York at that time. They created their works independently of each other, but had incredibly similar backgrounds: Roy Lichtenstein, a designer who liked to create his own paintings in the comic book style; James Rosenquist who worked on advertisements and billboards, and made paintings in a free style with slightly political anti-Vietnam War messages; Tom Wesselmann, who first made his living as an illustrator and cartoonist, and shattered sexual taboos with daring boldness in his large format paintings of female nudes in vibrant colors; John Chamberlain, a sculptor who made sculptures from discarded automobile parts; Andy Warhol, who was successful in drawings for shoe advertisements, and was the first to paint enlarged images of everyday objects from his surroundings, as well as portraits of American stars and public figures, in series, as if in film shots.
A new vision of art was already noticed in the early works of Jasper Jones (in his paintings Flag, Target, Numbers), as well as
in the “Combines” of Robert Rauschenberg, which were put together from randomly collected waste; he also worked with performances and photography. In the early 1950s, both artists were presented and successfully promoted by the legendary New York gallery owner Leo Castelli. Of course, other New York galleries like Green Gallery and Martha Jackson Gallery followed his example, in exhibiting the works of Rosenquist, Wesselmann and finally Warhol.
The artworks that actually gave a satirical and critical portrayal of the American lifestyle and values were understood by the audience as their own; delighted with their simplicity, vibrant colors, large formats; especially the paintings of Andy Warhol soon earned an iconic status and enjoyed great popularity and unprecedented commercial success.
Despite some critics considering Pop Art as banal, and even denying its artistic value, it has never lost its power to this day. It may be said that it was the last compact, significant art movement of the 20th century, which has revolutionized contemporary art and breathed fresh air into it.
Jim Dine, a painter, said: “Pop is everything art hasn’t been for the last two decades.It is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naive.”