If there ever was an artist that represented all the facets of pop art, then it’s unmistakably Andy Warhol. He became the face of American pop culture so to speak and elevated it to the status of museum art. The most legendary among pop artists, Warhol used secondary images of celebrities and consumer products. According to him, they possessed a type of “inner banality” that made it more appealing. The artist was really intrigued by this banality. He recreated it in a series of his artworks starting from celebrities and ending with soup cans. In his “Campbell’s tomato soup,” “Elizabeth Taylor’s Portrait,” “Car Crash” series, or “electric chair” Warhol reveals what is pop art. He uses a similar approach to all these works. He genuinely believed that all the paintings should be of the same size and color so that they could be interchangeable. And so that nobody would think that his painting is better or worse than others.
As Cubism grew out of the creations of Cezanne, in the same manner, the artwork of Andy Warhol relied on Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades.” In his spirit, Andy Warhol was a true dadaist, a sort of “agent provocateur” so to speak. His numerous statements on art were purposefully laced in mystery. He never made any clarifications on his statements, making his listeners to be lost in assumptions. He stated that he didn’t like to dig in his past. he just wanted to remain a mystery by making up new things when asked about his past. He was considered a shy person who avoided giving answers. But it was his strategy which helped him to bring publicity and fame. Andy Warhol cultivated his own persona as a business model that was inseparable from his artwork. Warhol would state that he had started his career as a commercial artist. He wanted to end it as an artist-entrepreneur. As the artist was quoted saying: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art,” he made pop art a successful business that made him rich.
In 1994, Andy Warhol Museum with a size of 88 000 square feet was opened in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From public donations the collection grew to contain over 77 sculptures, over one thousand published prints, four thousand photographs, and over four thousand film works by Warhol. To date, Andy Warhol Museum holds the biggest collection of artwork done by the artist worth over US$80 million at the time of its opening. One can only guess how much it is worth in today’s market.
1. Claes Oldenburg
Son of a Swedish diplomat, Oldenburg is one of the few sculptors who worked in the style of pop art. He was born in Stockholm, Sweden but moved to the US at the age of seven. He is famous for his comically absurd works dedicated to mundane topics such as food and inanimate objects. His collection of work under the theme “Pastry Case” was first showcased in the famous “The Store”. It was a real-life store in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan that he rented for a month to house his installations. It was a collection of sculptures in the form of everyday consumer products. It inspired Claes while living in his Manhattan neighborhood. These objects included food and other related products from a typical store of its time. They were made from wire mesh covered with plaster and canvas. The Store had a decoration with advertising posters created by him from cardboards and other materials. He used thick and bold colors while painting his products. The aim was to highlight his sarcastic attitude towards abstract expressionism. Even though every sculpture he made was unique, he sold it at a cheap price to make a point of turning his art into cheaply available products. Through his works, Claes Oldenburg influenced society’s perception of sculpture and consumer products. He shattered the line between two distinct worlds.
2. Ed Ruscha
The artist and photographer Ed Ruscha was one of the most important representatives of pop art on the west coast of the United States. An Oklahoma native who arrived in California was mesmerized by the glamour and lights of Hollywood. He became famous among pop artists through mixing Hollywood images with colorful images of mass culture and southwestern landscapes. Ruscha liked to draw gas stations and he even dedicated a book to them entitled “Twenty-Six Gas Stations.” It was a collection of photos from the artist’s journey through the countryside of the American Southwest. When he submitted his book to Washington’s Library of Congress in 1963, he received a rejection. It said the following words: “Unorthodox form and supposed lack of information”. In his work at the Standard Station, the artist transforms the mundane image of a gas station into a symbol of American consumer culture. With the help of silk-screen printing, Ruscha turned a three-dimensional image into a flat advertising poster. He went on to publish art books on California swimming pools and parking lots.
3. David Hockney
After moving to California in 1964 from England, Hockney began experimenting with acrylic paint and bold colors. Like Ed Ruscha, David Hockney shared fascination with California’s swimming pools. He published it in his 1967 book “A Bigger Splash.” Hockney tried to recreate a photo he had seen in a swimming pool booklet by painting it on a huge canvas. The artist was intrigued by the idea of transferring a fleeting event frozen in the photograph to the canvas. He liked the idea of drawing something that lasted two seconds. But it took him two weeks to capture these two seconds. On the canvas, we see the dynamism of the surge encapsulated in a feeling of adrenaline rush. It contrasts sharply with the static house, poolside, and springboard. The artist carefully places these objects around the main event, which is a splash of water. The artist wanted to create the effect of the incoherence of the elements that made up the event.
4. Jasper Jones
A native of Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Jones is famous for his work Flag created in 1955 that he recreated after seeing an American flag in his dream. In his early works, Jasper Jones questioned how we see, perceive and create art. He did not distinguish between subject and object; art and life. From his point of view, they were similar in nature. Jones believed that each picture should not be perceived as a reflection of the real world, but as an object with its reality. Like the pioneers of British pop art, Jones liked the ideas of Dadaism. In particular, it was the “readymades” of Marcel Duchamp, who challenged the traditional definition of an art object with its urinals and bicycle wheels. Unlike Duchamp, Jones did not choose “readymades” for the plots of his works but rather found images such as flags, maps, letters, and numbers. This was a new iconography of recognizable signs being addressed by many representatives of the pop art of his day. Jasper Jones created his work in the encaustic technique, in which molten wax acts as the pigment binder. He combined encaustic with collages from newspaper clippings, creating a multi-dimensional space of bright colors. Jones’s creativity consists in playing with visual ideas. He uses several distinguishable semantic layers. It appeals to the viewer at different levels of perception.
5. Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Rauschenberg is a native of Port Arthur, Texas. Answering the question of what is pop art for him, he identified it as a gap between art and life, that he intended to fill through the use of images in his works. But unlike the paintings of Jasper Johns, they are combined by common elements with each other or with real objects. Like Jasper Jones, he is considered a neo-Dadaist. He was inspired by the work of Kurt Schwitters. Later he began to compose his paintings and collage works from real objects that he collected on the streets of New York. Rauschenberg chose collages as his creative language of communication and invents a new way of producing them. He combines oil painting with photographic silk-screen printing. This allows him to experiment with any images borrowed from newspapers, magazines, or movies. He reproduced them in any size or color as an element on the canvas. Rauschenberg used these elements to reflect our perceptions of the media. Rauschenberg’s paintings were designed to capture this visual informational “noise” from ads we see on TV in a single image. For his 40 years of contribution to the art, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993 and the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995.