Pop Art

Pop Art is art that uses images of popular mass culture.  It was a big deal in the 1960s, although it started earlier.

By the end of the 1950s many people were growing tired of abstract art.    Abstract art is simply about the arrangement of space.  It demands you find meaning without images.  That can be difficult.  It takes time and effort, and sometimes you just don’t get it.  America was young and groovy and on the go.  It didn’t have time for the puzzle of abstraction.

To everyone’s relief, the new art – Pop Art – was filled with familiar images.   This was comforting, but the public soon found that Pop Art presented its own problem: it often featured images without meaning.

You just can’t win.  But at least this art had a sense of humor.

Richard Hamilton

1922 –

Richard Hamilton is known for his visual games, irony and use of advertising images. 

Richard Hamilton, Just What is it that Makes Today's Home so Different, so Appealing?, 1956

Roy Lichtenstein

1923 – 1997

Roy Lichtenstein is known for his big paintings of comic strips. They came about when his son bet him he couldn’t paint as well as the artist who had drawn the Mickey Mouse comic book he was reading.  He took up the challenge and the rest is (art) history.   The silliness of his art provides a good foil for his often serious statements about society.   


Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl, 1963
Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam, 1963
Roy Lichtenstein, Oh No! A Dinner Party for Twelve, 1964
Roy Lichtenstein, The Melody, 1965

Jasper Johns

1930 –

You may remember Jasper Johns  from Target with Four Faces.  What he is most famous for, however, are his flags.  He has done all kinds of them and he said the first of them came to him in a dream.  He also loves to use stencils, letters and numbers. He was the artist Robert Rauschenberg’s partner for many years and he recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  But best of all, Jasper Johns was on The Simpsons.

Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954-5
Jasper Johns, Numbers, 1958-9
Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958
Jasper Johns, Map, 1961

Robert Indiana

1928 –

Robert Indiana is famous for paintings that look like signs.  He did the first LOVE stamp (1973) and raised over a million dollars with his HOPE painting for Obama in 2008.

Robert Indiana, The Figure 5, 1963
Robert Indiana, Love, 1964

Andy Warhol

1928 – 1987

  • Immigrant coal miner’s son.  Had serious illness (chorea) in third grade which led to life long hypochondria.  Missed a lot of school, didn’t fit in, mother’s boy.  Stayed in bed and drew, collected movie star magazines and photos, and listened to the radio.
  • Grew up to be a commercial illustrator.
  • Ate Campbell’s soup  almost every day for lunch.
  • Homosexual.
  • Film maker, author, actor (Love Boat!), music producer (Velvet Underground).  Best known for his silkscreened celebrities, advertisements (His Eight Elvises sold for $100 million in 2009).  Founded The Factory where he had the beautiful and notorious do his work:

The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It all sounds so simple—quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donabue and Warren Beatty and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month (August 1962), I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face. (Wikipedia).

  • Also did pissing paintings:

Victor… was Andy’s ghost pisser on the Oxidations. He would come to the Factory to urinate on canvases that had already been primed with copper-based paint by Andy or Ronnie Cutrone, a second ghost pisser much appreciated by Andy, who said that the vitamin B that Ronnie took made a prettier color when the acid in the urine turned the copper green. Did Andy ever use his own urine? My diary shows that when he first began the series, in December 1977, he did, and there were many others: boys who’d come to lunch and drink too much wine, and find it funny or even flattering to be asked to help Andy ‘paint.’ Andy always had a little extra bounce in his walk as he led them to his studio..(Wikipedia).

  • His life was his art (Performance Art).   He carried a tape recorder around for awhile, taping everything he did.  He called it his wife.  He also did things like present “invisible sculptures” (burglar alarms went off when  entering a room).
  • Shot in 1968, nearly died:

Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there – I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television – you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television. (Wikipedia)

So many Famous Quotes I don’t know where to begin (although I guess I already have):

In the future everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface…There’s nothing behind it.

The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine.

I like boring things.  I like things to be exactly the same over and over again…Because the more you look at the same thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.

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.

Andy Warhol, Green Mariyn, 1962
Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962
Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962
Andy Warhol, Elvis, 1963
Andy Warhol, Brillo Boxes, 1964
Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1967
Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup, 1968

Robert Rauschenberg

1925 – 2008

“I like things that are almost souvenirs of a creation, as opposed to being an artwork,” he said in a 1997 Harper’s Bazaar interview, “because the process is more interesting than completing the stuff.”

I wish we had more time to spend  with Robert Rauschenberg because he is one of my favorite modern artists.  His happy, inventive life provides a nice break from all the angst filled, self absorbed artists we study.  That doesn’t mean I’m wild about everything he’s done – it’s his attitude I love.  I believe that it is the artist’s job to go after a problem; once it’s solved (although it never gets solved), the artist moves on.

The work, not the artist, is important.

He believed that too; he worked on everything from album covers (Talking Heads, Grammy Award) to a flying art instillation promoting peace (he spent millions of his own money); collages, paintings, sculptures, stage sets, performance art – there was nothing he wouldn’t try.  Sometimes the work wasn’t entirely successful, but he didn’t care.  He was already planning his next project.

The Ohlone Library has a great video on his life.  It’s part of the American Masters Series.  Check it out.

For the test you just need to remember that he  invented combines.  A combine is a 3 D art piece made from found objects.

Robert Rauschenberg, Bed, 1955
Robert Rauschenberg, Satellite, 1955
Robert Rauschenberg, Canyon, 1959
Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram, 1959
Robert Rauschenberg, Retroactive I, 1964
Robert Rauschenberg, Pelican
Robert Rauschenberg, Solstice, 1968
Robert Rauschenberg, Reservoir
Robert Rauschenberg, Speaking in Tongues (Album), 1983
Robert Rauschenberg, Speaking in Tongues (Album), 1983
Robert Rauschenberg, BMW, 1986

And much, much more!  Look him up, you won’t be disappointed.