Pop art

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans , 1962, synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, Each canvas, 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY.
Andy Warhol, Mao, 1973, silkscreened acrylic on canvas, 448.3 x 346.1 cm, Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

Pop art is a visual art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in parallel in the late 1950s in the United States. The coinage of the term Pop Art is often credited to British art critic/curator, Lawrence Alloway in an essay titled The Arts and the Mass Media, although the term he uses is "popular mass culture" Nevertheless, Alloway was one of the leading critics to defend mass culture and Pop Art as a legitimate art form. Pop art is one of the major art movements of the twentieth century. Characterized by themes and techniques drawn from popular mass culture, such as advertising and comic books, pop art is widely interpreted as either a reaction to the then-dominant ideas of abstract expressionism or an expansion upon them. Pop art, like pop music, aimed to employ images of popular as opposed to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any given culture. It has also been defined by the artists' use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques that downplay the expressive hand of the artist. Pop art at times targeted a broad audience and often claimed to do so.

Much of pop art is considered very academic, as the unconventional organizational practices that are often used make it difficult for some to comprehend. Pop art and minimalism are considered to be the last modern art movements and thus the precursors to postmodern art, or some of the earliest examples of postmodern art themselves.


What Is Visual Art?

The visual arts are those creations we can look at, such as a drawing or a painting. Here is a partial list:

# drawing
# painting
# sculpture
# architecture
# photography
# film
# printmaking

And the decorative arts of

# ceramics
# furniture and interior design
# jewelry making
# metal crafting
# wood working

Any one of these disciplines is a type of visual art.
This is the simple explanation. You can stop reading right here, confident that you know what the visual arts are. Or you can keep reading and get a bit of background on that often-abused phrase "The Arts".

"The Arts", as a term, has an interesting history. During the Middle Ages, The Arts were very scholarly, limited to seven in number and did not involve creating anything at which people looked. They were:

* grammar
* rhetoric
* dialectic logic
* arithmetic
* geometry
* astronomy
* music

To further confuse matters, these seven Arts were known as the Fine Arts, in order to distinguish them from the "Useful Arts". Why? Only "fine" people - those who didn't do manual labor - studied them. (Presumably, the Useful Arts people were too busy being useful to have need of an education.)

At some point in the ensuing centuries, people realized there was a difference between a science and an art. The phrase Fine Arts came to mean anything that had been created to please the senses. After losing the sciences, the list now included music, dance, opera and literature, as well as what we normally think of as "art": painting, sculpture, architecture and the decorative arts.

That list of Fine Arts got a little long, didn't it? Apparently others thought so, too, because during the 20th-century we started to split the Fine Arts up into Visual Arts (painting, sculpture, etc.), Auditory Arts (music, drama, spoken literature) and Performance Arts (which can be either visual, auditory or a combination of the two - but are performed).

Within the world of the visual arts, people still make distinctions between "Fine" art and everything else - and it gets really confusing, at times.For instance, we'll talk about painting and sculpture, and automatically classify these as Fine Arts. The decorative arts, which are, sometimes, of a finer nature and craftsmanship than Fine arts, are not called "Fine".

Additionally, visual artists sometimes refer to themselves (or are referred to, by others) as fine artists, as opposed to commercial artists. But! Some commercial art is really wonderful - "Fine".And, since an artist needs to sell art in order to remain a working artist (unless his or her grandfather invented, say, Velcro, and he or she exists off a trust fund or two), a strong argument could be made that most art is commercial.

It would really simplify matters if we could all just stick with visual, auditory, performance or literary - when we speak of The Arts - and eliminate "Fine" altogether. Substitute instead the words "good" and "bad", with the huge understanding that 6.3 billion people are going to have 6.3 billion different opinions on that which constitutes each. Life, however, will never be that simple - much less Art.


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