The History of Pop Art in NYC

What is Pop Art?

Pop Art is an art style developed in New York City around 1950, but it really took off in the early 1960s. Pop Artists are known for taking imagery from popular culture, advertising, and other forms of media. Before Pop Art came along, fine art was revered. Fine art tends to show depictions of mythology and history with complex levels of meaning. Pop Art celebrated everyday life, including what some might call the boring things. Commonplace objects or "found objects" made their way into Pop Art.

Among some of the artists credited with the NYC Pop Art movement are Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg.

Andy Warhol

When you think of Pop Art, the first name that springs to mind is Andy Warhol. He was one of the first people to start using elements of popular culture in his art, depicting popular celebrities of the time such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. He also began to experiment with using brands as his art subjects, such as Coca-Cola and Campbell's Soup, which he was rumored to have eaten every day for lunch.

Warhol called his art studio The Factory. This is because of his practice of screen-printing, which is a process that creates multiple identical images. It is done one color at a time and involves using a blocking stencil to prevent the ink from getting anywhere else on the print but where the color is intended to go. Eventually, the colors come together to form a completed picture. Instead of making every print exactly the same, Warhol was known for changing up the colors and displaying prints with contrasting colors together.

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein was a New York City native at the forefront of the Pop Art movement. While he definitely made a name for himself, he was also met with criticism for the art he chose to make. His early art involved using recognizable characters at first, such as Popeye and Mickey Mouse. Later on, he began to use sections from comic books out of context to create something entirely new. However, these forms of art caused him to be criticized for not being original., even though he had to alter the source images in order to create his own art.

James Rosenquist

James Rosenquist used his art to explore the powers of advertising. He often used seemingly unrelated items together in order to create full pictures. As a former billboard painter, it only made sense that he would go big with his art. His biggest piece of Pop Art takes up 23 canvas panels and aluminum sections that were originally meant to spread over four walls! This art depicts an F-111 fighter plane completely to scale, but not in its entirety - as the image of the plane is interspersed with bright images with contrasting colors inspired by advertising and billboards.

Claes Oldenburg

This Swedish-born NYC dwelling artist took the Pop Art off of a two-dimensional canvas and made it 3D by creating sculptures. Some of his most well-known pieces of art are sculptures of giant unappetizing food. Claes Oldenburg wanted to create art that unsettled the viewer and made them feel small. In the early 1960s, he rented his own storefront, aptly named it The Store, and filled it chock full of his own sculptures of massive clothespins and unappetizing cakes.

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