Pop Art and Smutpunk
by Moctezuma Johnson
Okay, it has come to my attention that people would like to see a little more pop art. I am far from an expert on the subject, but I will try to impart a little bit of what draws me to it time and again when writing, and pinning on Pinterest. Surely you’ve seen Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans, Charles Demuth’s Figure No. 5 [pictured right (down on a mobile device)] and very similar to the ‘one two three four five’ Sesame Street Song, or Roy Lichenstein’s desperate women with dots. Although you’ve seen these images, or marketing’s copies of these images, you may not know how the Pop Art movement started or why. The reasons are very similar to what I’m doing with smutpunk now and I’d like you to know a little more so you can enjoy both Pop Art and Smutpunk to the fullest. I want to share some of the artwork with you. However, if I’m going to share some bits of what I find to be the essentials of Pop Art, I think we need to discuss a bit about what it is, how it started, and who made it famous.
If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you will see links to each week’s post of ‘Snap, Crackle, Art by MJ’ posted weekly on the Nu Romantic’s Facebook page. You can also see the posts mirrored (a copy of the post) hosted here or at smutpunk.me. Let me know in the comments if there’s something missing or if you find a broken link, etc.
What is Pop Art?
“Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and the late 1950s in the United States. The movement presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular and mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. One of its aims is to use images of popular (as opposed to elitist) culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any culture, most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists’ use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, and/or combined with unrelated material. (from Wikipedia).
What does Smutpunk have to do with Pop Art?
Smutpunk isn’t so different but it’s a modernized indie form of the same elements. Pop artists often used mechanical means to render their work. Now, in 2017 you can use digital forms. There are millions of apps and programs to ‘photoshop’ any image, there’s a catalog of images with no copyrights attached, there the collage technique to mix forms, and then there’s the rise of indie publishing which lets artists and writers morph many elements from magic realism to cthulhu into one pop art, pulpy mesh of awesome sauce slathered smoothie. I like to think of my writing as a steroid-laced smoothie, as you know.
How did Pop Art Begin?
Pop art seems like an American phenomenon thanks to the use of cultural items from the US (like Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup cans) but actually pop art started in Great Britain as a means of digesting the mass cultural imperialism of the USA from afar. Eduardo Paolozzi was the first artist who used the expression ‘pop art’ to explain his work and is most likely the grandfather of the genre. After the movement started in the UK, pop art took on another wave from American artists like Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. The artwork that came out of New York in this era may be the most well-known. Pop art was less academic in the US. The artists in Britain focused on the paradoxical imagery of American pop culture as manipulative symbolic devices that were causing the deterioration of whole patterns of life while seemingly improving the prosperity of a society. Looking at this from 2017, it seems fair to say that pop culture has accelerated the decline of the civilization.
Pop art owes thanks to Dada, but lacks the destructive, satirical, and anarchic impulses of the Dada movement.
Personally, I’m not sure if smutpunk owes its allegiance more to Dada or Pop Art. Perhaps both and neither. I mean, it’s 2017, what’s allegiance anyway?
Who made Pop Art Famous?
Eduardo Paolozzi, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichentein, Keith Haring, and many many more (see a great list of famous pop artists) contributed to the success and popularity of pop art. And don’t think it was all happening in the English-speaking world. Spain, Japan, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Russia all had major movements associated with pop art. You can see Japan’s subway with eyes on it or the infinity rooms by Yayoi Kusama.
Snap, Crackle, Art by MJ
Here was a little taste of pop art. I will continue to post pulp and pop art on Pinterest and Facebook for you to enjoy. In fact, I now have a weekly spot on Nu Romantics called Snap, Crackle, Art by MJ to share this with you and get your feedback on how it contributes to smutpunk and other writing/art. I will post three images every Tuesday and ask a question or guide a little discussion about what you see. Well, that’s the idea. We will see what actually transpires.
Archives of ‘Snap, Crackle, Art’ by MJ on Nu Romantics
Week 5 at Nu Romantics (featuring photos from the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain) – Mirror Post Hosted Online at moctezumajohnson.com
Week 6 at Nu Romantics – Mirror Post Hosted Online at moctezumajohnson.com