a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

pop art


people, terms, and concepts: assemblage, popular culture, techniques of mass reproduction, benday dots, silkscreen


Know that many artists of the later 50s and especially the 1960s reacted against the emotional intensity and self-expressive aims of the previous generation of Abstract Expressionists. How is this 'anti-expressive' stance visible in the work of Johns, Rauschenberg, and the Pop artists?

What is assemblage?  Be able to discuss Rauschenberg's assemblages of found objects such as Canyon in relation to social constructivist ideas of the personality and the individual.  (Contrast the Ab-Ex generation’s belief in an essentialist theory of personality and the individual.)   Be able to describe how Johns' Target is a parody of Colorfield painting and its ideas of personal expression through color.

Pop Art, which grew out of Johns and Rauschenberg’s work, is generally characterized by the use of subject-matter from popular culture (advertisements, comics, brand-name products, etc), and the use or imitation of techniques of mass production (such as silkscreening and benday dots). Be able to discuss how Lichtenstein's meticulous hand-production of banal comic-book melodramas and Warhol's 'factory' for mechanically reproducing silkscreened images of pop icons are both rejections of the idea of personal expression through brushwork and color, and also commentaries on the mass-market consumerist society in which no individuality, authenticity, or personal expression is possible.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, Pop Art, c. 1960

Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so exciting?, Pop Art, c. 1955

Johns, Target with Four Faces, c. 1955

Rauschenberg, Canyon, c. 1960 (assemblage)

Lichtenstein, Oh, Jeff, Pop Art, c. 1965