A term derived from the word ‘Popular’ and linked to an art movement whereby artists depicted commonplace or familiar, everyday images in contemporary culture. The movement emanated from a meeting held in London in the mid 1950s of artists and architects at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The purpose was to discuss topics of mass media, fashions, industrial design and science fiction relative to art and architecture. Subsequently the group held English Pop-Art exhibitions: "Parallel of Life and Art", 1953; "Man, Machine and Motion", 1955; and "This is Tomorrow", 1956. British artist, Richard Hamilton, was a leading exponent in these early years.
The English Pop Art movement influenced Englishman David Hockney, who, in turn, became active in the USA, especially in California. Meanwhile in New York in the mid 1950s, Jasper Johns, Tom Wesselmann and Robert Rauschenberg were vanguard artists depicting everyday objects in their work, often as social commentary. Objects used in Pop Art often related to mass production such as Andy Warhol's Coca Cola bottles or Campbell's Soup Cans, and also to his iconic personalities such as the silkscreen reproductions, often hand colored, of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor , Chairman Mao, Albert Einstein and Jackie Kennedy
Other Pop artists of the initial era include Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jim Rosenquist, and today Jeff Koons with his factory-made objects is famous for his Pop Art. Some Pop artists such as Wesselmann express cynicism of the contemporary world while others such as Koons seem only fascinated and amused by the ‘passing show’.
Henry Geldzahler, former curator of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum, "helped put Pop on the map in 1962" (199) during the Museum of Modern Art's symposium on Pop Art by being the only panel member to support it. He was a close friend of Andy Warhol, who later said: "Henry gave me all of my ideas." (200)
Pop Art, initially a rebellion against Abstract Expressionism, began to lose ground in the late 1960s, and was replaced by Minimalism, Contemporary Realism, and Hard-Edge painting.
Sources: Phaidon’s Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art; Nancy Hoban, Basquiat, source of quotations; Norman Geske and Karen Janovy, The American Painting Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques.