Pop Art: Hidden Critique of Consumerism

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Civil Engagement can be described as the actions of an individual or group that aim to draw attention to and address issues of public concern.

Throughout history, many prominent and outrageous movements have been sparked by artists who desired to encourage constructive rhetoric, productive debate, about what they considered to be injustice or societal faults. A great twentieth century example of this is Dadaism, the paradoxical “non-art” movement that took place chiefly in Zurich, Switzerland during World War I. Infuriated by the destructive, unproductive violence and angry at their governments for allowing it to occur, artists from all over Europe collaborated by making senseless public art that not only broke the established artistic rules of the period, but was also ridden with profanities. Dadaism never became particularly prominent in America, but another reactionary movement called Pop Art was a national sensation in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s.

Pop Art sought to draw attention to, but not outright critique, consumerism and celebrity culture. Artists depicted popular images that people were familiar with, focused on themes like mass production and meaningless fame, and tried to get the public involved in artistic rhetoric rather than confining such discussions to elite groups of critics and artists. This movement wanted to question societal commonplaces and make people think about the culture of American society.

Andy Warhol is likely the most widely recognized and famous pop artist. Warhol was [somewhat ironically, due to his own fame] disturbed by the public obsession with celebrities, fame, and consumerism. He was completely integrated into the culture that he criticized. Art historians agree that Marilyn Diptych, a piece that Warhol released in 1962 shortly after the superstar’s death, utilizes repetitive imagery to critique mass production and refer to her ubiquitous presence in the media. The film strip format alludes to the film career...
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