The U.S. Style and Design of the Twentieth Century: Pop Art and Commercial Photography

The phenomenon of art is timeless. It is a part of the people’s life for thousands of years. It usually applies to humans’ ideas of high. The particular art movements with their individual peculiarities represented followed every step in human beings’ evolution. The art movements can change the way a person or the society is thinking and cause the revolution. The twentieth-century art began using the word in the painting, collages, sculpture, and photography. The artist did not try to depict something but to show the double meaning of the image. The technical revolution brought many opportunities and ways of development. Thus, people could see the signs of high art in their everyday life. Furthermore, the freedom of the expression allowed the various interpretations of the artworks. The primary purpose of this study is to explore the peculiarities of the twentieth century’s art and design. This paper focuses on the Pop Art movement and the establishment of the commercial photography in the second half of the twentieth century.

Introduction

The twentieth century’s art had a long and hard period of the development between the two World Wars. The early twentieth century started from the Fauvism movement led by Henri Matisse and his coloured way to define the reality. The avant-garde stream brought an art revolution that included Cubism and Dadaism. The Abstract Expressionism emerged in the U.S. after the chaos of the World War II. It became the first American movement that gained an international significance. The works of Jackson Pollock became a symbol of the Abstract Expressionism. His paintings did not depict the nature image of the subject. Instead of it Pollock used a vast canvas for the rhythmical dripping the colors all over it. It was a way of expression of individuality. The development of entertainment places like Las Vegas or Disneyland provided artists with new work in the advertising business. However, the youth accepted a challenge of the modern era and transformed the everyday objects, comic strips, and mass media in a new powerful art movement (Alcaine & Kennan, 2015, p. 5).

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The phenomenon of Pop Art suddenly entered the history of art and replaced the Abstract Expressionism. The new art’s direction also stimulated the development of the commercial photography of that period. Finally, this research investigates the specific features of establishment and development of the American Pop art movement and commercial photography in the twentieth century.

History

The U.S. artists of the twentieth century appealed to the various modern art experiments that appeared during the early part of the century. The depressed world around made the significant influence on the American artists. In the decades following the World War II artists were searching for new ways to express the feelings. Under these circumstances, the phenomenon of the Abstract Expressionism has developed in the 1950s. Thus, the group of artist such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Frank Kline created the works in which depiction of the objects had less importance than the representation of the artists’ feelings (Alcaine & Kennan, 2015, p. 5). Furthermore, it represented the American democracy, freedom and individualism in general. In spite of the troubled time during the two following decades such as the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War, the strength of popular culture continued to increase. Hence, it became a dominant force in the society and art. The development of Disneyland and Las Vegas created a demand for the advertisements and billboards. At the same time, it pushed the artists to combine the popular culture and traditional art. The enthusiastic artist of the late 50s used the conception of advertisement, comics, and everyday objects.

The American graphic artist Robert Rauschenberg and printmaker Jasper Johns became the pioneers in the creation of a new art’s wave of adapting modern imagery as the body of art. The works of Andy Warhol, George Segal, Robert Indiana, Claes Oldenburg, and James Rosenquist represented a new Pop Art direction (Alcaine & Kennan, 2015, p. 6). In general, the newborn artistic trends of the twentieth century reflected the inner world and vision of the painters. The ideas of the Minimalism and Optical artists had their roots in the Cubism experiments. The Dada movement and Surrealism became the basis for the new Pop Art views.
The Establishment the American Pop Art

A new art direction took its root in Great Britain. The company of young artists organized the Independent Group. They discussed the topics such as a place of mass culture in fine art. The sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, collage artist, architects Alison and Peter Smithson, and art critic Lawrence Alloway became the first members of the group. The term Pop included a form of upcoming art in the Paolozzi’s collage I Was a Rich Man’s Plaything (“Pop Art in America,” 2012, p. 2-3). In spite of appearing in England, Pop Art flourished on the American ground and created the most famous and influential artists of a new era.

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In 1962, the U.S experienced a new era of commercial. The companies increased the advertising of their products for obtaining more profit. They even hired psychologists to improve their advertising business. The primary aim of the promotion was to convince people that they need to buy more goods. Under these circumstances, Pop Art replaced the Dada movement. The idea of the American writer and artist John Cage: “art should celebrate life as it is” (Collins, 2012, p. 49), became fundamental for the Pop Art movement. However, the establishment of American Pop Art included an opposition towards Abstract Expressionism. According to the Pop Artists, this movement was too upmarket. Thus, their purpose was to return the art to the world and ordinary people. The first steps of the Pop Art movement were under criticism. The most influential representatives of this movement were Lichtenstein and Warhol (Collins, 2012, p. 80). Their works revealed the new vision and new art stream in the whole world.

Pioneers of the American Pop Art Movement

Jasper Johns was one of the most successful pioneers of the American Pop Art movement. He started his career as a window display artist at Bonwit Teller store. Johns created the most famous work Flag in 1955 (“Pop Art in America,” 2012, p. 2). Jasper chose the famous icons in his art and as a result, he used the most powerful image of the American flag. The author wanted this picture awoke the inner thoughts. Johns was showing not simply a flag but the mirror because each person comes to this work with its personal life experience and thoughts (“Pop Art in America,” 2012, p. 3). With this work, John reinterpreted what art can be and how it can represent the fundamental ideas though the symbolic way. Jasper Johns was the first artist who created such a powerful symbolic image of the American flag.

