Pop Art

Pop Art, Raushenberg, Johns, Dine, Indiana, Demuth 

RAUSCHENBERG, Robert.Canyon. 1959
Combine on canvas 81 3/4 x 70 x 24 in.
Collection Mr and Mrs Sonabend, Paris
Form: A collage created with found objects, paint, and pictures.Iconography: A paper written by Mark Robinson, at the Baltimore Museum of Art states that...."A work that epitomizes Rauschenberg's combine theory is Canyon. Created in 1959, this piece combines fabric, cardboard, paper, photographs, metal, paint and other elements with collage work and several striking 3D elements -- namely, a stuffed bald eagle perched on a box and a suspended pillow. The most striking elements of this work are, obviously, the eagle and the pillow. Upon first seeing the work, the viewer is immediately drawn in it, his or her curiosity sparked by this odd inclusion of "non-artistic" elements. By attaching the eagle and pillow to the piece, Rauschenberg  is making a statement about the acceptance of everyday objects as possible materials for art (he was no doubt influenced by Marcel Duchamp in this respect).  The incorporation of the eagle, perched and ready to attack, makes a bold statement about the often-confrontational nature of Rauschenberg's work. The bald eagle itself is an already loaded image, as it is often seen as a symbol of patriotism. This eagle, however, is by no means patriotic -- it is a fierce creature, recontextualized by its surroundings. The pillow, on the other hand, places an emphasis on the more symbolic nature of Canyon. Visually, it seems to give weight to the piece, almost pulling it down off the wall. More importantly, however, it adds a sexual symbolism to the piece. It evokes images of male and female sexuality -- namely the male genitalia and the female breasts. Because it is a pillow, it is soft and comforting, a stark contrast to the confrontational eagle. While the three-dimensional objects dominate the lower part of the piece, the top is comprised primarily of a collage of many different types of media. This collage, in fact, takes up nearly two-thirds of the canvas. Although easily overlooked because of the visual dominance of the eagle and pillow, it provides both a background and a context for the lower part of the piece. For example, the photograph of the small child reaching upward is a direct reference to the perched eagle below.  Many of the elements included in the work make references to popular culture -- a magazine spread, found domestic photographs and a picture of the statue of liberty, to name a few. This further emphasizes Rauschenberg's theory about everyday objects as art. This is probably the most important theme presented in Canyon and it is shown with both subtlety and excess."  (
Context: "Robert Rauschenberg began creating his combines in the 1950s. These works have their origins in traditional paintings -- many of the early combines are presented on a canvas and are hung on a wall. What sets the combines apart from their painting brethren are their three-dimensionality. Eventually this focus was taken to the extreme and many of the combines moved off the wall altogether and became freestanding objects. Rauschenberg incorporated many elements other than canvas and paint into these pieces. Elements of collage (which had been present in his earlier works) were incorporated, as well as found objects. He called this process "assemblage" (1). Rauschenberg "broke down barriers between painting and sculpture by incorporating [these] everyday objects such as Coca-Cola bottles, clothing, newspaper clippings, taxidermied animals, and photographs" (2). In addition to breaking down barriers between painting and sculpture, he was also breaking down barriers between the art world and the outside world. By including objects like Coca-Cola bottles and newspaper clippings, he was making references to popular culture. This pop culture referencing would later explode into the "pop-art" movement of the 1960s." (
Collage Education
Rauschenberg’s Combines, now at the Met, are rich and dense in a way that has to be seen to be believed.

    * By Mark Stevens
    * Published Dec 18, 2005
Rauschenberg's Canyon (1959), at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Early in the twentieth century, artists began jumping out art’s window. The Russian modernists soared into the revolutionary sky. The Dadaists, arching an eyebrow, admired the cracked glass. The Cubists couldn’t stop blinking, beautifully agog. At mid-century, Robert Rauschenberg went through the window with American gusto. He had an appetite for the churning street outside, and he seemed full of jazzy slang. He was rude—vitally and impishly rude—in a way no American painter (except the de Kooning of Woman I) had ever been before him. He’d put anything in art: postcards, socks, street junk, paint, neckties, wire, cartoons, even stuffed animals. Especially stuffed animals. The absurdist taxidermy was funny as well as provocative. The goat-and-rooster shtick made wicked fun of both the macho posturing of the fifties and the holy pomposities then gathering around painting. Sometimes, art needs a good rooster squawk.
Once through the window, Rauschenberg had one of the great, decade-long runs in American art, which is now the subject of “Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Organized by Paul Schimmel of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles—Nan Rosenthal oversaw the installation at the Met—the exhibit includes 67 works created between 1954 and 1964. Among them are both famous works (the goatish Monogram) and rarely exhibited pieces. Rauschenberg himself invented the term “Combines” to describe a pungent style of mix-and-match collage. In his oeuvre, this early decade of the Combines, especially the first five years, matters the most. It anticipates much that came later, and it raises an important question: Are the Combines less than meets the eye, a slapdash everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style that ultimately just celebrates energy for energy’s sake?
They’re more than meets the eye. My first impression of the show—before looking at the imagery—was one of a controlled, formal richness. An artist in love with the hot and messy splash of inspiration, of course, but also one who’s knotty, thoughtful, and considered. Rauschenberg mostly worked with what Rosenthal calls a “syncopated grid,” a formal structure within which he weighted and composed lights, colors, and shapes. In an image like Canyon, for example, he calculated how the weight of the hanging bag sets off the strength of the eagle’s wings as it pulls upward into the image-laden sky. Reproductions don’t convey the tactile feeling of Rauschenberg’s color. His surfaces are rich, steeped, time-marinated.
As you draw closer to a Combine, its imagery begins to come into focus, and everything starts to connect and connect and connect. You find that not only do the blacks in Canyon rhyme with the bird’s wings; so does that ribbing in the upper right, which mirrors the tips of the outstretched feathers. (And there’s wt., the abbreviation for “weight,” within the same ribbed black.) Canyon takes its inspiration in part from a Rembrandt Ganymede that depicts an eagle pulling a heavy, bawling boy into the air, one who looks rather like the child in the snapshot in the Combine; the hanging bag evokes the boy’s buttocks. Connections zigzag across mental boundaries. Weight, for example, can be literal or illusory, a matter of words, images, colors, and shapes.
There’s an argument that art should probe deeply, that it should rigorously edit experience in order to reach some bedrock essence. Nothing wrong with that. Rauschenberg’s endless connections, some lighthearted and some not, do something else. He celebrates the floating textures of consciousness—the way the mind moves, wanders, and joins together. One of my favorite Combines, Hymnal, contains (among much else) a book, a piece of paisley that looks the way hymns sound, and some ill-tempered graffiti. It can be good to concentrate on the hymn alone. It can also be good, as you pick up the hymnal, to acknowledge the message scratched on the pew.
Robert Rauschenberg: Combines
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
December 20 through april 2.

Robert Rauschenberg. Rebus, 1955
Combine painting: oil, paper, fabric, pencil, 
crayon, newspaper, and printed reproductions 
on three canvases 
8 feet x 10 feet 10 1/2 inches (243,8 x 331,5 cm.) overall
Private collection Courtesy Guggenheim Museum, New York
Form: 'Assemblage' collage.Iconography: At the Sir John Cass department of art, Kirk Lake had this to write about this work done by Raushenberg, "It is worth looking at one of Rauschenberg's "combine paintings" in more detail. In Rebus (1955) Rauschenberg set out to realise "a concentration"
18 of the particular area of New York that he was in at the time of its composition. This he did by collaging items found in the vicinity into the painting stating that "a picture is more like the real world when it's made out of the real world."19 A statement Burroughs would echo on numerous occasions and one that reflects Schwitters' comments about Merzbau quoted earlier. The title "Rebus" implies that the picture represents some kind of solvable conundrum and the critic Charles Stuckey went so far as to deduce its literal meaning by decoding its images until the painting read, "That reproduces sundry cases of childish and comic coincidence to be read by eyes opened finally to a pattern of abstract problems."20 Whether this literal reading had anything at all to do with Rauschenberg or his intentions or was merely an example of over-analysis and the need to put boundaries on that which appears boundless is debatable but Stuckey accurately pin-pointed the purpose of this kind of work by concluding that the painter had "force[d] an awareness of how we see, by making us share the tangents and confusions, childish, comic, and coincidental ones which [Rauschenberg] himself endured while facing the abstract problems of making art."21 The importance of these random factors, coincidences and jarring juxtapositions is integral to our understanding of the methodology and purpose of these experiments as they mutated through Dada and Surrealism, Cage and Rauschenberg and Burroughs and Gysin and on into the Pop Artists, conceptualists and contemporary multi-media artists."
Context: A rebus is, by definition "A representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, often presented as a puzzle." We can see by the linear way in which Raushenberg had laid out this painting that it can be read from left to right, and with pictures forming a type of pictograph or cryptic language, it is up to the viewer to solve the puzzle.

