Lichtenstein: the Evolution of Pop

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Kelly Stanton
June 3, 2005

Lichtenstein: The Evolution of Pop

Pop art seems to have emerged as a result of consumer culture in America, and also in a response – partly in accordance, partly in divergence – to abstract expressionism. Pop art during the sixties created a union of high art and low art – and now the low was overriding the high. The early sixties saw the techniques of the avant-garde used in commercial design (p 449), and it seems somehow fitting that in turn, commercial design would somehow find its way into the halls of high art. Pop artists – Lichtenstein in particular - retain some of the values of modernist painting, but in a way that greatly negates it; in pop art the representational images is back and here to stay. Lichtenstein's work, and indeed pop art in general, challenged oppositions that the previous art of the twentieth century had already established; it brought lowly subject matter to the world of high art, as well as certain commerciality, and a rendering of representation that had been previously dismissed from art.

Critics charged pop art with banality on two accounts: through content as well as procedure (p 445). The content of pop artists' work was seen as the low art of iconic images overriding the high art that had been established through modernism. Lichtenstein chose as his content iconic images – cartoons, comic strip figures, whereas an abstract expressionist artist like Pollock considered his painterly stroke to be autographical; it was representational of the artist himself – if you could identify with an abstract expressionist painting, you could identify with the artist himself. Pop images from Lichtenstein and Warhol were copies, were pre-made; they were nonrepresentational of the great artist's personality and practices such as silk screening were viewed as a lack of originality in procedure. During the time that pop art began to materialize in America, it seemed as if all images were...
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