Pop Art Ruffles Ab-Ex Feathers

Pop Art Ruffles Ab-Ex Feathers

As was often the case throughout his career, Andy Warhol was more a popularizer than a pioneer. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jasper Johns and his boyfriend Robert Rauschenberg were already pushing back on the art world’s informal ban on real-world objects by painting familiar things like flags, targets, and maps. They made their work under the influence of their friend John Cage, who encouraged others to incorporate chance methods and mundane materials from mass culture into their work. During this time, Sally Banes noted, artists turned their attention to everyday life: “It had become a symbol of egalitarianism, and it was the standard stuff of avant-garde artworks and performances.” By 1962, the term Pop Art was being applied to work produced by the likes of Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, and its poster man-child, Warhol. Pop Art’s buzzy, glowing sheen fit the cultural mood of the day, when the consumer economy exploded with color and abundance. This public interest intensified after Warhol’s first solo show at the Stable Gallery in November 1962, which featured his silkscreened Marilyn Monroe portraits, Coca-Cola bottles, and other works that became iconic. Pop Art ran counter to the serious sensibilities of Ab-Ex painters, who treated commercial culture with contempt and thought Warhol’s work was vapid and commercial (he was happy to be guilty as charged). For some of the chest-beating, chin-massaging painters whose work was quickly being supplanted by Pop Art’s new guard, Warhol’s persona was too fey to be taken seriously. (This was another criticism Warhol never bothered to counter.)

From Chapter 3 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Andy Warhol's longtime residence
216-218 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021