Robert Bed 1955
Combine painting 
6'2" x 31 1/2" x 6 1/2"
Mr and Mrs Leo Castelli, 
New York
Form: Pillow, quilt, paint, wood, various other painting materials.Iconography: According to Frazier Moore, Associated Press television writer  in the South Coast Today Newspaper..."As a young artist, he awoke one morning with an urge to paint but no money for a canvas. Solution: He appropriated his own pillow and quilt caking them with paint, toothpaste and fingernail polish, then mounting this concoction on a frame. "Bed" set off fireworks in the art world." However, that would be too simplistic an explanation. It was widely known that Raushenberg was gay, and the lover of the equally well known Jasper Johns. His 'Bed' assemblage create controversy in Italy, where they refused to display it because it was 'shocking'. In the contemporary gay community this creation is thought to represent a bed shared b Raushenberg and Johns, and perhaps is reminiscent of the aftermath of their 'artistic lovemaking'. Whatever the true reason behind the piece, it has remained one of the more controversial pieces of his career, though by the standards of Modern Art today, it is not shocking at all.
Context: In Rauschenberg's own words about his artwork, "A pair of stockings isn't less suitable to create an artwork, than nails, wood, turpentine, oil or cloth." and, "Rather I put my trust in the materials that confront me, because they put me in touch with the
unknown. It is then that I begin to work... when I don´t have the comfort and sureness and certainty, sometimes Jack Daniels helps too."

Johns. Field Painting.1964
Form: Asemblage of painting and objects on canvas.Iconography: "Field Painting, for example, pivots references both to art-making and Johns’ own career. The primary colors  red, yellow, and blue are spelled out in letters hinged perpendicularly to the canvas, where they also appear in stencil-like doubles. Attached to them are various studio tools. The Savarin coffee tin and Ballantine beer can both allude to Johns' studio  paraphernalia and to his appropriation of them as motifs in his work. Passages of smeared and dripped paint, a footprint, light switch, and a neon “R” collude with other visual codes to multiply the possibility of associations." (

Context: 'Field Painting' as an art form was made most popular by Mark Rothko. It is a technique by which large 'fields' of color are painted on a canvas, and they are supposed to either recede or move forward when stared out, depending on whether they are warm or cool colors, and what relation they are to each other. Johns' is playing a game, much like Raushenberg, by playing with the words and their meanings in context to the images. 

Jasper Johns. Flag. 1955
wood, canvas, encaustic, and newspaper
Form: Wood, canvas, encaustic, and newspaperIconography: "The story is 'I dreamt one night that I painted the flag of America. The next day I did it.' This sounds like an episode in the life of a biblical prophet. At least one great painter of our time, Francis Bacon, seems to have seen himself as that: 'I don't  think I'm gifted; I just think I'm receptive ... I think I have this peculiar kind of sensibility as a painter where things are handed to me and I just use them . . . I suppose I'm lucky in that images just drop in as if they were handed down to me.'  Johns might well have felt that images were being handed down to him not only when he first did the flag in 1954 but also when he first did targets and the figure 5 in 1955 and alphabets in 1956 and numbers and all-over grey brushstrokes in 1957 and sculpmetal bulbs and flashlights in 1958 and 0 through 9 and polychromatic explosions with superimposed stencilled words in 1959 and painted ale cans in 1960 and the map of the USA in 1961 and the Skin drawings in 1962. It was as if for those nine years Johns was in a perpetual state of grace. And as if a voice from above then said: 'Jasper, we've done enough for you; you're on your own now.' Suddenly the boy genius had to become a man. Hitherto the struggle had been confined to the realisation of the image; from now on Johns was going to have to hunt the image down. It is true that the legendary passing encounters while out on drives with the prototypes of the pavingstones and the cross-hatching are about finds rather than hunts - but they were still finds, not revelations. (By the way,  it was in 1963 that Johns first consented to give a serious interview, as if he were now responsible for what he did.)" (Take from 
It can be difficult, at first, to look at a painting of a symbol so easily recognized and reproduced as the American flag and see it as fine art. But it must be remembered that it is the materials used and way that the objects were being created that was unique for the time, and challenging.
Context: Johns may or may not be playing another visual game with the viewers, it can be hard to tell with a piece as straightforward in imagery and meaning. There are no other indicators to suggest that he had an alternate agenda or political goal in creating the art. With the artists cryptic explanation that he had dreamt of painting the flag, the message becomes yet more obscure, simplified down to a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, the answer to why? is simply, 'because.' 

Jasper Johns. Target with Four Faces.1955
wood, canvas, encaustic, newspaper and plaster
Form: Plaster molds, paint, canvas.Iconography: "....Something akin to this game of hide-and-seek with public symbols happened with his target paintings. Everyone "knows" what a target is--a test of a marksman's skill. But beneath its muteness a target is supercharged with an imagery of aggression: every target implies a weapon and someone aiming. This had an inescapable point in the mid-'50s, when politicians and all the American media were pounding into the collective imagination, like a 10-in. spike, the message that the whole nation was a target for Russian thermonuclear weapons. This is part of the background to Johns' targets, and a little further back is another form of "targeting"--the virulent hatred and distrust of homosexuals as deviants and possible spies that the right encouraged. Johns was a reserved, closeted gay, and a work like Target with Four Faces, 1955, is all about threat and concealment. Its impassive, identical plaster casts of faces are contained in a box with a hinged door, a "closet" above the ominous target. Your gaze, in looking at them, is assimilated to the eye of the inquisitor, hunting out what is concealed. It is a pessimistic and, above all, defensive image." Taken from an article in Time magazine (

Context: This work seems to be closer to Johns' personality and inner feelings rather than just a word game or commentary. In it, he is expressing some of his own feelings and issues in the most comfortable way he knows how, through his art.

Jim Dine. Green Suit. 1959
Form: Suit with paint on it.Iconography: (taken directly from, The green suit has been in Cincinnati before. Maybe Jim Dine wore it here before he left in 1953 or perhaps when he came back to visit. The coat slathered with green paint, trousers slashed with a knife in 1959, “Green Suit” appeared in his first exhibition, Dine/Kitaj, at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1973. Now it is the earliest work in Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969, opening today at the museum.  It's been 40 years since Mr. Dine converted the worn-out corduroy suit into fine art. But as he looks at it at the museum, he's still pondering its meaning. It's important to him that it is not a picture of a suit. It's a garment that he wore and wore out. Having lost its first use, it became, with alterations, a work of art. But it remained a suit. Dine is still pondering the meaning of "Green Suit." “Maybe, in the next century, it will not be so important to have the physical object,” Mr. Dine says, but “from where I sit it would be a shame if it were not a physical object. A CD-ROM is not going to give me that much pleasure.”  There is the key to enjoying the eccentric art of Jim Dine, world class artist with roots in Cincinnati. Each work is a physical object. Not a picture. Not an icon. Not a symbol or a message. When the “Green Suit” was shown in 1973, Cincinnatians may have interpreted it as an angry rejection of their city and all it stood for. Mr. Dine was, or was reputed to be, an angry young man fleeing a troubled youth to become one of a famed band of artists about to throw the New York art world for a loop. Mellowed at 64, he's amused his former reputation.  “I left here when I was 18. I left here because I wanted to paint and I didn't feel that this was a place where I could paint. There was nothing terrible about Cincinnati. My young life growing up here certainly made me, as everyone's childhood does.” 

