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As most of us should know, when talking about pop art, we are referring to a tremendously influential movement that took place between the 1950s and ‘60s and aimed to speak to the mass, to collectivity rather than individuals. It’s mainline focused on creating a simplified language that allowed pop artists to communicate to the multitude by using symbols and references that linked people to the star-system culture they lived in.

The vastity of symbols that were used throughout the years, give us access to the different types of society that these famous pop artists were born in, showing us a multilateral evolution of the original mainline and many different personal twists in the approach to the pop subject. 

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Andy Warhol  

When introducing pop art, it is imperative to quote Andy Warhol as probably the most influential and complete representation of this culture and movement. With his distinctive and very personal style, Warhol gave voice to the star-system like nobody else. His subjects were elevated to the role of icons of the modern pop art society and his studio, also known as Factory, became the hive where many other powerful personalities implemented their language. Related articles: The Thousand Faces of Warhol 

 

Andy Warhol, Marilyn 29 (1967), screenprint on paper

 

George Condo

As just stated, Warhol’s Factory was a place where many other interesting pop artists developed their way of approaching painting and modern pop art symbols. This was also the case of George Condo, a highly respected artist that used the pop narrative to create a style of his own, which was later labelled as artificial realism. Condo’s paintings give a mind-blowing interpretation of how realism is felt and experienced in the cyber society, and are still dominating the contemporary art scene nowadays, as we can see for ourselves if we attend some of the most influential art fairs and museums.

 

George Condo, The Cracked Cardinal (2001), oil on canvas

 

James Gill

As a proof of the importance and repetitiveness of the subjects in most of the famous pop art artists’ work, we can look at James Francis Gill’s production; an American painter who grew in fame ever since his “Marylin Tryptych” was included in the MOMA collection in 1962. His impressive career was at a peak point when he decided to retire in 1972, due to his misbelief in the social and political situation he lived in. But his exile was interrupted after about 30 years when he decided his comeback in the art scene with a show at the San Angelo Fine Arts Museum. 

 

James Francis Gill, Three Faces of Marilyn (2014), acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Galerie Urs Reichlin

 

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Fox Lichtenstein can also be seen as one of the fathers of the modern pop art movement, with a style that was influenced by the highest levels of artistic expression from the last century, like pointillism, cubism and expressionism. In his work, we can see how an imaginary that belonged to advertising and comics, is transposed to a different scale and used to create icons that are highly related to the mass. 

 

Roy Lichtenstein, I Know… Brad (1963)

 

James Rosenquist 

Another extremely important and famous pop art artist, is with no doubt James Rosenquist, who can be considered, as well as Warhol and Lichtenstein, as one of the strongest and most influential modern pop art artists. His work dives deep into cinematography and advertising and creates a fragmented image of these streamlines and their icons. 

 

James Rosenquist, President-Elect, 1960-61/1964, oil on linen. Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Jeff Koons

While talking about mass consumption and collective iconic aesthetics, we cannot forget about Jeff Koons. His kitschy and colourful sculptures get in touch in a unique way with the full-on positive society they were created for, making his neo-pop shapes close relatives of Andy Warhol’s iconic pop art, not only for their colorfulness but also for their monumentality and influential power. Related articles: Jeff Koons and the Post-Pop Art Age

 

Jeff Koons, Popeye (2009-2011), mirror polished stainless steel with transparent color coating.
Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery, New York

 

Keith Haring

Street artist, at first, Keith Haring’s style has a strong relation with his childhood and those simple cartoonish figures his father used to make for him. As he stated: “My dad made cartoon characters for me, and they were very similar to the way I started to draw—with one line and a cartoon outline”. His artistic imprint was later developed in Pittsburg, and then mastered when he went to New York City and met Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he became close friends with. Related articles: Keith Haring's Largest Mural in Europe-The last case of Keith Haring's mural-Well Beyond Lines. Keith Haring meets Jean Micheal Basquiat

 

Keith Haring, series of paintings. Courtesy of the Albertina Museum, Wien 

 

Yayoi Kusama

Coming from a different background, like the one of the extremely formal painting method named “nihonga”, Yayoi Kusama moves to New York City in 1958, at the age of 29 years old. She was attracted to the powerful and vivid American pop art scene and blended into it perfectly with her performances and her Infinity Net paintings. Since she has moved back to Japan as a famous pop art artist, she has implemented her studies about infinity with her all-around sculptures, which create settings of amplified reality. Related articles: The Yayoi Kusama mania!

