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What Is Pop Art?

Pop art was an art movement of the 1960s, whose subjects, images, and themes were taken from advertising, comic strips, motion pictures, and other forms of popular culture. Ordinary, everyday objects, such as road signs, hamburgers, money, soda bottles, and machinery, provided the usual subjects for Pop art. Also known as New Realism, Pop art was often an exact representation or even a direct presentation of objects.

Although Pop art was considered a movement, its leading exponents developed their styles independently. The two most important artists commonly identified with it were Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

However, in their works, as in the sculptures of Marisol Escobar and the paintings of Larry Rivers, there was greater transformation of subject matter than was customary in Pop art. More typical were Roy Lichtenstein's enlarged paintings of comic strips, Andy Warhol's stenciled rows of soup cans and movie stars, James Rosenquist's combinations of billboard images, and Claes Oldenburg's giant vinyl sculptures of an egg-beater. Jim Dine, Tom Wesselmann, and George Segal were other well known Pop artists.

Pop art originated and flourished in the United States, but there were similar movements in Europe and South America. Many of the humorous or shocking elements of Pop Art were in the tradition of the Dada movement of the early 20th century. A frequent criticism of Pop art was that its subjects were banal and vulgar and that the artists made little or no attempt to transform them into art. A common justification of Pop art was that it presented the reality of modern industrial life. Whatever its value, Pop art was important as a reaction against the abstract style that ruled art in the 1940's and 1950's.

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