What is Pop Art?

Pop Art, an abbreviation of “popular art,” was an art movement and a reaction to the Modernist movement that began in Britain in the mid 1950s. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that it became an art sensation and a true art movement in New York City, New York, USA. Pop Art was the last of the Modernist movements that ended the contemporary subject matter in early 1970s.

Pop Art’s initial movement first started with an article written by Lawrence Alloway named “The Arts and Mass Media.” Inspiration by Richard Hamilton’s Just What Is It that Makes Today's Home So Different and So Appealing? (1956) influenced other artists to contribute to the movement. Although previous similar pop art themes have appeared in history, it wasn’t until the mid 1950s that it was popularized.

Pop Art is an expression of “material culture,” defying traditional art and promoting pop culture such as advertising, news, and the media. The main focus of pop art was not the art but the message behind it, through humor, criticism, irony, and satire. It was a representation of popular everyday, contemporary life. Pop Art was also a response to the consumerism and materialism that happened during the time.

Some of the key characteristics of pop art that are seen throughout most artwork include bright colors, recognizable imagery from popular media and products such as comic books, newspaper photographs, celebrities (e.g. movie stars and rock stars), advertisements (e.g. soup can and soft drink commercials), and other magazines, as well as other media-inspired imagery. Existing works of pop art have clearly differentiable art styles such as defined shapes and colors with hard edges, flat two-dimensional works, silk-screen printing, and collage-styles.

Some of the most popular American Pop Art artists include Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and Wayne Theibad. Their famous works include Cambell’s Soup Cans (1962) by Andy Warhol, Three Flags (1955) by Jasper Johns, and Cakes (1963) Wayne Theibad.

To learn more about Pop Art, click through the various bubble links above to find out more about each individual artist and their contribution to pop art society.