Context:The artist is clearly influenced by Marquise de Sade's philosophy of assault of the pleasures of the body. Jim Dine's creations make the viewer feel uncomfortable and repressed, tied up with the ropes of his work; assaulted by a demented ego and polluted by a "Rent-an-Artist from Hell, Inc." After Dine's many years of psychotherapy, we still experience his pathological impulses of self-flagellation. In a video interview for WNET, the artist says, "I don't want to be avant garde. I want to be nasty ... ugly ... sloppy ... excessive ... useless ... unpleasant ... and most of all, persona non-grata." And so he succeeds with incredible commercial results. (

Robert Indiana. The Figure 5. 1963
Robert Indiana. The American Dream.1963

Form: Oil paintings, with an abstract, cubist, futurist and pop influence on the subject matter.Iconography: According to an article on the Smithsonian American Art Museum web site "Street signs and house numbers, phone numbers and initials…you use important numbers and letters everyday. When your backpack gets lost in the locker room, a tag with your name on it tells everyone that it is yours.  If your best friend has a secret to tell, she knows she can talk to you by dialing your telephone number. On a busy street, a crossing sign lets you know where it's safe to cross. Words and numbers are important to Robert Indiana, too. He has turned them into a language of his own. He uses them to tell you what he's seen, what he's done, and what he thinks. His artwork looks like road signs you might see along the highway. Sometimes they tell you about his life—the roads he's traveled and what's  happened to him along the way. Sometimes they show what he enjoys, like poems and surprising stories. And sometimes they encourage us to do what  he thinks we should—like "EAT" and "LOVE." "Some people like to paint trees," he said. "I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than painting trees." Many people must agree with him....... In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service put Robert Indiana's design on the very first "LOVE" stamp. Over three hundred and twenty million of these stamps were printed. Mail trucks carried letters with this small "LOVE" sign on them along highways all across the country." (
Context: "Robert Indiana is, by his own admission, a painter of signs. His signs are more intrinsically signals than signs. Donald Goodall writes that "in the end Indiana's signals, all matter-of-fact and plainspoken at first, become elusive and suggestive of personal and public history. . . . We look again, hard. And think about what the shapes have said." Indiana's "words . . . circles, squares and rectangles, and colors which begin in the sign-painter's kit" assume "unexpected brilliance or sensitivity, as these are put in their new universe." They possess "the authority of the irreducible. The most familiar images change character as we inspect this symbiosis of reality and remembered experiences, of the prosaic and speculative." Goodall suggests that Indiana's forms seem autobiographical, recalling "visual experiences as a child which are alive in his mind," experience that the artist "equates with that optimistic illusion of hopeful generations, the American Dream." Nevertheless, the painting's "symbolic implication is not available to fast-transit comprehension. The sign says what it is. Well and good. But the inner-content of Indiana's signals, carefully planned and executed with artisan's skills, is sibylline."1" 1. Donald B. Goodall, "Robert Indiana," exhibition catalog (Austin, TX: University of Texas Art Museum, 1977), 7. (

Charles Demuth 1883-1963
The Figure 5 in Gold, 1928
Form: Oil on canvas.Iconography:  "Born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Charles Demuth studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia intermittently between 1905 and 1908. It was in Philadelphia that the artist first met the American poet and physician William Carlos Williams, the subject of this painting. Demuth continued his art training during trips to Europe between 1907 and 1921. In 1925 he was included in a group exhibition organized by Alfred Stieglitz, who later gave him a few one-man shows at his galleries. When Demuth died at age fifty-one, after suffering from diabetes for much of his life, an important and prolific career was cut short after only twenty years. Demuth, a versatile artist, tailored his style to his subject matter. His delicate, loosely handled watercolors of fruits and flowers pulsate with subtle, exquisitely balanced color. His paintings of the modern urban and industrial landscape, on the other hand, are tightly controlled, hard, and exact — in a style aptly called Precisionism. Although these works show the influence of Cubism and Futurism, their sense of scale and directness of expression seem entirely American. "The Figure 5 in Gold" is one of a series of eight abstract portraits of friends, inspired by Gertrude Stein's word-portraits, that Demuth made between 1924 and 1929. This painting pays homage to a poem by William Carlos Williams. Like Marsden Hartley's "Portrait of a German Officer" and Arthur Dove's "Ralph Dusenberry," this portrait consists not of a physical likeness of the artist's friend but of an accumulation of images associated with him — the poet's initials and the names "Bill" and "Carlos" that together form a portrait. Williams' poem "The Great Figure" describes the experience of seeing a red fire engine with the number 5 painted on it racing through the city streets. While Demuth's painting is not an illustration of Williams's poem, we can certainly sense its "rain/and lights" and the "gong clangs/siren howls/and wheels rumbling." The bold 5 both rapidly recedes and races forward in space, and the round forms of the number, the lights, the street lamp, and the arcs at the lower left and upper right are played against the straight lines of the fire engine, the buildings, and the rays of  light, infusing the picture with a rushing energy that perfectly expresses the spirit of the poem."  (
Context:  To understand more about Demuth and why and how he painted what he did, it is important to delve a bit more deeply into his personal life. "Blessed with a private income from his parents in Lancaster, Pennsylvania coddled in childhood, lame, diabetic, vain, insecure, and brilliantly talented, Demuth lacked neither admirers nor colleagues. He was well read (and had a small talent as a writer, in the Symbolist vein) and his tastes were formed by Pater, Huysmans, Maeterlinck, and The Yellow Book; he gravitated to Greenwich Village as a Cafe  Royal dandy-in-embryo. Free of market worries, he did a lot of work that was private in nature, for the amusement and stimulation of himself and his gay friends, and much of it was unexhibitable - at least until the 1980s. "Demuth was not a flaming queen, in fact he was rather a discreet gay, but if he could not place his deepest sexual predilections in the open, he could still make art  from them. Seen from our distance, that of a pornocratic culture so drenched in genital imagery that sly hints about forbidden sex hardly compel attention, the skill with which he did this might seem almost quaint. But in the teens and twenties the public atmosphere was of course very different, and Demuth, like other artists in the avant-garde circle that formed around the collectors Loulse and Walter Arensberg - especially Marcel Duchamp, whose recondite sexual allegory The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even Demuth called "the greatest picture of our time" - took a special delight in sowing his work with sexual hints. To create a secret subject matter, to disport oneself with codes, was to enjoy one's distance from (and rise above) "straight" life. The handlebar of a vaudeville trick-rider's bicycle turns into a penis, aimed at his crotch; sailors dance with girls in a cabaret but ogle one another. "If these scenes of Greenwich Village bohemia were all that Demuth did, he would be remembered as a minor American esthete, somewhere between Aubrey Beardsley and Jules Pascin. But Demuth was an exceptional watercolorist and his still-lifes and figure paintings, with their wiry contours and exquisite sense of color, the tones discreetly manipulated by blotting, are among the best things done in that medium by an American. They quickly rise above the anecdotal and the "amusing." (culled from

Pop Art II, Warhol, Hamilton, and Licthenstein.

