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The Politics Of Pop Art Essay

3340 words - 14 pages

Do you agree that Pop art is a critique of the values of post-War urban culture in the United States or is there some validity in the arguments that suggest that Pop art is another representation of profit-based propaganda? Select works from two or three artists to examine this question.

Pop art was born out of the needs of Post-war America and its capitalist driven economy, where consumption was key and everything was a commodity that had to be readily available. The diversity within the movement arose from how the Pop artists approached this culture of post-war America, whether it was through parody, fetishization, or just pure replication; as well as what aspects of the culture they ...view middle of the document...

Pop Art came about to create a ‘communion’ between the worlds of high art and the mass media. As explained by art critic Hilton Kramer, “Pop art is natural in a prosperous society, people want all the prerogatives of education without going to the trouble of being educated”. As Kramer suggests, Pop art took away the exclusivity of the art world, enabling it to be accessible by anyone and everyone. America was introduced to an art form that was not only completely accessible and easy to digest, but was absolutely American through its borrowing of commercial content, and thus relevant to their everyday lives.

There are certain points of comparison that can be made between Pop art and advertising; not only though their shared style of ‘fetishizing’ the everyday commodity, but also through their shared assumption that the viewer will take what they are seeing at face value. It is of the belief of some critics that Pop artists used publicity as their ‘method of methods’ to turn ordinary items into ‘magnificent images’ worthy of worship. And just like advertising, pop art worked through this method to project a certain image onto their viewer that would motivate actions of spending and consumption within them. Therein lies the support for the argument that Pop art, may indeed be read as a form of propaganda. The fact that Pop art largely dealt with images taken directly from popular culture affirmed their easy adaption into commonplace culture as the work was easy to view and highly accessible; as argued by Kusput, “Pop Art assures itself of a hold on the American public, for its audience is potentially anyone who wittingly or unwittingly attends to advertising and publicity.” The sheer availability and accessibility of Pop art meant that Pop artists were able to use their works to get their message across quickly and seamlessly, to highlight to the world the seemingly booming and highly successful culture in America at the time as well as motivate its viewers to maintain their high-spending lifestyle to sustain their successful economy.

The whole argument for the propagandistic purposes of Pop art lies heavily in the viewer and their reaction to the piece of work. As Kusput explains, ‘both advertising and Pop art prey on the individual weakness for easy solutions carried by their vulnerability’, but the power and even the notion of the art work lies in the mind of the viewer and how they decide to view the work. If the viewer, like Kusput suggests, takes Pop art at face value, and no more, then the piece has served its propagandistic purposes. But once the viewer realises, by personal recognition – by dialogue with its images- the banality of what the images represent, much like advertising, this power is surely lost.

In both Tom Wesselmann and Andy Warhol’s works one can sense a definite attempt to deter any dialogue between their art works and their viewers. Both artists relied heavily on borrowing images from popular culture and...

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