Pop Art

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


Commonplace and, especially, commercial objects from popular culture (hence “Pop,” the term appearing in 1958) — such as comic strips, soup cans, road signs, and hamburgers — are used as subject matter. Leading Pop artists from the late 1950s and ’60s include Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. Pop Art often uses the exact commercial techniques from which the iconography itself is borrowed.

Lawrence Alloway (1926-1990).

Richard Hamilton (1922-)

Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956)
This was the first piece to achieve acclaim in the Pop Art movement. It includes American magazine ads: Charles Atlas and a pin-up girl as the new domestic couple oddly old-fashioned looking in black-and-white in their state-of-the-“art” home. A comic strip “painting” and a can of ham “sculpture” take the place of actual art in the home. A portrait of John Ruskin (of the Arts and Crafts movement) hangs on the wall. The Jazz Singer is playing nearby, and the lunar landscape looms overhead.
Here is an excellent Essay on this artwork.

David Hockney (1937- ) — brought American vitality to the London scene after visiting.

A Lawn Being Sprinkled (1967)Colorful but sterile — quintessential California affluence decades before “yuppies.”

A Bigger Splash (1967)
An unseen figure and California sun. Paint was applied with rollers. Again, the piece evokes the life of leisure, and its accompanying desolation.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) — known for comic strip scenes and technique.

Mr Bellamy (1961)
Imitating cheap printing techniques of comic strip art, Lichtenstein exploits the banality of such images blown up to canvas size.

In the Car (1963)Faithfully reproduced cartoon with primary colors blown up. Out of context, magnified. Aesthetics point, not content

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Marilyn (1967)
Warhol used silk screen often. Marilyn’s face (and Mao’s, and Jackie O’s, and others’) is seen as an impenetrable mask, the inscrutability exacerbated by the application of bright lurid colors. Warhol used a publicity still. Marilyn as a product for consumer culture, packaged for the masses, and his process calls this freakish celebrity phenomenon into question.

Warhol showed disasters to point out American proclivities for sensationalism and voyeurism; the newsprint quality and Warhol’s tints place an ironic distance between the viewer and the subject.

The apparent detachment, and its lack of commentary or critique on pop culture and the commodification of image, proved unnerving to many who decided to hate Warhol.

Warhol is played by David Bowie in the film about another artist, Basquiat.

Jonathan de Pas, Donato d’Urbino, Paolo Lomazzi

Joe Sofa (1971)
The “father of organic design,” Charles Eames, said he wanted his chair to be a comfortable as a baseball mitt. Joe Sofa was named after Joe DiMaggio. The artists blur household objects and art for this pop piece.

Works Consulted

The Art Book. London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996.

Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002.