Richard Hamilton. Just What Is It That Makes 
Today's Home So Different, So Appealing?
1956, Collage 10"x9" 
(Kunsthalle Museum, Tübingen, Germany)
Form: CollageIconography: richard hamilton is a British PopArt painter who was influenced greatly by the abundance of images found in American media and advertising. According to stokstad, because of his own brief stint into an advertising career, and his association with the artist Marcel Duchamp, Hamilton wanted to make a statement about the images people are bombarded with and the superficial ideals they represent. When one looks closely at this collage, many double entendres and visual games become apparent rather quickly. First, there is he question asked by the title, "What is it that makes this home so different, so appealing?" The fast answer would be the physically perfect couple that reside there, the 'beefcake' man and the woman with her stripper-pasties and a lampshade on her head, suggestive of a mindless party animal, a warm body. Obviously, this is a commentary by the media on how people should look, if they are to be considered attractive and successful. Of course, very few people in American society will ever fit this ideal, thanks to the wonders of genetics, but the image is a standard nonetheless. Next is the hugely disproportionate Tootsie Roll Lollipop, strategically held by the man. It is in color, unlike his body, and suggests an enormous phallic object, pointing towards the woman who is seated on the couch. There is also a canned ham on the table, suggestive perhaps of women's place in advertising of being 'meat'. Ironically, the poster in the background is an advertisement for a pulp romance novel entitled 'Young Romance' , commenting on the actual lack of any real romance between the two people in the collage. There are a myriad of other symbols of the trappings of what would be considered 'wealth' in a consumerist society, a Ford emblem lays draped across the lampshade, a maid is vacuuming the stairs with the latest model cleaner, a framed painting done in the Old Master style hangs from the wall. There is a television with a woman talking on the telephone, a reel-to-reel on the ground, a newspaper on the chair and a new rug on the floor. All of these things are what was considered necessary for the comfort and luxury of a 'modern' household. Because of the heavy sarcasm found throughout the collage, it is evident how ridiculous and arrogant Hamilton considered these  'necessities' of suburban life to be, and how deeply ingrained in the minds of society that the media had planted these images as a blueprint for a perfect life.
Context: A short biography of his life gives the viewer more of an understanding of how and why his style developed along the lines that it did, in the area that he was living n, (Taken from wwwPopArt,"Born in 1922 in London. In 1934 he attended evening classes in art. In 1936 he worked in the publicity department of an electrical company. He studied at WestminsterTechnical College and St. Martin's School of Art. In 1937 he worked in the publicity department of the Reimann Studios. From 1983 to 1940 he studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools. He enrolled for a course in technical drawing and worked as a draughtsman from 1941 to 1945. He was readmitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1946 but was expelled in the same year as a result of apparently unsatisfactory work. He began his National Service. In 1947 he married Terry O'Reilly. He
studied painting at the Slade School of Art in 1948-51. His etchings from this period were exhibited at his first one-man exhibition at Gimpel Fils, 1950. The first exhibition he designed himself was Growth and Form at the ICA, London, 1951. In 1952 he became a teacher of silver work, typography and industrial design at the
Central School of Arts and Crafts. One of his colleagues there was Eduardo Paolozzi, with whom Hamilton was a founder member of the Independent Group at the ICA. This was a group of artists and intellectuals who met to discuss cultural change in the age of technology. In 1953 he became a lecturer in the Fine Art Department
at the King's College in the University of Durham. In this post he worked with Victor Pasmore and taught a course in basic design which was also attended by art students. In 1955 he exhibited his paintings at the Hanover Gallery, London. His paintings at this time were influenced by Cubism. In the same year he devised and
designed the exhibition Man, Machine and Motion at the ICA. In 1956 he made his first Pop collage as a design for the poster and catalog of the exhibition This Is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery, which he had helped to organize with other members of the Independent Group. From 1957 to 1961 he taught interior design at
the Royal College of Art. In 1960 he was awarded the William and Norma Copley Foundation Prize for Painting. He also published a typographical version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box. His wife died in a car accident in 1962. In 1963 he visited USA for the first time. In 1965 he began his reconstruction of Marcel Duchamp's Le
Grand Verre. He organized the Duchamp retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1966. His works on the theme of the Guggenheim Museum were also shown at the Robert Fraser Gallery. In 1969 he helped to make a film of his work for the Arts Council. In 1970 he showed his Cosmetic Studies. He was awarded the Talins Prize
International, Amsterdam, 1970. In 1977 and 1978 he collaborated with Dieter Roth at Cadaqués. He was given his first comprehensive retrospective exhibition in 1979 at the Tate Gallery, also shown at the Kunsthalle, Berne. In 1974 he had retrospectives at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Städtische Galerie, Munich, and the
Kunsthalle, Tübingen. In 1982 his writings, notes and documents were published by Thames and Hudson, London."

Andy Warhol. Brillo Boxes

Andy Warhol. Campbell's Soup.
silkscreen on canvas
Andy Warhol. Campbell's Soup. 1962
Form: Brillo boxes. Also, silkscreened images of Campbell soup cans. Iconography: Andy Warhol was enthralled with the simplicity and visual impact of labels. According to stokstad, Warhol had worked as a commercial illustrator in the 1950's, and left that field to pursue art as a full time occupation in the early 1960's. He knew, from working with advertising, how persuasive a simple design could be. There are many theories about the absolute reason for the soup cans, it has been said that he painted them because he ate Campbells soup for lunch everyday. It has also been said that he painted them because they were easy to do. Whatever the reason, they ended up being his most famous and instantly recognizable pieces. He was paid handsomely for his work by Campbells' when his paintings started to gain recognition. In one instance, they sent him a can of their new Won Ton soup to paint before it was released to the public.
Context: (From "Andy Warhol began as a commercial illustrator, and a very successful one, doing jobs like shoe ads for I. Miller in a stylish blotty line that derived from Ben Shahn. He first exhibited in an art gallery in 1962, when the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles showed his 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, 1961-62. From then on, most of Warhol's best work was done over a span of about six years, finishing in 1968, when he was shot. And it all flowed from one central insight: that in a culture glutted with information, where most people experience most things at second or third hand through TV and print, through images that become banal and disassociated by repeated again and again and again, there is role for affectless art. You no longer need to be hot and full of feeling. You can be supercool, like a slightly frosted mirror. Not that Warhol worked this out; he didn't have to. He felt it and embodied it. He was a conduit for a sort of collective American state of mind in which celebrity - the famous image of a person, the famous brand name - had completely replaced both sacredness and solidity. Earlier artists, like Monet, had painted the same motif in series in order to display minute discriminations of perception, the shift of light and color form hour to hour on a haystack, and how these could be recorded by the subtlety of eye and hand. Warhol's thirty-two soup cans are about nothing of the kind. They are about sameness (though with different labels): same  brand, same size, same paint surface, same fame as product. They mimic the condition of mass advertising, out of which his sensibility had grown. They are much more deadpan than the object which may have partly inspired them, Jasper Johns's pair of bronze Ballantine ale cans. This affectlessness, this fascinated and yet indifferent take on the object, became the key to Warhol's work; it is there in the repetition of stars' faces (Liz, Jackie, Marilyn, Marlon, and the rest), and as a record of the condition of being an uninvolved spectator it speaks eloquently about the condition of image overload in a media saturated culture. Warhol extended it by using silk screen, and not bothering to clean up the imperfections of the print: those slips of the screen, uneven inkings of the roller, and general graininess. What they suggested was not the humanizing touch of the hand but the pervasiveness of routine error and of entropy..."- From "American Visions", by Robert Hughes

Andy Warhol. Marilyn Diptych. 1968
silkscreen on canvas
Form: Silkscreened images of Marilyn Monroe, of varying sizes and styles.Iconography: Andy warhol enjoyed doing silkcreend portraits of tragic American Icons. Secondary, they were most often icons in the gay male community, figures whom repressed gay men, such as Warhol, could easily identify with. Marylin Monroe is made to look like a drag queen in the Warhol prints, everything female about her is exaggerated almost comically. her hair is yellow, not blonde. Her lipstick and eyeshadow are shown as primary red and blue. She is almost surreal looking. The gay community could identify her because of the changes she went through physically in order to attain her star status, she changed her name from the midwestern Norma Jean, had plastic surgery, dyed her brown short, did everything she could to become the opposite of what she was in reality. And for Marylin, it worked. It is this kind of oppression to a male ideal that gay men felt, but the sort of triumph they yearned for.
Context: It is well known that Andy Warhol was gay, and so repressed that at times he seemed almost asexual. He enjoyed surrounding himself with beautiful, young, athletic people, with the types of bodies and looks he himself could never have. It may also be said that he surrounded himself with the type of beautiful young men he could also never have. He was, in his personal life, exceedingly insecure about his own looks. He was short, balding, and had terrible skin. He knew he wasn't a 'beautiful' person in the outward way he wanted to be, and it tormented him. Thus, he became overly obsessed with moving in the 'right' crowd and being around all the 'right' people, a hobby that kept him able to conveniently ignore, or repress, his homosexuality. 

