Ab Ex and Pop

Abstract Expressionism
and Pop Art
Cynthia Noble
Key Concepts: Abstract Expressionism, page 1
Historical Correspondences: Psychology, World War II, Decentralization of cultural centers,
Captalism and Capitalist Critiques, Transition from Modernity to Post-Modernity
• The center of cultural and artistic production shifted from European capitals, especially Paris,
to New York due to the rise of fascism in Europe and the outbreak of World War II.
• Abstract Expressionism, also known as the New York School, was produced in New York
between 1940 and roughly 1960, and was inspired by the Surrealists’ interest in psychology.
Abstract Expressionism is an even more radical subjectivity and extends the elements of
chance and accident that were present in Surrealism.
• There are two principal threads of Abstract Expressionism: Action Painting and Color-Field
Painting. Action painting came from the idea that the space of the canvas began to be an
arena in which to act—rather than a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or
“express” an object. Color-field painters relied on large rectangles of color to evoke
transcendent emotional states.
Key Concepts: Pop Art, page 2
• Pop art, created primarily in the 1960’s, was a major reaction against Abstract Expressionism.
Whereas Abstract Expressionism was about the spontaneous assertion of the individual, Pop
art can be defined as “making impersonality a style.” Also, Pop art marked the return of the
figure and representation after Abstract Expressionism’s foray into total abstraction.
• Pop art appropriated images from popular culture, commercial art and mass media (comic
books, advertisements, newspapers, movies, television) for its style and subject matter. It is
unclear whether the Pop artists were embracing or parodying popular culture, and it
dissolved the boundaries between “high art” and “low art.”
• Pop art actually originated in London but was made famous and infamous by New York
artists, who explored repetition and and machine processes to echo the those of the mass
Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art
Review of Dada/Surrealism
Marcel Duchamp. Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912 (Cubism/Futurism)
Marcel Duchamp. Fountain, 1917 (Dada)
Hugo Ball reciting the poem “Karawane,” 1916 (Dada)
Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory, 1931 (Surrealism)
John Heartfield. Have No Fear—He’s A Vegetarian, 1936 (Dada/Surrealism)
Prelude to the Post-WWII styles
Marc Chagall. White Crucifixion, 1938
Jacques Lipschitz. Rape of Europa, 1938
Francis Bacon. Head Surrounded by Sides of Beef, 1954
Abstract Expressionism
Mark Rothko. Untitled (Purple, White and Red), 1953 (Abstract Expressionism)
Jackson Pollock. Greyed Rainbow, 1953 (Abstract Expressionism)
Hans Namuth. Photograph of Jackson Pollock painting, 1950
Pop Art
Roy Licthtenstein. Brushstroke with Spatter, 1966 (Pop)
Roy Lichtenstein. Oh, Jeff. . .I Love You, Too. . .But. . ., 1964 (Pop)
Andy Warhol. Marilyn, c. 1962 (Pop)
Andy Warhol. Marilyn, c. 1962 (Pop)
Andy Warhol. Marilyn Diptych, 1962 (Pop)
Reading and Assignment
Reading: Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
Assignment: Address the following question in an essay of 3-5 pages. (Tip: Read Benjamin’s
essay with attention to his concept of “aura.”)
Pop artist Andy Warhol famously declared, “I like everything.” What did he mean by this and do
you believe him? What are the implications of this statement on his art? How was he critical of
and/or complicit with the political economy? Discuss 1-3 work of art by Warhol as supporting

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