What Is Pop Art?

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Pop art developed in the late 1950s when artist Richard Hamilton created a collage that illustrated consumerism in the everyday household, and it developed into an art movement through the '60s and '70s. Discover pop art, which was pushed further by the infamous Andy Warhol, with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Modern Art History
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Video Transcript

Hi, this is Professor Betty Brown. The topic is Pop Art. Pop Art actually got its name in the late 1950's, when a British artist, Richard Hamilton, did a collage, a tiny little collage that he entitled something like "Just what is it that makes today's home so new and exciting". And he cut out images from magazines, and put a hypothetical 1950's wife and 1950's husband in a home filled with all the consumer culture ideals. And the husband was a bodybuilder and he was holding instead of a barbell a Tootsie Roll Pop with the word Pop real visible in that collage. Fast forward a couple years, and move across the Atlantic to New York City, and there is a commercial artist who's making his money by doing ads for magazines and newspapers, name of Andy Warhol, who begins to take his advertising images not into collages as Richard Hamilton had done a few years ago in England, but into paintings. And Warhol starts out by painting comic strip characters, and then he paints, very famously, as I'm sure you know, Campbell's soup cans. And then in 1962, soon after she commits suicide, Andy Warhol paints the celebrated sex idol of the cinema, Marilyn Monroe. And just as he had painted Campbell's soup cans again, and again, and again, and again, he paints Marilyn Monroe again, and again, and again, and again. And I like to think of those two paintings; the multiple soup cans, the multiple Marilyn Monroe, as key images in Pop Art, because what those two paintings of Warhol's make us think about is how we make commodities, like the Campbell's soup can, into celebrities and we consume them as personalities, and we make celebrities into commodities and we consume them, too. And in our consumer culture, Pop Art tells us, people and things are equivalent and they are all fodder for our consumption. So Pop Art, as fun and easy as it is to look at, always has a critical edge that challenges us to think about the nature of our consumer culture.

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