Roy Lichtenstein. 
Oh no! A Dinner party for twelve. c 1964
oil on magma on canvas

Roy Lichtenstein. Reclining Nude. 1977 
Form: Hand Painted Acrylic images on Canvas, meant to recreate the color separation found in newspaper images.Iconography: "In 1960 Lichtenstein was appointed Assistant Professor at Douglas College at Rutgers University of New Jersey, which put him within striking distance of New York. He met and had long discussions with Allan Kaprow, and he also met Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Lucas Samaras and George Segal. He attended a number of early 'Happenings', but did not participate in them actively. These contacts revived his interest in Pop imagery, and a more immediate stimulus was provided by a challenge from one of his sons, who pointed to a Mickey Mouse comic book and said; 'I bet you can't paint as good as that.' In 1961 Lichtenstein produced about six paintings showing characters from comic-strip frames, with only minor changes of colour and form from the original source material. It was at this time that he first made use of devices which were to become signatures in his work - Ben-Day dots,  lettering and speech balloons......"Lichtenstein's development as a mature painter was marked by his propensity for working in successive series or thematic groups. The later groups tended to be interpretations and to some extent parodies of earlier Modernist styles - Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism. In the early 1980s Lichtenstein created sculptural  maquettes constructed from flat shapes as three-dimensional graphic imitations of German Expressionist woodcuts. These, like his series of painted or sculpted brushstrokes of the 1980s, painstakingly created an ironic suggestion of spontaneity. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he returned to the use of Ben-Day dots in a new and refined application of his earlier style. Roy Lichtenstein died in September 1997." (Culled directly from
The bottom image, Reclining Nude, is an appropriation of a picasso, or perhaps even the modernist female sculpture done by Henry Moore. It shows that Lichtenstein was paying very close attention to what was being created by his contemporaries, and was using his own unique style to put his own touch to the art of the times.
Context: Though it would be easy at first to think of Lichtensteins work as simplistic  because of its' cartoon images and themes, his work is another aspect of Pop Art, one that was exceedingly appropriate for the times. He was making a statement about aspects of society, romantic relationships, war, even art, and putting it into an easily recognizable form. In the 1960's and 70's, Walt Disney was a huge company, cartoons did a booming business, both in film and in comic strips and books. It is little wonder then that Lichtenstein chose to capitalize on this form of expression as a fine art.

Moore, Henry
Reclining Figure1935-36 Elmwood 
h. 19; l. 35; d. 15 in. 
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Henry Moore. reclining Figure. 1932
Form: The top sculpture is made from Elmood, and the bottom sculpture from stone. They are both titled 'reclining figure,' as were many of Moores' works, and both are modernist, abstracted representations of a female form.Iconography: Henry Moore is most commonly known as an English Abstract sculptor. according to, " His early sculptures of the 1920s, show the influences of Central American pre-Columbian art, and the massive figures of the Italian Renaissance (he particularly liked Michaelangelo's work). By the 1930s his works had become highly abstract, consisting of simplified, rounded pieces carved from wood, with numerous indentations and holes often spanned with veils of thin metal wires. His main themes include mother-and-child and family groups, fallen warriors, and, most characteristically, the reclining human figure. Although he endured much criticism of his early work, in 1948 he was awarded the International Prize for Sculpture and his reputation worldwide grew over the following decades."  By just looking at the two pieces to the left, the viewer can tell that Moore had a firm grasp of the human figure, he was able to masterfully pare it down to its' most basic shape and still retain the very essence of humanness. The figures that he sculpts are sensual and flowing, a testament of his respect for the female form.
Context: "Henry Moore was born in Castleford, in small terraced house in Roundhill Road on 30th July 1898. He attended Castleford Grammar School on a scholarship and subsequently became a teacher there. His teaching was interrupted by the First World War during which he fought in France and was gassed.After the War he returned to his teaching post but knew he wanted something better so he began studying at the Leeds School of Art from which he progressed to the Royal College of Art in London. In 1924 He met Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the college, whom
 he married a year later. The couple lived in Hampstead, where they mingled with many aspiring young artists including another sculptor from this area, Barbara Hepworth." ( It is apparent that he studied the Fine Arts and could have fallen in love with Pre-Columbian sculpture through his studies of Art and Art History. The influence of this culture and the beauty of the forms represented by it can be seen strongly in almost any of his sculptural works.

  Pop Art Three; SCULPTURE! 

George Segal. The Diner. 1964
Form: Plaster cast figures, bar setting, light, etc. Installation sculpture.Iconography: The plaster figures created by Segal for this environment looked eerily out of place. While they resemble people in the most basic of ways, mimicking body language and facial expression, they are devoid of color or life, making them feel cold and lacking personality when placed in a realistic, warm environment. "...Because of his interest in the everyday world, Segal was considered to be a founder of the Pop Art movement in the early sixties, but his individual approach quickly distinguished him from the friends and colleagues with whom he exhibited. Far removed from the wit and sophisticated detachment of their art, the subject Segal deals with is the human condition, its solitude and fragility, which he expresses with a strongly felt sympathy.....Plastered white, frozen in stereotypical poses and installed in a realistic environment made even more real by the addition of ready-made props evoking the urban decor, Segal's figures, which convey his keen sense of observation, serve as symbols of a humanity that is dominated by social and material contingencies. His works, which juxtapose individuals and their surroundings, emanate an eerie feeling of alienation. In addition to representing the banality of modern life, Segal has created sculptural portraits, depiction's of intimate activities like bathing and dressing, as well as overtly political subjects." (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)
Context: According to Stokstad, Segal began his artistic career by painting nude figures on large canvases. Later he began to form figures from chicken wire, burlap and plaster. When he became comfortable with the medium be began to actually cast his figures from live models and placed them in environments of his creation, creating a tension between the cold, hollow casts of people and an actual environment that a living person could just as easily occupy.

George Segal, Holocaust
Form: Bronze sculpture, white paint, barbed wire fencing.Iconography: (Taken from, Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies) "George Segal's public sculpture, "The Holocaust," sits in Legion of Honor Park in San Francisco overlooking a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. Often visitors find the sculpture an unexpected intrusion on the view, and an unfriendly reminder to one of  the most significant genocides of the 20th century. Segal's outwork work is executed in bronze and painted white. It has been the subject of graffiti, but Segal mentioned, at a 1998 conference at Notre Dame University, that he did not find this a problem since graffiti was a reminder that problems of prejudice have not been solved. Segal's ensemble of bodies is not random. One can find a "Christ-like" figure in the assemblage, reflecting on the Jewishness of Jesus, as well as a woman holding an apple, a reflection on the idea of original sin and the biblical connection between Jews and Christians, and raising the question of this relationship during the Holocaust. The essential figure of the man standing at the fence is probably derived from Margaret Bourke-White's famous Life Magazine 1945 photograph of the liberation of Buchenwald."
Context: According to one art critic, "Pop Art is notoriously short on conscience, like Andy Warhol at a disco. It derives its kick from a culture moving too fast for reflection. It shows that products aimed at transitory desires can outlive high-toned art, like Styrofoam that refuses to biodegrade. Like Warhol's car crashes, however, it can get pretty scary for all its cynicism. At his best, George Segal nurses his fears and degradation well." This work by Segal is scary to see, and sobering as well when viewed in person. Segal is taking his view of people as isolated and distant and magnifying it about a thousand times by using an atrocity such as the Holocaust to comment on exactly how cold and heartless a society can become. 


