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Richard Hamilton's collage
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The art world in the 1940s and in the beginning of 50s was dominated by the American abstract expressionists. Artists saw themselves as pioneers, liberating the world from the bonds of tradition. Pop Art was a visual art movement that emerged in the middle of 1950s in Great Britain and the United States and is widely interpreted as either a reversal or reaction to Abstract Expressionism or an expansion upon it. The origin of the term Pop Art is unknown but is often credited to British art critic Lawrence Alloway in an essay titled "The Arts and the Mass Media", although he uses the words "popular mass culture" instead of "Pop Art". Alloway was one of the leading critics to defend Pop Art as a legitimate art form.

The 1950s were a period of optimism and a consumer boom as more and more products were mass marketed and advertised. Influenced by American artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, British artists such as Richard Hamilton and the Independent Group aimed at creating art that drew upon symbols and images found in the media. Hamilton helped organize the "Man, Machine, and Motion" exhibition in 1955, and "This is Tomorrow" with its landmark image "Just What is it that makes today's home so different, so appealing?" in 1956 that is considered by some historians to be the first example of Pop Art.

Pop Art beadwork by Tamuna Lezhava
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Pop Art aimed to employ images of popular culture as opposed to elitist culture in art, often emphasizing kitsch and thus targeted a broad audience. It was easy to understand, easy to recognize because it was iconic and accessible to the mass public. Pop art is sometimes considered to be very academic and unconventional, but it was always easy to interpret; it is characterized by themes and techniques drawn from popular mass culture, such as newspapers, magazines, television, movies, advertising and comic books.

The key characteristics of Pop Art are clear lines and sharp paintwork, and clear representations of symbols, objects and people commonly found in popular culture:

  • Recognizable imagery, drawn from popular media and products;
  • Flat imagery influenced by media photographs and comic books;
  • Images of celebrities or fictional characters from fan magazines, comic books and advertisements;
  • Innovative use of different media and mix of them in 2D and 3D art pieces;
  • Usually very bright bold colors;
  • Bold geometric style.

Pop Art and op art that flourished in the second half of 50s and in the 60s quickly found its way into jewelry. Materials such as plastics, particularly plexiglas and vinyl were predominantly used in costume jewelry. Pop Art embraced the highly varied imagery of popular culture, it was in essence anti-functional and ephemeral, reflecting a new code of expendability. The fashion of sixties was for disposability, the paper and plexiglas jewelry of Wendy Ramshaw of this period was very popular, she made cheap disposable paper jewelry that came in kit form; Paco Raban stamped chain mail shapes out of plexiglas.

Important Pop Artists and their influences:

  • David Hockney
  • Jasper Johns
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Claes Oldenburg
  • Robert Rauschenberg
  • Andy Warhol
  • Tom Wesselmann

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