Pop art made its colourful debut in the mid-1950s, pioneered by progressive artists such as Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton. However it wouldn’t be defined as a true movement until it reached New York in the 60s, with artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg defining what would become an international phenomenon. Inspired by mass culture, everyday objects, and the cult of celebrity, their works blurred the lines between high-art and low-culture.
The appetite for pop art isn’t going anywhere, Tate is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a major Andy Warhol exhibition and The National Portrait Gallery recently hosted a David Hockney exhibition. For contemporary artists, the genre continues to thrive as a source of inspiration. Here, we share a selection of leading names whose work captures the colourful and kitsch aesthetic of pop art, throughbold paintings, immersive installations, and larger-than-life sculptures.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, mass media-obsessed artists such as Jeff Koons became central figures in a movement dubbed, “Neo-Pop” – a genre which captured the intentional kitsch and interest in commercialism that characterised pop art in the ‘60s.
Jeff Koons took inspiration from items not typically considered fine art, appropriating icons of pop culture like Michael Jackson, as well as mass-produced objects like vacuum cleaners, to push the boundaries of high art. Koons’ most famous works are his Balloon Dogs: shiny sculptures resembling the twisted balloon animals made by children’s entertainers.
Renowned for her vibrant use of acrylic paint and block colour style, Spanish artist Coco Dávez interweaves pop art and neorealism. In her acrylic on canvas works, facial features are left blank – the resulting portraits conjuring an air of playfulness by inviting the viewer to a game of ‘Guess Who?’.
Today, celebrities are viewed as a consumer product. Like Andy Warhol, Dávez creates work that meditates on the concept of fame. In her Faceless series, she gathers together the cultural and historical icons who’ve inspired her – artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers and fashion legends – depicting each in Warhol-esque pop-art portraits.
Like many other modern-day pop artists, Julian Opie's signature style is also rooted in the Neo-Pop movement. The highly stylised treatment Opie gives his subjects—whereby features are created by thick black outlines and filled in with solid areas of flat colour—is a blend of pop art and minimalism, with a wholly contemporary sensibility. Opie’s portraits convey pop art's bold aesthetic and communicate its ability to make art accessible.
In June of 1962, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was included in a group show which featured some of the most avant-garde artists of the day, including Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, George Segal, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition at Green Gallery in New York was considered the first pop art show in the United States.
Since then, Kusama has continued to dazzle audiences with her bold style and inventive visuals. Kusama is one of today’s most recognized and celebrated artists. In addition to her widely popular Infinity Mirror Rooms, Kusama creates vibrant paintings, works on paper, and sculpture with abstract imagery.
The sibling duo Roberto and Renato Miaz, known as the Miaz Brothers, challenge the traditional genre of portraiture, they pride themselves on the surprising nature of their work, encouraging the viewer to use their perception and interpretation when viewing their large scale, out-of focus works.
Pop art draws on recognisable figures from mass media, and draws the audience in with the familiar but challenges them by having it presented in a new, novel fashion. In one of their latest series, the Miaz Brothers have repurposed Andy Warhol’s original pop symbols such as the Campbells soup cans and Coke bottles, paying homage to Warhol’s tribute to consumer culture.
Using iconographic and pop culture vernacular, Joseph Klibansky's work references the bleak and melancholic through a seemingly utopian lens. He has been working on a series of pop art inspired sculptures casted in bronze since early 2016.
Using a visual vocabulary sourced from photographs and online material, Klibansky transforms the experience of looking at images, including iconic cartoons, and creates digital compositions which satisfies the imagination.