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Post War Improvements of Pop Artwork and Consumerism

What were the most significant changes in consumer behaviour in the us after 1945? In what ways did these changes impact on the development of art work?


The purpose of this article is to summarize the ways in which consumer behaviour modified in the United States after 1945, and the ways that the production, and the content, of art shown these times. They were the years following Second World Warfare, and innovations in technology made through the battle were now used to change the ordinary life-style of Americans during the new time of tranquility. National wealth acquired increased, and the population was very much looking to the near future, which appeared more affluent, easier and more convenient than previously.

Buying and spending quickly became the primary social preoccupation as companies made use of war-time technology to bring consumers the merchandise into the future today: television, prepared food, vacuum cleaners, synthetic fabrics, and Tupperware. (www. ucalgary. ca)

In this article I will show how Pop Art work developed in America, and how these newly elegant musicians and artists drew on the consumerist culture of the time to create a kind of art work that had not been seen before.


In postwar America, the public became more brand-conscious - advertising became a lot more advanced and was seen as crucial to business, and branding and company logos were area of the everyday landscape. There have been technological devlopments in photography, broadcasting and the inventionof television. Sociology in the US was now more worried about the masses, and pop fine art recognized with this. (Alloway:1974:5)

In 1960 the overall Motors Corporation put in $66. 3 million on advertising, the the majority of any corporation for the reason that year, but in 1968 Proctor & Gamble took the business lead at $196. 3 million - a 200% increase in the most notable advertising budget in only eight years. Similarly, the advertising earnings for magazines between 1958 and 1968 increased 150%, while the advertising revenues for tv set in the same period rose nearly 250%. (www. ucalgary. ca)

Lifestyle advertising was conceived - instead of pre-war adverts which could have simply described the product and what it actually did, now promoters wished to make people think that if indeed they bought a certain product it might be central in changing their life, making them better, more comfortable, more lucrative.

Advertisements guarantee such abstract wants as beauty, success at the job, success in human relationships, or the capability to be a better person physically, emotionally, and socially.

Social historian Christin Mamiya has argued that the changes brought about in the us by the increased industrialisation and urbanisation were those that made the general public more vunerable to the media's influence:

In the alienation and non-communal world of metropolitan culture it became increasingly important to count on outward appearances to define self-worth and success, the various tools which advertising provided. (www. ucalgary. ca)

John F. Kennedy, elected as President in 1960, totally endorsed the new consumerist ethic through his policy. Kennedy's government used the work of British isles economist John Maynard Keynes, who in earlier decades had written that the main element to a nation's collective wealth lay in the average person spending of people.

The additional money citizens spent, the greater the national prosperity would be. The Kennedy government was the first to implement this theory into both home and foreign economical policies, in doing so officially endorsing and promoting mass creation, mass distribution, advertising, and inadvertently, the idea of "keeping up with the Joneses". (www. ucalgary. ca)

As a result of the war, America felt a new patriotism which was reflected in the all-Americanness of branding products and stars. As the riches of the country increased, and folks were inclined to remember their position (personal position reflecting the greatness of the country - the American wish) and to remember having life easy compared to the hardship and compromises of the battle years, products were designed to save commitment.

Advertising was specifically targeted at women in the home - home products, food, housekeeping, clothes, also things that made bored housewives feel more glamorous. During the 2nd World Warfare, Hollywood acquired also taken the thought of the movie star to some other level. Celebrity-watching therefore became a far more significant area of the public's lives, and the faces of superstars were ubiquitous. The most frequently depicted face in art during this time was that of Kennedy, as he, more than anyone, possessed realised early on the value of media marketing and image-creation.

The consumerist ideology was therefore perpetuated by the media, in radio, television, cinema and print out media.


This was mirrored in fine art both in terms of the content, and the techniques of creation and syndication of artwork. Pop Art originated in NY in the past due 1950's/early on '60s, and intentionally subverted critical ideas of what constituted 'artwork. ' Household things and celebrities faces were the subjects:

Suddenly, T. V. meals and canned spaghetti, division store dresses and blue suede shoes, tailfins and tires were the main topic of paintings and sculptures gracing the home window fronts of art galleries. (www. ucalgary. ca)

Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and, most famously Andy Warhol were on the list of leading titles of Pop Artwork. Most of the Pop Artists acquired previously performed in commercial advertising and printing.

Printing presses were used to quickly produce hundreds of standardised images that could then be mass-distributed. Andy Warhol was one of the first ever to do this; instead of selling unique bits of work for a high price, he preferred to create multiple silk-screened copies which were sold for a low price but which together made-up large income. The ideas of mass and standardisation would be observed therefore both in the actual fact that one piece of art work contained a large number of cola bottles, and also that that part was itself reproduced over and over.