The comic books’ fans will for sure recognize the name of the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. He started his way of decorating the shop windows. The early works of Roy were radically different from the paintings that brought him a success (Collins, 2012, 90). Lichtenstein preferred the line-draw manner of painting. He explained that diagram was a way of self-representing. It tends to be a sketch of the person. Thus, in a single line way the artist can depict the subject itself. The series of work Love Comics made Lichtenstein famous (Collins, 2012, 110). Holding the line between the comics’ style and high art, Lichtenstein could obtain his place in the pop art community. He made the comic pictures closer to the classical art. Thus, with his gorgeous blonde girls and crying women Roy Lichtenstein made his contribution to the art development of the twentieth century.

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The name of Andy Warhol appears to be a synonym to the Pop Art movement. The artist’s collection counts more than two hundred works. During all his life, Warhol had been creating various screen images of the U.S.’s modern culture icons. He enjoyed the concept of the American dream. According to him, “What’s great about this country has America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest” (Alcaine & Kennan, 2015, p. 9). As a result, Warhol started creating the images of commercial products such as Campbell Soup Cans and Coca-Cola bottles. He represented the things that enchanted him personally. The constant Warhol’s experimentations with subjects and media gave him an opportunity to work with various forms of visual art. The Campbell’s Soup Cans became an essential work of the Pop Art movement (Alcaine & Kennan, 2015, p. 10). Warhol put the usual things in the concept of art. In this way, he was making people look at these things from a different angle. In general, he transformed the ordinary meaning, and it became a focal point of modern art. The painter did not concentrate on color or composition but the refocusing of an idea. According to the Warhol explanation, he tried to find subject matter that was so contemptuous that nobody could believe that it was an art. Furthermore, he stopped painting as the 1960s period was a time of manufacturing and mass production. Therefore, Warhol started to print and hire people for making his art in the place called The Factory (Alcaine & Kennan, 2015, p. 10). He chose a popular visual culture as the most despicable thing. Hence, in 1962, the world saw Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych (Collins, 2012, 110). During the creation of this work, the author did not use any tassel but chose the photographs made for mass reproduction. Creating portrays of the American icons Warhol used a particular technique of photo screen-printing that became famous due to his works.

Commercial Photography

In the early part of the twentieth century, photography experienced the extraordinary changes. The creation of new cameras made the photography accessible to the common people. The fast reproduction made the cameras’ technology the most relevant form of visual representation. Thus, the avant-garde artists found photography incredibly appealing. The twentieth-century era of consumerism in the U.S. encouraged the development of the commercial photography. The primary aim of this type of photography is to show the product in a way that will persuade people to buy it. However, commercial photography includes several types such as product photography, adventure or travel, portrait photography and the most famous fashion photography (Sooke, 2014, p. n.d).

One of the most recognizable American fashion and portrait photographers was Irving Penn. He was a maestro of classical elegance. At the beginning of his career, Irving started to use large moveable walls. He put them at the right angles to each other with the subject in the corner. It was a way of discovering different forms of tight space. With his special background, the great artist shot everyone from Hitchcock to Picasso. The corner represents the uneasy postwar atmosphere. Having placed the famous subjects, not the comfortable area but in a simple corner of two walls, Irving tried to show that even famous people were the subjects of those raging time. One more side of Irving’s work quickly became a part of modern art. The work Cigarettes is a good example how Penn transformed the widely consumed objects in the conceptual work of art (Warren, 2006, p.1198-1200). Another American photographer that made a significant contribution to photography was Ralph Gibson. The style of the sharp contrasts became a leading in his career. The meaning of Gibson’s work reveals what the viewer did not see such as the patterns of highlights and shadows. Gibson called it “non-specific narrative” (Warren, 2006, p. 606). According to him, “The intent and purpose of photography is to render in visual terms feelings and experiences that often elude the ability of words to describe” (Warren, 2006, p. 606). Ralph Gibson expands the parameters of image and technique. The Creation of the visual riddles gave an opportunity of appealing to the unconscious and imaginations.

Conclusion

The dominating power the American pop art became a crucial moment that defined the evolution of art in the second half of the twentieth century. The Pop Art movement became a general thing that every consumer could relate. This movement used symbols, products, and images that people could identify with their everyday issues. Such artists as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol became the pioneers of a new art vision. Each of them made an essential contribution to the art history. In particular, Andy Warhol experimented with colors and techniques; Roy Lichtenstein developed a style grounded on the comic strips. The Pop Art’s features such as clear lines, sharp paintwork, and symbolism helped to substitute the satirical and anarchic elements of Dadaism. For today, the Pop Art movement is so widespread that its features one can see everywhere in a modern life. As well as art, the classic photography experienced its revolution. The results of it became the works of Irving Penn and Ralph Gibson. They established the standards for the professional photography. Their works were not just images of the famous people and everyday subjects but a part of modern art with a deep meaning and emotions. Due to the composition, background, light, and shadows, the photographers could change the way people are thinking.

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