Friday, August 26, 2005

Is Pop Pooped?

The media are of two minds about Pop Art it seems. A recent article in The Times of London suggests Pop is tired (or has retired):

Pop Art’s Big Bang is in retreat, its once carefree brightness dimmed by new fears as the world darkens. The great irony is that while so many Pop Art images play on the supposed distance between high and popular culture (a distinction that may have meant something in the 1960s but which means almost nothing today), they are now subject to the kind of connoisseurial anxieties once common only to museum-grade “old” art. They’ve become marooned in time, super-precious and fully tamed. [London dealer Gul] Coskun’s show offers them a sunlit, glorious retirement.
And, further suggesting Pop is no longer relevant enough to give much thought to context, the Warhol Foundation can seemingly find no enterprise beneath Andy's legacy. In an article about how they've licensed Andy's imagery to the flagging (flailing?) Levi's clothing line (expect $250 jeans), we learn:

Here are some previous licensing deals authorized by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts:

  • June 1997: Campbell's Soup reaches an agreement to use Warhol's work in tapestries, carpets, stationery, beach towels, watches, clocks, jewelry, leather goods and apparel.
  • January 2001: Coca-Cola announces a deal to create housewares, gifts, collectibles and apparel bearing images from Warhol's Coke pop art.
  • August 2001: Brunswick Bowling & Billiards releases a set of bowling balls featuring Warhol's Coca-Cola artwork.
  • October 2001: Licensing consultant Beanstalk Group signs an
    agreement to use Warhol images on products such as dishes, vases, sportswear, stationery, calendars and sheets.
  • January 2004: Sphinx by Oriental Weavers introduces its Andy Warhol area rug collection.
  • April 2004: Campbell's Soup distributes 300,000 cans of tomato soup with labels inspired by Warhol's work.
  • July 2004: Orange County-based Paul Frank launches its Paul Frank for Andy Warhol line of apparel and accessories.
  • November 2004: Corbis, the digital image agency, announces an exclusive deal to digitize, license and manage the rights to the artist's work.
(And yes, arguably, this is exactly what Andy would be doing had he lived this long, except he'd be picking winners, not lending his name to companies on life support.)

On the other hand, Artforum devoted their October 2004 issue to "Pop after Pop" suggesting the movement can (has) indeed evolve(d) to stay relevant. From Jack Bankowsky's guest editorial:

"Is there life after Warhol, and if so, what does it look like?" we asked the
roundtable [contributing editors Thomas Crow and Rhonda Lieberman, artists Jeff Wall and Stephen Prina, curator and critic Alison Gingeras, social critic Diedrich Diederichsen, and Artforum editor Tim Griffin]. Jeff Wall answers in the affirmative, but suggests that he doesn't necessarily like what he sees; we need not live our lives or make our art at the mercy of every "flicker of meaning emitted by Hollywood"; the Warhol trick, he tells us, doesn't work the same way the second time around. Wall sees art in the shadow of Warhol as hostage to "the second appearance," to the endless recycling of past inventions, a relinquishing of the higher purposes of art. His fellow panelists largely agree that the second
appearance—the sampled, the appropriated, the parasitic, and the performed—is an inescapable given, but for them the question is, rather, where do we go from there? In Murakami's work, for instance, Diederichsen sees not merely superflat triviality, but an artist who updates Pop's "art director" model for a new moment in our culture of communications. And, in chorus with Gingeras, he appreciates in the work of German painter and "performer" Martin Kippenberger a theater of all-too-human affect that, taken together with the trail of art objects he leaves behind him, is both update and antidote to Andy's deadpan shtick.
So the question then becomes does Pop = Warhol? If you answer yes, then perhaps it's true that its time has passed. If you answer no, then you're left answering "What is Pop?" and why, unlike other movements, does this one resist fossilization? Had Andy created the first immortal, ever-mutating movement? If so, is there anything meaningful post-Pop?

To be honest, I don't know. I'm just throwing those things out there...it's Friday, I'm reading through the recent Rand report on the Visual Arts* (more on that later), and my brain can't really handle as many disparate topics as it used to. I just found it fascinating that Pop is in the news as much as it seems to be. I will enjoy reading your thoughts, as always, though...

