Inspired today by one of my favorite pieces of art and the desire to hang it, I want to talk about pop art. I can’t hang this particular piece yet because it goes over our bed and that room is still covered in wallpaper. Soon though. Soon.
This ever-so-slightly (okay, not-so-slightly) suggestive painting was done for me by a cutie painter cutely known as Smirky. I knew him for a short time years ago and was always fascinated by his talent with both words and brushes. I seem to remember that the last time I spoke to him he had moved to Argentina (after living in Greece…nice life, eh?) and was playing polo. But man, I wish he’d get out that paintbrush again. One of the things I love about him is that the guy knows his stuff. At first glance, a lot of people seem to think he’s inspired by Lichtenstein, but according to his own blog, he really found inspiration in mid-century comic books.
Romance comics were invented by Joe Simon and Jack “King” Kirby around 1950 in a successful attempt to expand the marketing of comics to young girls. Romance comics were around many years before before Lichtenstein started copying them. I don’t use the word copying lightly, either. He literally would copy them, and some argue forcefully quite poorly. There’s an entire website called Deconstructing Lichtenstein that is dedicated to finding the “real” artists behind the images made famous by Lichtenstein.
And people love Lichtenstein precisely because he was as accessible as a comic book. His influence lives on in the strangest places. For example, the hair salon I frequent is full of Lichtenstein-esque murals. It’s hip. It’s cool. And it’s an awesome salon. (See Daisy and tell her I sent you). UPDATE: Spatini closed and Daisy is now at Salon Ciba. Still, go see her.
I love the playful politicalization (is that even a word?) of the romance comics, focusing on the female anxiety around falling in love with someone from the opposing party. I’ve cried over a Republican or two, haven’t you?
We all know I’m pretty conceptual, right? (Don’t laugh.) I think what drives me to pop art is the humor, the cleverness, the undertone of sharing a joke versus gorgeous bridges and lily pads and haystacks that make me a little bleary-eyed after a while. And of course, it’s mid-century heritage. If it’s mid-century, you gotta know I’ll love it, right? And I love it for the same reasons I love the architecture of the period too. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It’s new and modern. And it’s unexpected. That is of course, until it is.
For those of you wondering what in the words pop art even mean, this is where the art history geek in me raises her hand, pushes back her glasses on her nose and starts to spew.
New innovations in mass communication and manufacturing gave Americans access to many things they never had before. Frozen TV dinners, Buicks, Camels. But many of those things were the same things everyone else started to have too and they began to achieve iconic status in the form of the all-mighty brand…Campbell’s Soup, anyone? Irony and commentary on modern culture define pop art and no one did that better than Andy Warhol. Because the subjects were so simple and ordinary, the technique used to produce the art is commentary as well, like mechanical reproductions. I, personally, am ready for my fifteen minutes of fame.
One of my favorite pop artists (besides Smirky) is David Hockney. I think I love the mid-century images in his work and the almost photographic way he treats the subjects. Aren’t these beautiful and lovely evocations of what we only see on Mad Men these days? For an Englishman, I think he captures mid-century America with a sharp eye. You have to know they don’t have palm trees or many swimming pools in England.
I know that people look at pop art sometimes and say, ‘Oh, that’s not real art.’ But what is art really? For me, the beauty of art is that there is no right answer to that question. If you like it, it’s art. If it evokes emotion or thought, it’s art. If it makes you stop and wonder why or how, it’s art. Kind of like my daughter’s tangled hair in the morning. If I could capture that essence, I could be an artist too.
UPDATE: I just saw the color palette inspired by Lichtenstein by my favorite low-VOC interior paint company, YOLO. Check it out.