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In the 1960’s, the museum setting was starting to be looked down upon. There were elitist qualities about the abstract expressionism, such as the art only being able to be viewed in museums. Only people who were educated about art would understand the value of the artwork, and average citizens wouldn’t have time nor money to spend time in museums contemplating. This is similar to the courtly aesthetic found throughout art history. This was the start of a protest against abstract expressionism, which is known as pop art today. Because average citizens couldn’t go to museums to see the art, artists decided to bring the art to the average citizen. Art was found in everywhere from magazines to posters, and included recognizable figures that normal people could quickly understand and relate to.
Marilyn Monroe Diptych, created by Andy Warhol in 1962, is one of the most popular pop art works today. It was a statement about how people only liked popstars when they died. The black and white side of the diptych, compared with the colorful left side, represents Marilyn Monroe’s face as seen in newspapers after her death. Her face is repeated over and over, showing that Americans like to see the same image repeatedly.
Great American Nude Series, by Tom Wesselman, is another depiction of easy to digest art. Although he did not intend to make a critique about American criticism, there is no doubt that this art was easily picked up by American viewers. It features a reclining female nude, which is familiar in art history. However, there are things that are fundamentally different about it. There is the reduced aspect of the painting, where sexual parts of the body are focused on, such as the lips and the nipples. Although there are less features, this makes it seem almost pornographic. The silk-screening technique was fast and made money, and was a process that many artists during this time used to spread art to the common person quickly and cheaply.
Claes Oldenburg’s Dropped Cone is a sculpture that shows an inverted ice cream cone on top of the Neumarkt Square shopping mall in Cologne, Germany. It is in an environment where average people could walk by and see the art every day, without having to think about what it was and spending money to see it. It is a straight to the point sculpture that brings entertainment to people who don’t need to have knowledge about art to understand it.
Besides protesting against internal issues in the art world, art was also used to protest what was happening in everyday life. Wars throughout the 20th century showed many responses in terms of art.
Lipstick on Caterpillar Tracks was created by Oldenberg and placed on Yale Campus in 1969. This was used to protest against the Vietnam war. “Make love, not war” is one of the most common phrases during this time. This phrase can be seen in the sculpture, with a pun being made about sex. The lipstick, a feminine object, and the caterpillar tracks, a masculine object, are put together to create a statement. This was aimed at a new demographic; young college students.
American Landscape, created by Charles Sheerler in 1930, was a response to WWI. It depicted the “new” American landscape, which didn’t feature nature, but instead, showed the Ford Motor Company plant. This was meant to represent the economy of America, and reinforce nationalism and patriotism. It showed that the industry will keep America afloat.
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) shows the American side of WW1. It shows an urban scene of a café, and appears to be late at night. The emptiness is meant to show how America had been emptied of its soldiers, since thousands of men had been drafted and sent abroad to fight in Europe. It evokes a feeling of isolation and loneliness, and shows the fear Americans had of being left behind and not knowing what was going on.
The 20th century was a time of everchanging opinions and reactions. There were not only the obvious protests of issues such as wars, but the subtle protests within the art community itself. The way artists expressed their opinions on these matters were highly dependent on the viewer’s experience, whether it was placed in a museum, or seen by everyday people.
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