Pop Art & Popular Culture

by Annie Saxena on Feb 09, 2023

Pop Art & Popular Culture

Pop Art was the art of popular culture. The word ‘POP’ was first coined in 1954, by the British art critic Lawrence Alloway, to describe a new type of art that was inspired by the imagery of popular culture. Pop art started with the New York artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, all of whom drew on popular imagery and were actually part of an international phenomenon. Pop Art was brash, young and fun and hostile to the artistic establishment. It was a visual art movement that characterised a sense of optimism during the post war consumer boom of the 1950’s and 1960’s. It included different styles of painting and sculpture from various countries, but what they all had in common was an interest in mass-culture.

Pop art was an offshoot of the Dadaist movement which was a satirical art movement current in the 1920s that ridiculed the seriousness of conventional art. Different cultures and countries contributed to the art movement during the 1960s and 70s. It began as a revolt against the dominant approaches to art and culture and traditional views on what art should be. Young artists felt that what they were taught at art school and what they saw in museums did not have anything to do with their lives or the things they saw around them every day. Instead they turned to sources such as Hollywood movies, advertising, product packaging, pop music and comic books for their imagery.

The concept that there is no hierarchy of culture and that art may borrow from any source has been one of the most influential characteristics of Pop art. By creating paintings or sculptures of mass culture objects and media stars, the Pop art movement aimed to blur the boundaries between “high” art and “low” culture. Pop artists celebrated commonplace objects and people of everyday life, in this way seeking to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art. The majority of Pop artists began their careers in commercial art. Andy Warhol was a highly successful magazine illustrator and graphic designer, Ed Ruscha was also a graphic designer, and James Rosenquist started his career as a billboard painter. Their background in the commercial art world gave them an acute perspective on the visual vocabulary of mass culture.

The British pop art movement predated the American pop art movement. Even though they were inspired by the same subject matter, British pop art is often seen as distinctive from American pop art. Early pop art in Britain was fuelled by their perspective of American popular culture while the American pop artists were inspired by what they saw and experienced in their country. One of the biggest differences between British pop art and American pop art was that British pop art focused on a more light-hearted tone and often tended to incorporate humour.

American pop art, in contrast, tended to be more serious and dramatic.

Some critics have cited the Pop art choice of imagery as an enthusiastic endorsement of consumerism, while others have noted an element of cultural critique in the Pop artists’ elevation of the everyday to high art. The Pop Art movement was widely influential & was precursor to many Avant Garde art movements.