Therefore art work became noticeable to greater parts of the population and lower classes, because of its placement - images were seen in conjunction with advertising and paper on clothing and accessories, instead of concealed away in galleries - and its content - where as traditional fine or 'high' fine art requires some academic learning for the audience to know the proper ways of appreciating it, tins of cooked coffee beans were recognisable to all and needed little interpretation.

Americanness have been expressed diversely in the late 40s and 50s:

Abstract Expressionism is characterised by splashes and rhythms of colorings over the canvas, often without subject other than the sentiment that the finished image creates in the audience. It celebrated the average person since it was highly personal. (www. ucalgary. ca)

This fine art was critically acclaimed, but unapproachable to much of everyone, who found it difficult to understand and doubted its artistic credibility. Pop performers reacted directly up against the assumptions made by the Abstract Expressionists; they thought that fine art should be 'for people, ' and they also celebrated every-day things in a method of fine art that was easily approachable.

Pop Art was first seen in a specific school of thought in Britain in the mid-50's, developed by the Indie Group. This is a group of performers and intellectuals who have been fascinated by the effect that post-war North american consumerism was having on English culture. Therefore they focused on the trappings of an materialist, brand-conscious culture. The items depicted in their artwork were often cheap and defied traditional notions of good flavour. British artist Richard Hamilton is regarded as the first ever to expressly define Pop Art work. He characterised it as:

Popular (created for a mass audience) Transient (short-term solution) Expendable (easily-forgotten) Low Cost Mass produced Young (targeted at youngsters) Witty Sexy Gimmicky Glamorous Big business. (www. ucalgary. ca)

It has been argued that the work of the Independent Group probably did not influence the American Pop Designers as they started creating work later in the ten years. American artists may likely be unaware of this small and avante-garde motion in Britain. If this is the case, it is evidence of the widespread influence of post-war consumerism and advertising, that individuals on both factors of the Atlantic begun to build up similar ideas about art work.

Critics were deeply offended Pop Art, thinking that it was of no real creative merit. No improvement was made, they argued, in the use of color or materials, and the subject matter was frequently in bad preference or simply banal. Unlike Folk Skill, pop culture is established on an enormous range to please the mainstream. It really is those emblems and communications that we all understand, and therefore we have one shared culture that obliterates other more local or personal ethnicities. (Alloway:1974:4)

But Pop Skill was light-hearted, quirky and tongue-in-cheek, even blas, which appealed to a country of individuals who after years of war and economical depression, didn't desire to be too reflective or melancholy. Thus, it was oddly ambivalent. Pop Painters enjoyed to these popular needs/desires, yet bitterly criticised them at the same time. The firmness of Pop Art work in general was funny, but artists appeared to be satirising a culture that got 'dumbed down, ' becoming obsessed with convenience, speed, instantly recognisable iconic images and brands. For instance Rosenquist colored images of rockets alongside plates of spaghetti, to attract focus on what he saw as the absurdness of modern concerns. Lichenstein colored huge editions of cartoon strips, using the stock themes or templates of love and assault, and the design of using a huge selection of coloured dots to make up the impression of an area of block color, in order to show how formulaic and non-individual this popular form of skill was.

Warhol criticised the media in his work, such as his prints of Marilyn Monroe's face, made after she devoted suicide in 1962, which echoed what Steven Madorff identifies as the "repeated, infinite production" of the movie star. In the same way, Warhol created a printing of repeated images of any crashed car and mangled corpses, in criticism of just how he believed media studies could reduce an awful tragedy to a single throwaway image. He produced the painting '129 Pass away In Plane, ' after an article about 129 American travelers who were killed in a plane crash over Paris-Orlis. The book attracts on Susan Sonag in saying that the more the thing is that pictures, the less real the real event is. (Museum Ludwig Cologne:1996:474)


The Pop Performers made their artwork out of sketching focus on the consumerist character of American culture. To Art work critics' dismay, household things such as tinned food, icons of the mass media and such 'low skill' conventions such as comic publication attracting now became the subject matter of 'high fine art. ' Pop Musicians and artists had correctly revealed things that were important to the common American citizen, and the content, means of creation, and location with their art all reflected this.

In many ways Pop Skill looked like satirical, wry and sometimes outright critical. The images made at this time have immortalised an image of post-war America as superficial, image-obsessed and unconcerned with any real depth or subtlety. Nevertheless the means of development meant that artists were reaping the great things about this culture. Instead of labouring over an essential oil painting for months, performers now could printing a simple image a huge selection of times - money could be produced for every printing sold, and also galleries would now acknowledge paying high charges for a bit of work that had taken hardly any time and energy to complete. It was as though music artists were portraying People in the usa as ignorant and lazy, but celebrating and taking advantage of that.


Alloway, Lawrence (1974) North american Pop Art, New York: Collier.

Lippard, Lucy (1966) Pop Fine art, London:Thames & Hudson

Museum Ludwig Cologne (1996) 20th Century Art, Taschen.

http://www. ucalgary. ca/applied_history/tutor/popculture/PfourT. html

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