By Justus Scarver

 

Oh, the sixties. “Rebellion” often comes to mind, when that period of history is brought up. Quite frankly, there might not be a more fitting name to describe the happenings of the 1960s in the United States of America. As the mindsets of younger generations distanced themselves from those of their conservative parents, a creative explosion took place in the arts. What defined the “value” of art became marred and very objective, as the spirit of New York’s youth propelled pop art into the lime light. However, there’s an obviously over-critical tone to a majority of the articles written – by the New York Times, at least – that denies the reader a more open, natural introduction to the subject matter.

 

Beginnings
In its early-American beginnings, pop artists set out to bring attention to symbols, and images, that were very much commonplace in the mid-20th century. At first, critics(specifically here) interpreted it as placing a necessary spotlight on symbols who have lost their meaning; in hopes to encourage viewers to reflect on aspects of society. At face value, the art showcased pictures that the average American would immediately recognize – which led to popularity coupled with criticism. The upper echelon of art was very hesitant to respect pop art due to the simplicity of printing images. However, after seeing them in person and further inspection, many opinions were swayed. They discovered the meaning didn’t lie in the print, but in what was printed.

 

Dorothy Lichtenstein, widow of artist Roy Lichtenstein, poses beside her husband's artwork, a 1963 oil and magna on canvas, Whaam! during the preview of  his first major exhibition since his death, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Dorothy Lichtenstein, widow of artist Roy Lichtenstein, poses beside her husband’s artwork, a 1963 oil and magna on canvas, Whaam! during the preview of his first major exhibition since his death, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

 

Reflection
From my examination of a variety of New York Times articles – New York being a hub for the pop art movement – I found that few artistic styles have been more left to open interpretation of the viewer. The works of Lichtenstein and Warhol were especially interesting to research. They were, without a doubt, the most popular “pop artists” of the 1960s. In the same article I mentioned earlier, Preston brought to attention a very good point. To summarize, he questioned if art has a true definition or if it was more about the attitude being portrayed by the piece. He says, “It ‘connects.’” The use of visuals that American society would describe as commonplace, but portraying them in a purposeful, defiant manner gave the pop art movement the youthful energy that drove its early success. However, the use of popular imagery ultimately de-valued pop art amongst the higher class art critics; mostly European. They saw Warhol and Lichtenstein prints, and simply didn’t understand what made an image of Campbell’s soup iconic. Cultural background has everything to do with whether or not art is described as “meaningful”.

 
Findings
After discussing the pop art movement with my grandmother Eva Slaughter, who was a lifelong resident of New York until about six years ago, I’ve found that it wasn’t as well understood by society as research suggests. She specifically remembers being exposed to Warhol’s art many times, and overall she was “unimpressed”. Finally, she explicitly told me, “A art exhibit wasn’t no place for a young group of n—– back then, anyway.”

 

All information was gathered from the New York Times, AP images, and my grandmother.

Justus Scarver is a journalism junior. He can be reached at jds244@txstate.edu.

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