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    Representational art Essay

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    Pop art advocates the transformation of everyday consumer objects and urban debris into art. It rejected Abstract Expressionists’ heroic personal stance and the spiritual, psychological content of their art. Instead, Pop artists adopted a more playful and ironic approach to art and life, seeing it as a return to representational art, relieved from the esoteric speculation of the abstract. Pop art is essentially about 1. Syntactic complexity: under this heading belong the interplay of written and pictorial forms, such as Jasper John’s letters, or words, and Indiana’s numbers and sentences.

    2. Range of Media: creative uses of new media such as in Rauschenberg’s combine-paintings; or the extension of medium, seen with Rosenquist introducing billboard techniques into experimental easel painting. 3. Familiarity of objects: Lichtenstein’s comics or Warhol’s newsprint sources; in some cases, the object is literally and physically present-Wesselmann’s bathrooms and Dine’s objects attached to canvases illustrate this well. 4. Connections with technology: Rauschenberg in particular, machines are also an essential term.13

    To see how, artistically, these two movements transformed from one to the other, we will focus on a representative artist from each category and contrast their work. For our study, we would look at Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.

    The undisputed leader of American Abstract Expressionism movement, Pollock’s works showed a strong sense of dynamic rhythm, articulate touch and contrast of light and dark. His impulses were linear, draftsmanly and sensuous with a painterly feeling. On the contrary, the forerunner of the Pop Art movement, Warhol worked in a strikingly different manner. Warhol preferred the notion of ‘Mass Production’; he wanted art that appealed to everybody, emphasizing the idea of life as art.

    His works addressed the issue of consumerism and questioned the concept of originality. Unlike Pollock, who once said about his inward search for original expression, “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about,”14 Warhol worked to make his art less exclusive, desiring art that would be absolutely ‘blank’, without style or emotion.

    Pollock’s 1943 Guardians of the Secret (fig. 1) is an example of his early style of work. The highly figural yet highly abstract work shows vertical figures flanking a central panel filled with hieroglyphs distributed ‘all-over’. Pollock was inspired by abstract styles and Picasso’s Male and Female in Search of a Symbol in the late 1920s. His efforts during that period resulted in works with strikingly theatrical space, an opening in the middle flanked by figures, like stage-flats, on either side.

    This was Pollock’s favourite format from 1942 to 1946, evident in pictures such as Guardians of the Secret (1943), and Pasiphae (1943).15 On the other hand, Andy Warhol’s early works such as Saturday’s Popeye (1960) (fig. 2) showed a faithful transposition of a single frame but painted with a gestural looseness indebted to the technique of Abstract Expressionism. The brushy passages of white along the lower edge and the black background in the work which exhibits a few drips, evidently mocked the painterly quality of Abstract Expressionism.16 In addition, this work is basic to the development of American Pop Art as its subject is readymade, with familiarly stark treatment.

    Pollock’s and Warhol’s works in later years further emphasised the dichotomy between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Pollock’s first ‘drip’ painting Cathedral (1947) (fig. 3) showed a sense of shallow space created with interlocking laces of colours, employing the ‘All-over’ style to create a dense network of fluid and a sense of visual rhythm. In this work, traditional perspective is denied, emphasising instead the flatness of the picture plane yet creating a mysterious depth in its interstices. In contrast, Warhol’s works do not emphasize Pollock’s personal interaction with his work; he believes that “…somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me.”

    Warhol’s The Marilyn Monroe Diptych (1962) (fig. 4) is the result of Warhol’s awareness that over-exposure to images gradually divest them of any emotion and gives them iconic power. The image in this work was subjected to countless variations, over or under inked-a good example of the variety that comes from the apparent mechanization of picture production.18 Warhol’s love for mass production and constant reference to popular images greatly differed from Pollock’s soul-searching, natural, personal and active working style.

    In Pop Art, we see a revolution against Abstract Expressionism, both in terms of goals and technical rendering. Pop artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns began with the idea of impersonal art, to form a painting that used the bold brushstrokes of the Abstract Expressionism but without their emotional content. The everyday objects used by Jasper Johns and other Pop artists were given banal or impersonal treatment completely unlike the heroic stance of Abstract Expressionism. These were gestures of contempt and defiance directed at the rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism by avoiding any emotions and any physical dynamism; push-pull effect of Abstract Expressionist paintings.

    In a nutshell, in many ways, the inherent artistic difference between Pop Art and Abstract Expression was brought by the cultural shift during the period of post 1945 to late 1960s. The immediate aftershock effect of the war caused the Americans to prefer purity and a new form of art-creation from within, showing passion and action. This environment enhanced the Abstract Expressionist artists’ exclusive art forms what focused on expressing from within, as said by Pollock, ” My painting is direct…method of painting is the natural growth out of a need…to express feelings rather than to illustrate them.”19 In contrast, the late 1950s environment of popular culture inspired the Pop artists to use mass-produced commodities of modern urban and suburban life. Pop Art’s approach was to bring art firmly back into contact with the world and life, and to look for subject matter that would ensure a degree of unacceptability.

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