 

Yayoi Kusama, the artist with her work “Tentacles" (2012-2015)

 

Takashi Murakami

While the most famous pop art artists are often seen as American, in more recent times also Japan has been recognized as the motherland of some great modern pop art artists, like Takeshi Murakami, who was defined as the most influential figure of the Japanese contemporary culture. Painter and sculptor, Murakami developed artworks inspired to his country’s iconography, which have had a massive impact in the contemporary scene. Related articles: Takashi Murakami's Global Tribe

 

Takeshi Murakami, Mr. dub And Bunny, digital art (2019)

 

Nara Yoshimoto

Yoshimoto is an active Japanese pop art artist, who lives in Tokyo. His work represents some simple figures that often look harmless like children or domestic animals, made with cartoonish features, but that at a certain degree of attention reveal hostile objects like weapons held by these “cute” subjects and very harsh face expressions that fill the observer with hateful feelings. 

 

Nara Yoshimoto, Knife Behind Back (2000), oil on canvas

 

Damien Hirst

Moving now to the European scenery, it’s important to understand how British pop art artists have been monumental in these last few decades. One of these titans is certainly Damien Hirst, whose conceptual art career and the path followed with the YBA collective, hasn’t denied him the time to also talk to the mass. His works have often adopted the pop art aesthetic and used it to create symbols of immediate consumption, like his world-famous scull paintings and spin pantingsRelated articles: Talking “Trash” in Contemporary Art-When food and fashion becomes fine art 

 

Damien Hirst, Skull with Clocks in Eyes (2008), household gloss on canvas.
Courtesy of Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. 

 

David Hockney

Remaining in the British pop art artists panorama, we can easily encounter David Hockney’s work. Painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer, Hockney is probably the most influential amongst British pop art artists, and is also the most valuable living artist, after his recent 90 million dollar sell of his painting “Double Portrait”, at Christie’s. His painting style combines a figurative idea with the pop colour palette, creating extremely expressive settings that remain highly recognizable. Related articles: A great start for Sotheby's London-The Gaston Lévy Collection

 

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972

 

Peter Blake

Peter Blake is a famous British pop art artist, who became famous for making the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Harts Club Band” album cover. His work used elements from advertising and often used collage to include different types of symbols of common knowledge. In 1990 and 1991, Blake also painted artwork at Eric Clapton’s live show. 

 

Peter Blake, 100 Sources of Pop Art

 

Richard Hamilton

Born in 1922, in Pimlico, London, Hamilton was part of a very strong British generation of pop art artists. His collage “Just What is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” (1956), guaranteed his entry in the famous pop art artists category, and is considered by some critics the first pop artwork ever produced. 

 

Richard Hamilton, Just what was it that made yesterdays homes so different, so appealing? (1956), collage.
Courtesy of the Tate collection

 

Claes Oldenburg

Originally from Sweden, Claes Oldenburg was an incredibly active sculptor in the 1960s and a critical influence for Andy Warhol, who looked up a lot to Oldenburg’s colorful and consumeristic subjects. His main focus was food and the way it had been devalued after the transposition of it’s intended role from a primary necessity to the commercial product. The choice of analyzing symbols of mass consumption as subjects for his sculptures makes Claes Oldenburg a perfect example of a modern pop art artist. 

 

Claes Oldenburg, Floor Burger (1962). Courtesy of the MOMA, New York

 

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg was an American photographer and a painter who was very close to pop art but never really stuck completely to the movement. He was also often referred to as neo dadaist and shared this label with Jasper Johns. His work became very peculiar during the 1960s when he began introducing found pictures in his paintings by using serigraphy to transpose them on the canvas; a process that brought him closer to Andy Warhol’s work. Related articles:

 

Robert Rauschenberg, Estate (1963), oil and silkscreen in on canvas. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art 

 

Jasper Johns

Born in South Carolina, in Allendale, Jasper Johns moved to New York in 1949, when he decided to study for a few semesters at Parson’s Design School. But it didn’t take long for him to enter the art scene with some works that brought up an inedited relation between real images and painted images. Due to his closeness to everyday consumeristic symbols, he can be defined as a pop art artist, as we can see with his work “Three Flags” (1958). 

 

Jasper Johns, Three Flags (1958), oil on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art

 

Jim Dine

Another incredibly famous modern pop art artist, is Jim Dine, one of America's most active pop art artist, with 60 years of career behind him and appearances in the international scene at very important fairs like dOCUMENTA Kassel and the Biennale in Venice. As well as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, he was part of the new dada movement and is also a stage writer, photographer and sculptor. 

 

Jim Dine, A Sign of its Pale Color, Tenderness (2015). Courtesy of Artribune

 

Tom Wesselmann

Very close to Jim Dine’s research, Tom Wesselmann gave a strong poetic twist to the subjects that were mostly used by other famous pop art artists. His work combines realistic objects with surreal, dreamy and illusionistic spaces, made with strong chromatic surfaces.

