Objects as art: The Pop Culture

Before Pop art emerged as a powerful art current, one of the forerunners, John Haberle was using ready-mades objects as art in his paintings of the one-dollar bill in 1890. Also, Marcel Duchamp -Frenchman Dadaist one of the precursors of the Pop art – became famous by taking objects from the context of everyday life and changing their meaning by using them as art objects. His most controversial artwork was the one named “Fountain” which was a urinal, ordinary urinal, which got a new dimension and quality by being exposed as an art piece. Marc Livingston states in his book “Continuing History” that Duchamp didn’t have any esthetic intention when he has chosen his objects.

His choice was based on a “visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste”. After the Duchamp experience, in 1940s and 1950s other American artists as Larry Rivers,

Ray Johnson and Richard Lindner worked with collage and ready-mades.

The Pop art was an international art movement, which was also taking place in England. Lawrence Alloway, an art critic is the one who named the art movement ~Pop art~ and he was part of a Pop art group with Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi. The last one became the leading figure of the British Pop art culture. The event which brought Pop art on the spotlights was the exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in 1962.

The artists, “the new realists” how they were named, who showed their art works were Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Peter Blake and some others. One of the most representative figures of the Pop art in England is Peter Blake. He started by painting images from funfairs, circus and wrestling. After the exhibition in New York he became a “fully flagged” Pop artist using collage, by showing pop musicians and film stars. Beside Peter Blake, Claes Oldenburg was an artist who took his objects from the advertising, food industry and manufactured objects and changed their appearance and emphasized their visuals qualities using color and a certain 3D look, which is considered “archetypally American”. He was born in Sweden but his parents moved to New York when he was one year old and after they lived in Chicago where he studied art at The Art Institute of Chicago and his technique got polished, a very humorous approach to the different subjects. One of his artworks is “7UP” can, which is enamel on plaster-soaked cloth on wire. Looking again at the Pop art movement it was “the end of the modernism and the beginning of the postmodern era”, according to Livingston.


Continuing History. Marc Livingston.


Teacher Resources. The story of modern art. Claes Oldenburg. http://hirshhorn.si.edu/education/modern/modern1.html


Claes Oldenburg, 7UP (1961), Enamel on plaster-soaked cloth on wire, Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain (1917), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

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