Edward Kienholz. The State Hospital (INTERIOR) 1966
Tableau: plaster casts, fiberglass, hospital beds, 
bedpan, hospital table, goldfish bowls, live black fish,
lighted neon tubing, steel hardware, wood, 
paint 96 x 144 x 120 in. (243.8 x 365.8 x 304.8 cm)
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Form: Installation sculpture of various materials creating a frightening and somewhat sickly looking display. Iconography: According to the Oxford Dictionary of Art, "{Kienholz} belonged to the California school of Funk art, using the bizarre and shoddy detritus of contemporary life, and creating situations of a horrific and shockingly gruesome character. His brutal images of murder, sex, death, and decay have both attracted and repelled the imagination. A typical example of his work is The State Hospital (Moderna Mus., Stockholm,1964-6), showing a mental patient strapped to his bed, with his own self-image in a thought bubble strapped to the bunk above. Both figures are modelled with revolting realism but have glass bowls for heads."
Looking at this piece, one eels a sense of sickness and decay, Kienholz obviously felt strongly about the treatment of the mentally ill who were confined to the underfunded state hospitals, and was able to make a very strong statement with this work. One would be hard pressed to find a viewer who on first glance would not find this piece disturbing and thought provoking.
Context: Looking at the life, and death, of Edward Kienholz, it becomes clear what kind of an artist he was and why he created the works that he did. In a short biography found in the Art History Department of Tower Hill School in Delaware, we find this about Edward Kienholz "In 1994, Edward Kienholz died of a heart attack at age 65. While this might have been the end of most people, Kienholz still had one thing left to do: "His corpulent, embalmed body was wedged into the front seat of a brown 1940 Packard coupe. There was a dollar and a deck of cards in his pocket, a bottle of 1931 Chianti beside him and the ashes of his dog Smash in the back. He was set for the afterlife. To the whine of bagpipes, the Packard, steered by his widow Nancy Reddin Kienholz, rolled like a funeral barge into the big hole."(Hughes) "Edward Kienholz's last piece of art was his burial (Hughes)."Such has been the legacy of Edward Kienholz. Born 1927 in Fairfield, Washington, Kienholz received his education at Eastern Washington College of Education and briefly at Whitworth College, Spokane. He had no formal artistic training, but gained skills and memories that would help further his works later in life. "He earned his living as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, as the manager of a dance band, as a dealer in secondary cars, a caterer, decorator, and a vacuum cleaner salesman (Staudek). After moving to Los Angeles in 1953, he founded the NOW gallery in1956, a haven for local artists, and the Ferus Gallery in 1957. In1961, his style of work began to change, and he created his first environment, Roxy's. He met Nancy
Reddin, later to be his fifth wife, in 1972, and began to create art in collaboration with her. (Sheldon)In 1973 Kienholz was a Guest Artist of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin. He eventually moved to Berlin with wife Nancy, and spent half of the year in Berlin, half in Hope, Idaho. In 1975, he received a Guggenheim Award, and in 1977 created The Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery (Staudek). From 1954 to1994, he created 176 separate pieces of art (Heijnen)."
He had obviously seen much of society, and had a lot to say about it. 


Claes Oldenburg. Soft Toilet and Medicine Cabinet. 1966 
vinyl plexiglas and kapok
life size

1972 drawing

Claes Oldenburg. Clothespin. 1976 

Typewriter Eraser 1998
Form: The toilets were created using the same kind of vinyl one would find on a beanbag chair, It is soft and pliable, giving the works a 'droopy' look. The clothespin and eraser were created with more durable materials such as steel, as they are intended as permanent outside objects.Iconography: What makes Oldenburg unique in the genre of Pop Art is his sense of humor. He has things to say about society, but he does it by poking fun instead of taking a more serious stance. As he says himself, "I am for an art that is political-erotic-mystical, that does something else than sit on its ass in a museum." -- Claes Oldenburg, 1961. and, "The main reason for the colossal objects is the obvious one, to expand and intensify the presence of  the vessel -- the object," Oldenburg has said.
 "Perhaps I am more a still-life painter -- using the city as a tablecloth." At another time he remarked,
 "Because my work is naturally non-meaningful, the meaning found in it will remain doubtful and inconsistent -- which is the way it should be. All that I care about is that, like any startling piece of nature, it should be capable of stimulating meaning."
It can almost be said that Oldenburg is the quintessential Pop Artist, one who truly does not take anything seriously, but still has the ability to shock viewers with the size and sheer fun of his work.

Context: (Taken from Salon Magazine, 2000) "Oldenburg, who turns 70 on Jan. 29, has spent much of his life bending, inflating, melting and enlarging the ordinary objects of 20th century American reality. Over the last four decades, Oldenburg has made it his business to soften the hard, harden the soft and transmute the modest into the monumental. He has created shirts and ties and dresses and ice cream cones and pies, and even the contents of an entire store, out of plaster-soaked cloth and wire. Using vinyl stuffed with kapok, he built pay telephones, typewriters, light switches and a complete bathroom -- sink, tub, scale and toilet. He constructed a catcher's mitt, 12 feet tall, out of metal and wood, and built a four-and-a-half-story clothespin out of Cor-Ten steel. In the last two decades, focusing almost exclusively on giant monuments, he has created a 38-foot-tall flashlight, 10-story baseball bat, a 60-foot-long umbrella, a three-story-high faucet with a 440-foot water-spewing red hose, a 40-foot-tall book of  matches and a partially buried bicycle that would fill  most of a football field, among numerous other projects located from Tokyo to Texas." 
Clearly, for Claus Oldenburg, size does matter.


Marcel Duchamp
Form: Found object, i.e. a urinal. The name R.Mutt has been painted on it and it is to be displayed as shown, the part that would be mounted to the wall being used as the side it rests upon.Iconography: Duchamp was, by the time he 'made' this piece of art, very contemptuous of the art world. Her had already learned how to paint, and was quite good at it, but found it to be too filled with trickery and illusions for his taste. He was more interested in the 'ready-made' objects of the world around him, chairs, tables, bicycles, urinals. He saw an intrinsic craft in each of these everyday objects and wanted to bring notice to the fact that these objects had been created, first in someone's imagination and then in reality, the same way a painter created a masterpiece. By taking the urinal and placing it on its' back, signing it, and putting it in a different environment, he was forcing people to view it differently. This act outraged some and intrigued others. Is it art? Or, is it just a urinal? Is there a difference? Even today, this piece is still being displayed and still having as strong as an impact as it did in years past. Ultimately, this turned out to be one of Duchamps' most well-known and successful pieces.
Context: By looking at his biography, one can get a better understanding of what inspired him to begin working with found objects as a way of creative growth during the times in which he was practicing art. According to, "Marcel Duchamp, French Dada artist, whose small but controversial output exerted a strong influence on the development of 20th-century avant-garde art. Born on July 28, 1887, in Blainville, brother of the artist Raymond Duchamp-Villon and half brother of the painter Jacques Villon, Duchamp began to paint in 1908. After producing several canvases in the current mode of Fauvism, he turned toward experimentation and the avant-garde, producing his most famous work, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) in 1912; portraying continuous movement through a chain of overlapping cubistic figures, the painting caused a furor at New York City's famous Armory Show in 1913. He painted very little after 1915, although he continued until 1923 to work on his masterpiece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1923,Philadelphia Museum of Art), an abstract work, also known as The Large Glass, composed in oil and wire on glass, that was enthusiastically received by the surrealists. In sculpture, Duchamp pioneered two of the main innovations of the 20th century kinetic art and ready-made art. His "ready-mades" consisted simply of everyday objects, such as a urinal and a bottle rack. His Bicycle Wheel (1913, original lost; 3rd version, 1951, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), an early example of kinetic art, was mounted on a kitchen stool.  After his short creative period, Duchamp was content to let others develop the themes he had originated; his pervasive influence was crucial to the development of surrealism, Dada, and pop art. Duchamp became an American citizen in 1955. He died in Paris on October 1, 1968. 