 

Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Tit Box (1968-1970). Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

 

Alex Katz

An incredible painter. One of those personalities who are hard to label and categorize. Alex Katz, who is still alive and painting at the age of 92 years old, developed a style in which we can find relations both with abstract expressionism and pop art. As famous as he got he hasn’t stopped creating fresh and influential paintings, which are nowadays all around in the most prestigious exhibitions and museums. Related articles:

 

Alex Katz, Coca-Cola Girls (2018), archival pigment ink on white paper. Courtesy of Timothy Tailor

 

Banksy

Anonymous street artist “Banksy” is probably the most famous pop art artist nowadays. His fame is worldwide due to his public interventions and his provocative approach that often got him labelled as an outlaw and made him wanted by the Interpol. His style is of strong street art derivation and his medium is mainly sprayed paint - stencil, while his symbols are mainly related to the concurrent political situation and of mediatic purpose; like the world-famous “Shredded Painting” case. Related articles: Is Blek le Rat still influencing Banksy?-The the mysterious story of the stolen Banksy

Banksy, Girl With Balloon (2006). Courtesy of Sotheby's

 

Stik

Nowadays when we walk around London, we encounter a series of extremely expressive yet simplified figures painted on street walls. These are the artworks of British  graffiti artist Stik, an artist who has come from the blocks to the world’s finest galleries and has seen his work auctioned by Christie’s at the impressive amount of 150.000£. His style is unique in colour and form and shows a very contemporary derivation on the finest modern pop art artists. 

 

Stik, Dancer (2011), digital print in black and red. Courtesy of Christie’s 

 

Mimmo Rotella

Italian pop art artist Domenico Rotella, also known as Mimmo Rotella, was an incredibly active artist in the second half of the 20th century, close both to nouveau réalisme and pop art movements. This incredibly fine pop art artist used the seridècollage technique to create a series of ripped off poster paintings and assemblages of tremendous expressive power and aesthetic delicacy. Related articles: The life and work of Mimmo Rotella-The origin of Italian Pop Art

 

Mimmo Rotella, Sempre lei Marilyn (2002), décollage on canvas

 

Hariton Pushwagner

Terje Brofos, who’s artist name was Hariton Pushwagner, was a Norwegian graphic and painter, who spent many years struggling to find his personal style, before becoming famous for his strongly narrative and cartoonish images, partially derived by his affection for Axel Jensen’s. 

 

Hariton Pushwagner, Re Traversa (Soft city) (1969), print on paper

 

Wayne Thiebaud

99 Year old Wayne Thiebaud is a vastly recognized pop art artist. His work is truly of the highest painting standards due to its quality in color and technique. In his research, he studies everyday objects that in his opinion have been left apart by artists, maybe because they looked off-putting such as sweets like lollipops, which were maybe seen as superficial subjects. Although he is often referred to as a famous pop art artist, he sometimes is said to be different from the pop culture due to the different painting technique he has adopted. 

 

Wayne Thiebaud, Pankake Breakfast (2008), oil on canvas

 

Edward Ruscha

Ruscha is an American pop art artist whose medium was photography and main influences were Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp and Edward Hopper. His career brought him to cooperate with many different realities but the peak point of his work is the participation to the world-famous exhibition “New Painting of Common Objects”, in 1962, featuring Warhol, Lichtenstein and other famous pop art artists. 

 

Edward Ruscha, Trademark #5 (20th Century Fox), 1999

 

Robert Indiana

World-famous pop art artist, scenographer and costume designer, Robert Indiana had an incredibly interesting career. His work uses flashy and eye-catching short words, that also have a commercial aspect and usage like “EAT”, “LOVE” to communicate to his viewers. Out of all his works, the most iconic is the sculpture “LOVE” (1970), a piece that became widely known and has been absorbed swell by future generations. 

 

Robert Indiana, LOVE, print from the famous sculpture “LOVE” (New York City)

 

Peter Max

Peter Max is a German-American pop art artist, who’s work is recognizable for the hallucinating effect given by his colours. His subjects are in relation to the 1960’s art scene and are implemented by the distinctive and calculated approach that the artist has with space. 

 

Peter Max, Marilyn, from the retrospective “The Collected Works 1960-2017

 

Mel Ramos

As is well known, Mel Ramos can be seen as one of the last pop art artists, even though the irony that can be found in his works is said to distance him from this particular movement. His symbols and subjects are in fact different in meaning from the ones adopted in a similar way by other famous pop art artists, making his work more subtle and of lesser iconic power.

 

Mel Ramos, Chiquita Banana (1969), polychrome enamel

 

Niclas Castello 

Taking a look closer to our generation, we can find Niclas Castello, a german pop art artist who became famous due to works like “The Kiss”, in which we can find a neo-pop variation of other famous pop art artists’ subjects, but also some neo-expressionist and street-art influences.

 

Niclas Castello, The Kiss (Shiny Red) (2013-2015). Courtesy of Guy Hepner

 

Cover image: James Rosenquist, President-Elect, 1960-61/1964, oil on linen. Courtesy Centre Pompidou, Paris.

 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.
 

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