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    “No movement in art history ever established itself so swiftly.”

    –Calvin Tomkins

     After World War II, along with the growth in economy, the most recognizable style of art was born-pop art.

    Pop art uses materials that already exist in pop culture as signs. Popular culture in general has strong impacts on the audience by transmitting news in verbal, visual and other forms. Popular culture was distributed by mass production from the origin of popular culture—the urban centers. After World War II, people were willing to see our whole environment as art since popular culture became more conspicuous, which is when the mass media entered the work of art. Pop artists used common images from everyday culture as their sources including: advertisements, photographs, consumer good, celebrities and comic strips. Pop artists also used bold, flat colors and hard edge compositions adopted from commercial designs. In the United States, pop artists reproduced, arranged, duplicated and even combined endless visual images that, in some ways, represented the American culture. The differences between pop art and other art style are the strong relations that pop art has with different aspects with American society— development in art, mass production, mass media and consumerism.

    Before pop art, the main art style in America was abstract expressionism, which emphasizes subconscious and spontaneous creation. There are its values during the pre war period and serious artists and critics loved it. However, in mid 1950s, many found it too introspective and pretentious. As time move on to 1960s, pop art, as a new art style, showed a different perspective. Pop art is both a development and a reaction to the abstract expressionism.  With the images from mass production and popular culture, everyday people can relate to the “art piece”. In a sense, pop art fills the gap between abstract and realistic. In pop art, the mass produced objects are given the same value as the unique ones. Andy Warhol said, “Everything is beautiful. Pop is everything.” Pop art, in comparison, is lots of things that high-art aren’t. It’s expendable, inexpensive and even witty in a way. The biggest difference is that pop art is mass-produced.

    Pop art makes art and mass production industry cooperate for the first time.  As mentioned previously, there are many uses of images from mass production in pop art. The relationship is not only shown in the art pieces, but also in how artists feel about mass production. Andy Warhol, one of the most important pop artists, intended for his art to look machine-made. He even called his own studio a “factory”. The reason behind this is that he sees mass-production as a reflection on American culture at that time. He said,” What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

    Ever since the 1940s, the mass media has entered people’s life. It has consciously and subconsciously influenced everybody. The images from advertising and televisions were printed, photographed, painted, etc. As a parallel improvement, the development of sound is dedicated to pop music at that time. While mass media kept presenting those images and sounds, they gradually become a set of signs to the audience. Andy Warhol summarized the Pop movement and the role of the media in this famous quotation: “In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.”  There are always new images created by newspaper, television, and even Hollywood, which means that the popular culture is still being enlarged everyday. Everything that surrounds us is just an image ready to be consumed.

    The birth of pop art not only elevated common popular images onto the level of art and changed the mass production and mass media, but also suggest the critique emerging time of consumer culture.

    One of the most significant influences on American society is the impact on consumerism. First of all, most pop artists started off as commercial artists. Andy Warhol, as an example, was a commercial illustrator. As his job and field, commercial art was a big part of his life, which can be seen in the famous Campbell soup can. The development of consumerism started after World War II, with innovations in technology and the appearance of mass media. The factories that expanded during wartime for producing machineries were converted to be producing everyday necessaries. Most significantly, the invention of television, as well as the improvement in the printing industry put more weight on the brand logos and graphic images that were related to the product. Pop art was the solution to create those unique images. By using the signs that already exist in the culture to create something new, pop art accelerated the spread of consumerism even more.

    The art world today still uses many ideas, methods and materials from the pop art movements. For example, in 1991, Barbara Kruger used an image of American flag and some hard edge graphics to ask a series of questions about American cultural values. It’s named Untitled.  Pop art is an important art style and its influence will be go on for generations.


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