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Pop Art: Andy Warhol

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The twentieth century is, probably, one of the most contentious periods in the history of humankind up to date. Industrialization and urbanization that were gaining momentum after the World War I and the World War II have led to the processes of commoditization of knowledge, information, and labor. At the same time, the first half of the twentieth century saw the rapid advancement of science and technology. Pop art emerged in the wake of the aforementioned events. It represents what popular culture, figurative art, and consumerism have in common. Therefore, Pop art can be considered one of the most controversial movements in postmodern fine arts. James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, and Ed Ruscha are all the renowned masters of Pop art. Even though each of the artists had his way to recognition and fame, as well as different respective conceptions of the very essence of Pop art, all three of them aimed to perfect their style and built upon what they had learned in their commercial careers.

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Andy Warhol is considered one of the founders of Pop art as a genre and an artistic movement. Before Warhol became a renowned Pop artist, he had received wide acclaim as a commercial illustrator. In fact, it is widely believed that Warhol was the most successful and highly paid commercial illustrator in New York (Andy Warhol). Critics and specialists in cultural studies and the history of art describe the style of the artists earlier works as comic, decorative, and whimsical (Andy Warhol). However, at the beginning of the 1960s, Warhol began to assert himself as a Pop artist. His ambition was to bring popular styles and subjects into the exclusive salons of high art (Andy Warhol). Warhols shift from his commercial career to Pop art was marked by the change in the tone of his works. Apart from that, his style also changed as the artist made a transition from drawings to screenprinted images the mood of which many researchers, critics, and biographers describe as cold and impersonal (Andy Warhol). Many of the artists' works are considered a response to controversial events and societal phenomena. Another ambition of Warhol as a Pop artist was to teach the audience to be sympathetic. By doing so, he wanted to make the audience feel involved in the events that are essentially unpleasant and even terrifying while these events ultimately shape the life of humanity.

Warhols impact on arts and culture was profound and unparalleled. He contributed to the world of art by making figurative art and fine arts, in general, transcend their limits. It happened around 1965 when the artist made a transition from Pop art to experimental cinematography (Andy Warhol). More importantly, however, Warhol was one of the artists who sought to bring popular culture and high art together and, in a major way, succeeded to do so. One of Warhol's maxims that also defined him as a person was as follows. The artist should keep an open mind; it is also essential for artists to be able to move freely between styles, forms, and media. Like many of his contemporaries, Warhol was unable to properly define Pop art because he saw it as a startlingly convoluted entity. The intricacy and high level of sophistication of arts and culture in the twentieth century were prompted by the complexity of the events that challenged humankind at that time. Warhol never rejected what he had learned as a commercial artist; on the contrary, he used his knowledge to artistically reconsider reality. Thus, the artist became one of the founders of a new movement in arts and culture.

Alongside Warhol, James Rosenquist was one of the founders of the Pop art movement. Born to an artistic family, he was encouraged by his relatives to pursue art. The artist is famous for his art pieces and collages of enormous size depicting certain images from advertisements and mass media (James Rosenquist). Rosenquist managed to combine unrelated images of weaponry, consumer products, and prominent figures to create holistic and cohesive artworks. The artist interested himself in social, economic, political, environmental, scientific, and, certainly, cultural issues of the day. Attempting to give a rundown of Rosenquist's career, researchers and critics refer to him as a billboard painter-turned-artist (James Rosenquist). As a billboard painter, Rosenquist concerned himself with major socio-cultural problems of his time, which significantly affected him when he made a transition to Pop art (Thomas Crow). Provocative and massive, his works possess a meaningful and deep social context. Topicality and relevance of Rosenquists art hinge on the artists' engagement in the social, economic, political, environmental, scientific, and cultural issues of his time. The statement above, if valid, presupposes that his art was a reflection of his concerns.

The features and qualities that characterized Rosenquist as an artist were as follows. First, his vision was the embodiment of Surrealist practices. In particular, the artist borrowed a collage technique from the surrealists. Another unique quality of Rosenquists art is the juxtaposition of images, certain entities from spheres of human knowledge and activities. The artist attempted to send a message of the omnipresence of advertising, its potentially detrimental and dire consequences. Moreover, Rosenquist took every chance he could to advocate the federal protection of the artists' rights (James Rosenquist). At the beginning of his career path, he developed a keen interest in exploring mass media and popular culture. More specifically, the artist interested himself in studying the connections between aesthetics, arts, and philosophy. Rosenquists art proves relevant, topical, and relatable to contemporaries because the issues that the artist himself focused on in his art pieces still challenge people today. In the attempt to define Pop art, he made the following statement: I've never cared for the term, but after half a century of being described as a pop artist I'm resigned to it (as quoted in Da Silva). Therefore, Rosenquist recognized the complexity of Pop art as a social, cultural, aesthetic, and philosophical notion. He never rejected the knowledge and experience he obtained as a billboard painter. In fact, this knowledge and experience prepared him for a career of a figurative artist and had a profound impact on his style and creative manner. Unlike Warhol, Rosenquist dedicated his life to fine arts. What both artists had in common is that they both were involved in commercial painting at the beginning of their respective careers.

Ed Ruscha is another artist associated with Pop art. David Lynch, when talking about his art, made the following assertion, I like to think the California sun has burnt out all unnecessary elements in his work (as quoted in Cooke). This statement happens to be a rather succinct yet precise characteristic of Ruscha's creative manner and style. The artist is known to draw inspiration from the environments in which he lives and works (Ed Ruscha). Researchers, biographers, and critics call Ruscha a quintessential Los Angeles artist who brought together cultural specificities of a certain geographic locality and objects from daily life (Ed Ruscha). Thus, the artist managed to take the relevance of Pop art as a genre and a form to a completely new level. Ruscha uses a font as expressive means to signify the importance of objects that play the role of a focal point in his works. The artist urged recipients to look at ordinary objects from a different perspective. Apart from that, Ruscha experimented with textures in that he used various paints such as oil paints resembling fluids and flames to depict textures in unexpected contexts.

Media machines, the entertainment industry, and Hollywood, in particular, had affected Ruscha's style and creative manner. In his works, the author portrayed the vastness of space and different objects amongst it, such as roadside billboards or opening movie screens (Ed Ruscha). The artists' ambition was to pull out the routine from the collective consciousness of the audience. Warhol and Ruscha both interested themselves in portraying the objects within the framework of the social context (Andrew Perchuk). However, unlike Warhol, Ruscha continued to consider the process of creating an art piece a communicative act between the artist and the audience. Overall, Ruscha has revisited the function and purpose of Pop art as a genre relatable to contemporaries. He accumulated his knowledge and experience to become a prolific and outstanding Pop artist.

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Pop art is the quintessence of what living in the second half of the twentieth century means socially, culturally, and aesthetically. Since one of its most distinctive features is the presence of a deep and meaningful context, the aesthetic and philosophical implications of Pop art require additional investigation. Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Ed Ruscha are nowadays recognized as prominent figures of the Pop art movement. A commercial career was a starting point for each artist on their respective way to fame, praise, and recognition. None of the three artists has rejected their knowledge and experience obtained at the beginning of their career paths; on the contrary, each of the three tried to build upon them. Overall, the commoditization of knowledge, information, labor, and arts had influenced each artist's style and creative manner in its way.

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