Art and Non-Art in Popular Culture

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"I think a lot of graffiti is art but not all of it. Not every piece of canvas with paint on it is art either." (Student response to a query about street art)

When discussing art in popular culture there are very few boundaries to adhere to. Almost any form of media can be considered as art. But not all works are good examples of art and there are several determining factors that help to decide on the artistic quality of a piece. This essay will discuss in response to the above quote the identifiable characteristics of what could be considered art in contemporary pop culture. It will deconstruct the some of the most prominent types of art in popular culture including street art, music video and advertisements or commercial art. And under which circumstances are they considered to be art whether this is the intention of the piece, or the creative process that surrounds it or simply the aesthetic values that it holds. It will also discuss if works produced solely for commercial propaganda are still considered art. And if the artistic values of the work are influenced on the environment in which it resides. These three determining factors will help distinguish between art and non art in contemporary pop culture.

Art in popular culture varies widely in a range of creative forms and media. Popular culture or ‘pop’ culture has a heavy influence on much of the works that are created by artists today. (Gibbons, 2005, p.1) These include all forms of street and public art including graffiti and stencil art that often make statements on pop culture. And also in a more formal environment including galleries and art museums where there is a large array of contemporary works which reflect on these elements of consumerism. There are numerous well recognised artists that have concentrated much of their practice on consumerism and culture. Andy Warhol, is a founder in bringing consumerism to the high art scene in the 1960’s (Livingstone 1992), something that had not being done before. A more recent take on this concept is Takashi Murakami and the art movement ‘Super Flat’ which concentrates on Japanese pop culture and particularly anime and manga. (n.a 2009 Superflat art)

Art is not only influenced by popular culture but it makes up a large part of influential media for popular culture. This form of art can be recognised directly in advertising, music, music videos, cartoons and any other form of media that creatively puts forth a message, more often that not for commercial propaganda. This is not always the case but this lower form of more accessible art is completely open to the public because it is not hemmed in by the confines or "laws" of the gallery system or the museum. (Stowers 1997) And it quite often forced into peoples lives, by occurring in a public space society are forced into viewing these creative works that promote popular culture through advertisements billboards television radio and generally in any public space just as they are exposed to graffiti art and vandalism. More often than not the environment in which the artwork resides in impacts the values that people give the piece but this is not the only thing that should be considered when depicting the piece as several factors impact the merit of the work. These can include the creative process involved, the purpose of the work and the aesthetic values of the final piece. (Johnstone 2006)

The creative process that is involved in creating an art piece may have huge effects on the final outcome. In some cases it’s the process that is the work, in others cases it can be just important in developing the meanings and values behind the work and also some pieces may not be understood fully until the intentional processes are understood. The creative process has being described in four steps these are Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Implementation. (Charlie, 2008) Going through this four step process is not always occur consciously but has an impact on...
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