Johns. Painted Bronze. 1960
Form: Bronze cast sculpture, painted realistically to give the appearance of actual Ale cans.Iconography: As a Pop artist, Johns was interested mainly in taking items from his everyday life that held an importance for him and reappropriating them into fine art. He was not bitter or trying to make a political statement as Kienholz did, nor was he as flippant and free-spirited as Oldenburg. Simply, he wate to make a statement about himself, what he could create and what held as important. What makes his Painted Bronze a work of art s the craft that went into making it. He had to sculpt and cast the pieces from plaster into bronze, refine it, then painstakingly paint every small detail onto it. The skill needed to create this piece was the same skill that Degas used to create his 'Small Ballerina' bronze. The difference is what the meaning is to the different artists, and the reflection of the time they were living in. ballerinas and the ballet were important to Degas, and Ballentine ale was important to Johns. The end result for either artist was a beautiful piece of sculpture.
Context: (Originally published in Modern Painters (Summer 1996) "Johns's sculptures mostly date from a four-year period early in his career, 1958-61, suggesting a short-lived interest.  But although Johns's enormous reputation rests on his painting and printmaking, the object is a crucial aspect of his work.  His paintings often include a collage element, with plaster casts or found objects protruding from the surface, or the support itself being an actual, identifiable object, such as a crate or an inverted, stretched canvas. Furthermore, his sculptures, which are mostly in his own collection, often feature as subjects in his paintings or prints: Painted Bronze (Savarin) 1960, for instance, (brushes in a coffee tin which he had cast in bronze and then proceeded to paint, quite convincingly but in such a way that they look more like a three dimensional painting than the original) is a frequently recurring motif in paintings and prints.  Of course, this begs the question (the sort of question champions of Johns find so pregnant and exacting): is he painting his own sculpture, Painted Bronze (Savarin), or is he painting an object in his studio, some brushes in a coffee tin, which hitherto just happened also to be the subject of a sculpture, Painted Bronze (Savarin)? Because Johns can offer seemingly little else by way of aesthetic consolation, this sort of epistemological tease can sometimes constitute the main interest in his work.  And however spiritually removed he is from the aesthetic that followed in his trail, Johns was undoubtedly a prototype for the minimalists and conceptualists.  Donald Judd's dictum that art has only to be interesting is
implicit in much appreciation of Johns." A short biography of Johns shows his life as an artist was connected to others on the PopArt scene of the 1960's and 70's, and helps to gives us an understanding of how popart as a whole developed along the lines that it did, with the shared ideas and idealism of the times." Born in 1930 at Augusta, Georgia. He grew up in South Carolina. He was drafted into the army and stationed in Japan. Between 1949 and 1951 he studied at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. From 1952 to 1958 he worked in a bookshop in New York. He also did display work with Robert Rauschenberg for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany. In 1954 he painted his first flag picture. He had his first one-man exhibition in 1958 at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York. He was represented at the Venice Biennale during the same year. His picture Grey Numbers also won the International Prize at the Pittsburgh Biennale. In 1959 he took part with Rauschenberg in Allan Kaprow's Happening Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts. He was included in the collective exhibition Sixteen Americans in the same year at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1960 he began working with lithographs. In 1961 he did his first large map picture and travelled to Paris for an exhibition at the Galerie Rive Droite. In 1964 he was given a comprehensive retrospective at the Jewish Museum, New York. The catalog included texts by John
Cage and Alan Solomon. He was represented at the Venice Biennale in the same year. In 1965 he had a retrospective at the Passadena Art Museum, organized by Walter Hopps. During the same year he saw a Duchamp exhibition and won a prize at the 6th International Exhibition of Graphic Art, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia. In 1966 he had a one-man exhibition of drawings at the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington. In 1967 he rented a loft in Canal Street and painted Harlem Light using a tile motif. He also illustrated Frank O'Hara's book of poems "In Memory of My Feelings". He was Artistic Adviser for the composer John Cage and Merce
Cunningham's Dance Company until 1972, collaborating with Robert Morris, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Bruce Naumann. In that year he was represented at the documenta "4", Kassel, designed costumes for Merce Cunningham's "Walkaround Time" and spent seven weeks at the printers Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. In
1973 he met Samuel Beckett in Paris. He moved to Stony Point, N.Y. He was given a comprehensive retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1977, shown in 1978 at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, Hayward Gallery, London, and Seibu Museum of Art,Tokyo. He was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1978. In 1979 the Kunstmuseum Basle put on an exhibition of his graphic work which toured Europe. In 1988 he was awarded the Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale." (

Jeff Koons. Puppy. c1985
Form: Huge sculpture of a puppy, created out of stainless steel and thousands of different plants and flowers.Iconography: (Taken from "Jeff koons' puppy is a staggering achievement of sculptural imagination, horticultural dexterity and engineering skill. first created in 1992 for a temporary exhibition in the german city of arolson, puppy was an immediate sensation drawing huge crowds and critical acclaim. a symbol, according to koons, of "love, warmth and happiness" this contemporary masterpiece is a triumph of scale, colour and materials. rising 43 feet tall from the puppy's paws to its alert ears, the sculpture is formed from a series of stainless steel sections constructed to hold over 25 tons of soil watered by an internal irrigation system. this floral giant is composed of over seventy thousand plants, including begonias, impatiens, petunias, marigolds and lobelias.  once described as 'the seventh wonder of the world', puppy was installed at the museum of contemporary art in sydney australia in 1996. once year later puppy traveled to bilbao in spain where it became a permanent part of the guggenheim  museum's collection and an icon for basque city. organised by rockerfeller centre in association with the public art fund, this new york exhibition of puppy was made possible by the efforts of many dedicated riggers, horticulturists and volunteers working over a period of three weeks to install this monumental work. puppy at rockerfeller centre is the first exhibition of this public sculpture in the united states. born in 1955, jeff koons is one of the world's most widely recognised artists. in the 1980's his sculptures and photography explored contemporary american iconography turning popular kitsch into high art. koons signature work most often uses strikingly simple imagery transformed into sculptures using the finest of materials."
Context: Koons is notorious for taking innocent seeming objects and creating a new meaning for them by increasing their size, creating them out of different or unexpected materials, and sometimes filling them with double-meaning or messages. However, in the case of Puppy, it would seem that his only quest was to create something beautiful and decorative for the benefit of it being able to beautify a space. This could be just art for the sake of being art, nothing more or less, and like an Oldenburg statue is just a beautiful piece done on an enormous scale, but lacking the irony and humor found in Oldenburgs work.


Jeff Koons. Travel Bar. 1986
cast stainless steel
Form: Stainless steel replica of a 1950's-60's travel bar set.Iconography: " upper-class travel bar decanter for liquor cast in stainless steel (the proletariat silver according to Jeff Koons); part of the Luxury and Degradaton show. Liquor is sealed inside, but it is withheld, since to break the seal would be to break apart the work. Playing on status objects empty of soul that suggest an artificial luxury, and artificial value, vanitas imagery. Koons uses the strategy of withholding, sealing the liquor inside where one can't get to it without ruining the work; desire always out of reach as a metaphor for the false promises of advertising and the way even status objects of surplus can't fill the void or lack of missing moral values..... imagery for an age of consumption to excess; the use of status objects as support mechanisms for the individual and signs of class power. The slick, shiny surfaces of the hyperreal, hollow at the core. " (Taken from
Context: As a consummate Pop Artist, Koons has taken a simple, everyday object and created a metaphor out of it. By making it all appear to be created out of silver he is emphasizing the upper-class status of those wealthy enough to carry their liquor around with them, putting a sheen on the fact that alcohol is often referred to as 'poor mans' cocaine.'  It's possible that one of the underlying messages is the human reality of addiction and substance abuse, no matter how wealthy one may be.


