As most of us know, ‘Pop Art’ is short for Popular Art and that in a sense, says it all. It is a celebration of the popular, the famous, the mass produced, the iconic image. It all began way back in the late 50’s and 60s when a few ‘Pop Art’ shock troopers decided it was high time they brought art back into the daily life of people. Wrest it away from the abstract sophistication and elitism that was prevailing at the time.
The main shock trooper of this movement was of course the cult popster himself, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and his chief weapon was serigraphy (silk screening). This is a photo-realistic, mass-production technique of printmaking. His iconic Marilyn Monroe was a serigraph as well as his famous ‘Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can’ which in retrospect was his defining foray into mass media and marketing imagery. He suddenly drew attention to a product so ordinary in one sense but so extraordinary in it’s pervasive familiarity. A product that had established a cozy place in the consumer psyche of the mid 20th century through magazine/radio/television advertising and POP displays in grocery stores etc.
Okay, in the case of the ‘Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can’ it all became a kind of a celebration of the mundane, I get that but what else was going on? First of all, I believe art has always been connected to it’s time, although it often tries to transcend it. When it comes to the visually super-charged 60’s, the connection between art and it’s time had never been greater. In the case of Pop Art, there was a further connection going on which was a disposable, consumer connection that we all share. We share it when we watch TV commercials, look at billboards, watch movies and buy groceries etc. The ‘Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can’ image itself is frozen in the 60’s but the experience and the message it has continues to resonate with us as we click our way through internet banner ads and receive numerous email ads for hundreds of products.