In the second part of my retrospective on Pop art I am going to consider further commentaries by art critics of the time . Lawrence Alloway in his ‘Art and the Mass Media’ clarified the whole relationship of Pop to society. ” The masses are today exercising functions in social life which coincide with those which hitherto seemed reserved to minorities. as a result the elite accustomed to set aesthetic standards has that it no longer possesses the power to dominate all aspects of art”..
Alloway further comments ” it is in this situation we need to consider the arts of the mass media. A summary of the opposition to mass popular art is by Clement Greenberg an art critic , but fatally prejudiced when he leaves Modern Fine art”..
” Popular art as a whole , offers imagery and plots to control the changes in the world, everything in our culture that changes is the material of the popular arts”. .
Roy Lichenstein in his lecture to a college art association also had some opinions on the nature of Pop art. ” Pop art may be seen as a product of two 20th century tendencies , one from the outside- the subject matter and the other from within an esthetic sensibility the subject matter is of course -commercialism and commercial art. Commercial art is not our art. it is our subject matter and in that sense it is nature”..
Commenting further Lichenstein has this to say ” Commercial art runs contrary to a major art current in the sense that it concentrates on things rather than environment , on figure rather than ground”..
Thomas Crow an America Marxist art critic considers the role of Pop and in particular Andy Warhol. ” An earlier visitor far more in tune with the Art of the city was Andy Warhol who was showing at the Ferus Gallery (American City) in 1963″. .
Making comparisons between Warhol and Ed Ruscha who I will consider in another posting Crow comments ” Warhol’s first exhibition for Blum (Art Curator) precisely anticipated Ruscha’s photo books in revealing the diagnostic capability of repetitive serial procedure, the gallery was given over to the entire series of 32 individual Campbell soup can portraits”..
” Into this category for example falls his most famous portrait series of Marilyn Monroe which is as much about the pathos of celebrity identification as about celebration of the star”.
Warhol’s pictures especially of disasters shows that he had a political dimension to his discussion of the Kennedy’s and their problems. Crow confirms this in his next comment. ” He (Warhol) was attracted to the open sores in American political life, the issues that were most problematic for liberal democratic politicians such as John and Robert Kennedy”. .
Crow by identifying the political interest depicts Warhol as an astute commentator of political life , many bourgeois commentators have only highlighted Warhol’s life style without recognising what drove Warhol to paint and develop the direction of Popular art into analysing what was happening in Society.
” In the series on the most violent phase of Civil rights demonstrations in the south the Race Riot painting of 1963 political life took on the same nightmare colouring that saturates so much of his other work”..
John Roberts another art Historian in his ‘Warhol’s factory :Painting and the mass cultural spectator’ offers a unique way of looking at Warhol’s factory or his collective in using assistants and colleagues in his produced screen printing as well as the Films he was engaged in. Warhol was heavily influenced by Duchamp in showing that most of his art was finished or mass produced by this factory collective very similar to the Guild system around the time of Da Vinci , Michaelangelo and Jan Van Eyck.
” It is Warhol’s singular pursuit of this collective life in the studio that is crucial to our assessment of what is radical about his art in the early 1960’s”. .
Roberts continues to show that Pop art was a reaction to abstract Expressionism and it set out to critique the Modernism of Greenberg and Fried. ” A number of younger American artists set out to critique and displace the expressionist sublime of abstract expressionism”..
” On the contrary what attracted him to notions of teamwork, (Warhol) collaborative practice and mechanical reproduction was that they dissolved the ego”. .
Roberts shows how widespread his interests were unlike the Abstract expressionists who only dealt in one medium painting. ” Hence (Warhol) his extensive range of collaborations across different media (Film , silkscreen printing, music and book design). .
” Warhol embarked on this modernist pictoralism in the early 1960’s in his non silkscreen paintings which employed comic book details and commodity images and advertising slogans”. .
Roberts referring to Warhol makes these further comments on his paintings.” Rather he wanted a painting that actually invoked and reproduced the life of the mass produced image under Capitalism (Soup tins). Hence from 1963 there is a discernible rejection by Warhol of the aesthetic painterly signifers”.
Roberts continues to show that Warhol and others sought to attack the high art so prevalent in Modernism as described by Greenberg and Fried.
” Much of his Art (Warhol) during this period is practised in what might be called a queering and devirilising of High culture, mass culture and Industrial Society”. .
” The heightened artificiality , repitions and slippages of the images, and the blankness and flatness of the canvass ground”. .
Concluding his commentary on Warhol Roberts has this to say. ” Warhol above all wanted to bring enchantment to the commodity and to the machine and the best way to do this he believed was to contrive to invest in the mechanically produced painting”. .
This concludes my second part of my retrospective into Pop Art in which I showed the revolutionary aspects of art which involved a compass of paintings in Film , Book design, printing and screen printing. How an array of different disciplines could affect society in subtle ways. Too many bourgeois commentators saw only Pop art as a flippant theatrical art form when in fact it was a revolutionary art form that once and for all would demolish the Modernist canon that Clement Greenberg and Michael fried had erected.
1 ) ART IN THEORY 1900-2000 EDITED BY CHARLES HARRISON AND PAUL WOOD : LAWRENCE ALLOWAY THE ARTS AND MASS MEDIA PG.715
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