Pop art, a movement which took place in Britain and the US in the 1950’s and 60’s, certainly had a meaningful message. This message was that art should no longer be considered to be a precious artefact, but rather, a commodity. Pop art challenged notions of art as a precious artefact, because it challenged the idea of the artist’s hand, and the artist as hero, because of the way it was made. It was produced in such a different manner to the masterpieces of old, that it brought the very question of what constituted art to the fore. Pop artists shunned the pretentions of the glamorous Parisian artists of the previous century, and aimed to make art recognizable and accessible to people from all walks of life, from art connoisseurs to the average person on the street.
The artists that took up this approach to art production, rather than art creation, were tired of the art that they studied in art school, believing it to be far too removed from their own lives, and what they saw around them every day, in the form of advertisements and commercials (“Pop Art”.)
The Pop art movement was a response to the previous dominant art form, which was Abstract Impressionism. This art movement was considered pretentious, and not made for viewing with the general public in mind. Pop Art used iconic symbols in a repeated fashion, so that the everyday man or woman could view it, recognize it, and appreciate it in a way that they could never have approached Abstract Impressionism (“Pop Art”.)
Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans (1962), and Brillo Box (1964) exhibit are both excellent examples of Pop art, and the social statement he was making. This social statement his appropriating imagery from popular culture, and reproducing it from styles more akin to commercial design than fine art, i.e. print-making. Andy Warhol utilised commonplace sources, such as advertising, and turned them into works of art.
Artists such as Andy Warhol, and his contemporary Roy Lichtenstein, challenged the art world’s notions of originality because of the subject matter. They were copying rather than creating. For example, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych (1962) is simply the repeated image of a photograph of actress Marilyn Monroe. This work has not created something new, rather, it has manipulated something existing – which may or may not be viewed as truly original. In addition to this affront to originality, they used multiples and edition work. By using print-making techniques rather than traditional painting methods, Andy Warhol turned art into a commodity. In his Campbell’s Soup Cans, he painstakingly set out to replicate a single image in a mechanical manner, which is an original idea despite the fact that the subject matter itself is unoriginal. Pop artists challenged the idea about the hierarchy of materials used in art, favouring commercial techniques over historically lauded techniques, such as oil painting. Roy Lichtenstein challenged the notion of originality in a slightly different way; his works included reproductions of cartoons and comic strips, carried out by using flat tones and color dots, that were usually associated with print-making (“Pop art”.)
Pop art shook up the art world in a way that still has relevance today. It challenged the notions of what constitutes art, how it should be created, what materials should be used, and the relevance of original imagery. Unlike the precious, one-of-a-kind masterpieces of old, wrought by hand in oil paint, pop art is characterized by images and materials that are throwaway and expendable, something which modern society still understands all too well.