Jeff Koons, Jackson and Bubbles
Form: Life-size porcelain scupture, gold leaf.Iconography: (Taken from "For Michael Jackson and Bubbles, from the artist's Banality series, Koons directed Italian ceramicists to create a greatly oversized figurine from a publicity photograph of the celebrity and his chimpanzee. The performer and his pet are posed as companions, wearing matching gold band uniforms and an excess of makeup that stands in for genuine facial expression. Bubbles is nestled in Jackson's lap, their limbs confused to the point where one of the legs of the chimp could easily be mistaken for a third arm of the singer. They are instantly recognizable and undeniably beautiful.Yet right at the cold, shiny surface of their snow-white faces are rather disturbing issues of race, gender, and sexuality that are often  part and parcel of our fascination with public personae. Over the course of rising from child stardom in the early 1970s, as the youngest member of The Jackson Five, to an unsurpassable level of international fame in the eighties and nineties, this cultural icon whom we know to be a black man has come to more closely resemble a white woman. The three-dimensional sculpture inhabits our space, the space of the general (albeit museum-going) public, but Michael Jackson himself is a man that we can never know. No matter how much media attention he receives, to the millions of people in whose consciousness he resides he will never be more than the flat character of tabloid reproductions and television. Koons' use of ceramic points directly to the hollowness and fragility of celebrity status."
Context: "... in a series of works he called "Banality", Koons creates sculptures of dimensions and details monstrous and absurd.These works, like Michael Jackson and Bubbles, demand attention by virtue of their size and seductive porcelain surfaces, yet they disturb as well. The dead white of Jackson's skin, his glamorous  pose with Bubbles in matching clothing invites a chilling range of questions about celebrity and image making." (


Jeff Koons, Illona
Form: PhotoIconography:  Taking his orientation along the lines of mainstream culture to even further extremes, Koons, in the late eighties, focused increasingly on the topic of pornography. In 1991,at the height of his success, he married the Italian porno star Cicciolina and made the relationship the subject of his art. The series of works Made in Heaven (1991), which shows Koons with his wife as larger-than-Iife figures having sex, gained him widespread international attention.( If Koons is trying to make a point about sex and desire being a motivating for in society, then he has gone beyond symbolism and suggestion with these works and began to give his message out blatantly.
Context:  (From"....These product-based works are evidence of Koons' belief in the artist as a socially accountable, sanctimonious arbiter of taste: a kind of Holy Trinity of cultural reproduction. Koons is at once the Father (the giver of form), the Son (the messenger of everlasting life) and the Holy Spirit (the creator of faith). Through such debased metaphors as these we might come to appreciate Koons' union with Ilona Staller: aka LaCicciolina, an Italian porn star and politician whose lack of inhibition Koons interpreted as a symbol of moral freedom and purity. As such, her appearance in Koons' sculptures and photo-works marked the ultimate consummation of  his practice: the transformation of the ultimate consumer product (a human being) into a glowing object of worship. Koons leads by example; showing that if he can achieve his desire then, Hey, you can too! Koons and Staller were married a year after she had begun appearing in his work, emphasizing the genuine, 'innocent' nature of his desire.......There is a profound faith in  human desire and agency at the core of Koons' work: a utilitarian belief that everything we want and do is based on a drive for sensual pleasure that transcends the pursuit of mere sex, work, or money. Koons' earliest works from the late 70s - when he  was trading cotton on the New
 York Stock Exchange to fund  his art practice - were mass-produced inflatable flowers and toys placed  carefully on mirrors, marrying a child-like naivety to sexual metaphors and consumerism. From that point onwards, the relationship  between the selection, production and display of commercial products became ever more elaborate within Koons' work, and the transformative role of the artist-as-savior grew ever more pronounced. In the early 80s, Koons began selecting and entombing various models of Hoover and New Shelton vacuum cleaners in fluorescent-lit Plexiglas vitrines, the products on display seeming at once brand new (full of potential) and stillborn (already dead)."

Fred Wilson. Mining the Museums, Slave Shackles. c1990
Form: A sterling silvr tea set surrounded by slave shackles.Iconography:  Fred Wilson is an African American artist whose Pop Art Influence is mainly political and concerned with exposing the racism found not only in the art world at large, but also in the musuems and institutions America holds as paragons of artistic virtue and knowledge. This section of his work is 'found objects', that is to say objects 'found' in the storerooms and catalogue shelves of museums and for some reason never displayed. He felt that people needed to be aware of the oppression forced on minorities and slaves in decades past, and how their labor helped to shape what American society, and art, has become. Written in the UCSF newspaper was this excerpt about his show ".....The exhibit was rich with the unexpected, from cigar store Indians turning their backs on viewers and reward posters  for runaway slaves to a whipping post surrounded by period chairs of different styles and slave shackles set amid ornate silver serving vessels. Many of the objects had been stored for decades and never displayed, let alone allowed to shine or shatter any illusions. Others were moved around and mixed in a sly or provocative fashion. All were used to restore context and create a new chemistry between the objects, their display and the viewer." ( was written as well in Maryland where the exhibit was first shown,(Taken from the Contemporary Arts Museum,)"....Wilson shook the art world with his landmark Mining the Museum exhibition at the MarylandHistorical Society (MHS) in Baltimore. The MHS gave Wilson carte blanche, allowing him to research the Society's collection, its history and its place within the community. Wilson proceeded to reinstall the third floor galleries in a way that revealed the latent racism that existed there.3 Thousands of museum professionals saw the exhibition, and its run was extended by popular demand.4 With this installation, Wilson brought a fresh eye to the MHS, reconstructed its presentation of Maryland's past in a new, more encompassing manner, and exposed how a seemingly neutral institution might unwittingly reinforce racist attitudes. Since then, Wilson has been invited into museums all around the world to explore their collections and practices and to offer a startling reappraisal through his own reinstallations of their holdings."

Context: "On December 8, 1991, Fred Wilson gave a gallery talk at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.1 He greeted his audience in the lobby and had lunch with them in the museum's restaurant. He then excused himself, saying that he needed to change into a costume and that they should meet him upstairs at the entrance to the exhibition for his gallery talk. Wilson changed into a Whitney guard's uniform and stood in the gallery where he was to meet his group, waiting next to a sign with his name on it that marked the point where the tour was to begin. Though they looked for him, no one "saw" Wilson. The artist's worst suspicions were confirmed-as museum guard, he had become invisible. Wilson eventually revealed himself to his audience and proceeded to give his gallery talk  Earlier that same year, in the spring of 1991, Wilson had presented a two-part exhibition at Metro Pictures and Gracie Mansion galleries in New York. For these exhibitions, Wilson created a series of faux museum installations that addressed cultural exploitation and the  underlying racism in museums. Utilizing such tools of the trade as pedestals, vitrines, and wall labels, Wilson demonstrated how ethnographic art, when removed from its proper context, wrenched away from everything that shaped its origins, is essentially  neutralized. For example, in Friendly Natives, skeletons are laid out for view in Victorian-style mahogany vitrines with such labels as "Someone's Mother," and "Someone's Sister."With Guarded View, Wilson came at museum racism from a different angle. Four mannequins are lined up in a row, displayed together on a pedestal, each wearing, as the labels indicate, the uniform of a different New York museum. From left to right they are: The Jewish Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art .2 Wilson, who grew up in and around New York, is an avid museum-goer, and is himself of African-American and Caribbean-Indian descent, also
worked briefly as a museum guard at the Neuberger Museum of Art while he attended the State University of New York. He carried away from the experience a dichotomous sense of both being on display and yet being invisible. Years later, speaking to other artists who had held similar jobs, he heard stories of guards and other museum staff working together for decades without exchanging so much as a hello. Wilson therefore set out to create a work that would make viewers aware of this institutional racism."


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