The world of culture went pop in the 1960s as music, art, literature and furniture design became more accessible and reflected elements of everyday life.
The term Pop-Art was invented by British curator Lawrence Alloway in 1955, to describe a new form of “Popular” art – a movement characterized by the imagery of consumerism and popular culture. Pop-Art emerged in both New York and London during the mid-1950s and became the dominant avant-garde style until the late 1960s.
Pop-art, like nearly all significant art styles, was in part a reaction against the status quo. In 1950s America, the main style was Abstract Expressionism, an arcane non-figurative style of painting that – while admired by critics, serious art-lovers, and experienced museum-visitors – was not “connecting” with either the general public, or with many artists. Pop art employed more figurative, more down-to-earth imagery: something that the wider artist fraternity could get its teeth into and that viewers could relate to.
In some ways, the emergence of Pop-art (and its ascendancy over Abstract Expressionism) was similar to the rise of Dada and its broader based successor Surrealism (and their ascendancy over Cubism).
Pop-art shares many of the characteristics of Dada-Surrealism. Techniques derived from Kurt Schwitters’ collages, the “readymades” of Marcel Duchamp, the iconic imagery of Rene Magritte and the brash creations of Salvador Dali.
Another artist who may have had an impact on Pop-art is Edward Hopper; although he was realist painter of urban America and his painterly style was very different from most pop works, his simple ultra-American everyday scenes (e.g., “Night Hawks”, 1942 and “Gas”, 1940) were well known to the pop generation.
On the other side of the Atlantic sea British Pop-Art emerged from within the Independent Group – an informal circle of artists including painter Richard Hamilton, curator and art critic Lawrence Alloway, and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, that met in the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
What emerges is a visual language fusing painterly tradition with the iconography of city life, theatre, and advertising – a language inspired by American consumer culture .
Parallel and not to be confused with pop art, emerged opt art, a new abstract art that concerned itself with illusion, perception, and the physical and psychological impact of colour. Sometimes only black and white were used, but usually hard-edged juxtapositions of saturated, often complementary colours were made to create a strong three-dimensional illusion of colour, form, space, and movement on the two-dimensional surface. This work had its roots in the visual experiments of Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely. It has been argued that the style represented a kind of abstract Pop art, one which emulated the dazzle of consumer society. And some of the techniques can also be seen in pop art.
Characterized by bold, simple, everyday imagery, and vibrant block colours, it was interesting to look at and had a modern “hip” feel. The bright colour schemes also enabled this form of avant-garde art to emphasise certain elements in contemporary culture, and helped to narrow the gap between the commercial arts and the fine arts. It was the first Post-Modernist movement (where medium is as important as the message) It reflect the power of film and television, from which many of its most famous images acquired their celebrity. Common sources of Pop iconography were advertisements, consumer product packaging, photos of film-stars, pop-stars and other celebrities, and comic strips. Pop-art was also a sexually charged art that was defined by external consumerist forces, both were consumed by the need to make a strong visual impact on the general public.
By the time of pop art the screen print was revived and given new energy with visual imagery that literally replicated popular commercialism. Artists were producing screen prints, and they were bold, huge, and multi-coloured. These prints flaunted photo processes, and they were truly American in content and in process. Andy Warhol’s , James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein, all brought conceptualization to daily use object turning them into “high-art” statements. It was often witty, purposely obvious and throwaway in its reflection of consumer culture such as advertising and comic books.
Pop art’s influence on typography resulted in fonts – particularly for display type – designed or selected according to possible associations or references in place of any particular theory regarding legibility or aesthetics, while the International Style remained influential for body text.
The Recycling image from popular culture or by manipulation (such as reducing continuous-tone images to high-contrast black and white) and the notion of changing scale and context was prevalent in pop art.