Pop art was perhaps one of modern art’s most successful movements, gradually evolving from a number of efforts to challenge the notions of what art was, and reclaim it, as a free creative space, from the strict limitations of classic tradition. At times celebrating, at times questioning, and often poking fun at popular consumer culture, whatever it’s underlying meaning it reached a mass audience awareness like no other artform before it. Today it still shows itself to be a source of inspiration, a popular feature of any art gallery, poster shop, and a common art print on the wall of ordinary homes. The movement is full of artists of note, many of whom are amongst the highest selling living artists of all time. After looking at Warhol, Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, and Blake in a previous blog; here are four more of the most important Pop Artists.
David Hockney, painter of pools and one of the greatest British pop artists
One of the earliest pop artists to emerge alongside other British artists like Blake and Hamilton, David Hockney truly began to find his artistic voice when he relocated to LA, and found inspiration in the endless swimming pools, which he captured beautifully in bright acrylic colours across many paintings.
Over the course of a long career he has experimented with an incredible range of mediums; acrylics, watercolours, drawings, photography, art prints, and more unusual tools like fax machines, paper pulp and digital graphics software. Printmaking and collage have both been visited regularly by Hockney, and techniques carried from one medium like photography, into another such as painting. His unique approaches and original vision have helped him become one of the highest selling living artists on several occasions, and he certainly deserves his standing as one of the UK’s most influential artists.
Jeff Koons, king of the kitsch pop artists
Koons is another of the highest selling living artists, with his stainless steel balloon animal sculptures fetching prices over $90 million at auction. Born in 1955 he was too young to catch the early wave of pop art and began to fully emerge in the 1980s, with a factory-style production line approach to his art similar to Warhol’s, employing as many as 120 assistants at one point to help produce artworks.
He is most recognised for his Inflatables, and the Statuary and Celebration series they inspired; large balloon-animal styled sculptures created from highly polished and brightly coloured stainless steel. His work has also explored ceramics, porcelain, flowers, everyday objects, collages, and paintings, often dividing critics into those who feel his work is meaningless kitsch, and others who see him skirting the edges of pop and modern art with his explorations of media, celebrity, and the everyday.
Jasper Johns, expressionist, dadaist, pop artist, and none of these things
At the opposite end of the pop art timeline, but similarly undefinable in style, Jasper Johns was one of the leading artists across the early evolution of pop, exploring both abstract expressionism and dada.
In 1955 he burned all of his work and began to focus on depictions of flags, maps, targets, typography and simple graphic patterns of stripes and blocks of colour in paintings, sculpture, and art prints. Whilst certainly abstract, his use of letters and numbers prevents him fitting into abstract expressionism, and his interest in everyday objects doesn’t entirely fit his work with dada. Even with pop art, the lack of celebrity or consumerism in his work prevents him fitting in cleanly, though perhaps there is an argument that a flag is a sort of celebrity, and the US flag is so deeply tied with consumerism, that his work is pop in a very pure and simple form.
Takashi Murakami, the master of flat, and new traditions in Japanese art
Emerging in the 1990s, long after the core pop art period, Takashi Murakami is representative of the lasting impact of pop that is still found in many contemporary artworks. Murakami works with paintings and sculpture, as well as in fashion, merchandise, and animation, blending the “high” and “low” arts as pop art has always sought to; he often sells high art projects in low art formats such as merchandise, and vice-versa.
Though trained in the Japanese traditional Nihonga style of art, he has become best known for his superflat work and a perspective that most Japanese contemporary work found in an art gallery deeply appropriates western trends. His early work focused on satire, parody, and social criticism, until his superflat approach emerged in a deliberate attempt to break away from western traditions, and reflect on Japanese creative culture and society with a bright, cartoony aesthetic presenting a range of traditional and popular motifs and characters.