*152-page PDF file.

13 Comments:

Blogger Bill Gusky said...

The question becomes contextual for me. Popular visual media has become incredibly slick and sophisticated since the 60s. Meanwhile so have visual arts consumers at all levels. The apparent mixing of commercial and 'fine' visual arts almost seems expected now. Examples: the influence of anime and cartoons seen in artists Takashi Murakami, Annlee, Marty Ackley, a number of video artists and others. We drop Pop paradigms like dimes. Maybe the supposed death of Pop is really just the logical end result of a very successful movement: assimilation into the language of its target audience.

Where can I pick up a copy of the Rand report on the Visual Arts?







Where can I get a copy of the Rand report on the Visual Arts?

8/26/2005 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

sorry - accidental duplication of question above - B

8/26/2005 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

no problem

it was an awful lapse in netiquette for me to mention the report without a link...I'll add one in a moment...just got to look it up.

8/26/2005 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

no no I'd wrongly assumed it was something that had to be purchased. I'll look it up, thanks - B

8/26/2005 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous ML said...

The list of Warhol's licencing just points up how art really is becoming a shopping experience. Check out http://www.calendarlive.com/galleriesandmuseums/cl-wk-cover25aug25,0,6560773.story?track=widget
for another sample. You as a gallerist and most of your readers as artists want sales but I'd like to think of fine art as being different than rugs or mugs.

8/26/2005 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Oops, the copy button left off the end of the string:

calendarlive.com/galleriesandmuseums/cl-wk-cover25aug25,0,6560773.story?track=widget

8/26/2005 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

ml

yeah, I saw that article...like nails on a chalk board

"Cheap" art is like bargain basement laser surgery...are you sure you shouldn't just burn the money and call it even?

8/26/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Burning money - that analogy was always used about cocaine. I bet there are a bunch of artists who would be happy to have art compared to coke....

8/26/2005 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

compared to coke....

Especially if the artist is Fred Tomaselli... ;-)

8/26/2005 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Ha ha!!

8/26/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

So the question then becomes does Pop = Warhol? If you answer yes, then perhaps it's true that its time has passed. If you answer no, then you're left answering "What is Pop?" and why, unlike other movements, does this one resist fossilization? Had Andy created the first immortal, ever-mutating movement? If so, is there anything meaningful post-Pop?

Some thought provoking questions for a Friday. Some days it is easier to just say yes on the "does Andy = Pop" question and be done with it.

But like your post indicates, the fact that the pop as a motif is getting play means it isn't dead. (or at least not entirely!) But is there truly any direct heir to the movement? Is it in the positioning, the philosophical bent, the relationship to mass culture, or the material products resulting?

What is the genealogy from Andy to something like the Wooster Collective? What about when an artist like Paul Pfifer creates his own "Empire?" Or that direct trajectory from Andy through Jeff Koons and into the work of Gavin Turk (who was one of my favorite under celebrated conceptual sculptors of the YBA phenom prior to his 2k4 2k5 body of work)? Or is it the J-Pop influenced artists, some mentioned above, who make little distinction between art making, manufacturing, and merchandising? Heck, I've even heard young painters such as Zack Smith referred to as "post-post-Pop painters," whatever that means.

Did Andy Create the first ever mutating movement? No. Of course not. Taken in the right light, usually with its philosophical core in mind, any movement can be seen to have a long-lived and mutating existence that extends beyond its own fossil record. It may require a leap of faith, like seeing a dinosaur hiding in every songbird, but it is there. For example, to play devils advocate a bit, couldn't you call some multimedia installation work the rightful heir of the art and culture of the medieval church with its use and celebration of synaesthesia?

Is there anything meaningful post-Pop? Of course. Our population continues to renew. We all age, go through similar phases of life and development, accruing wisdom and knowledge as we go. What may seem like noise and cheap recycling to some of us may look fresh and novel to younger eyes. An older mentor of mine recently wrote to me, "Personal history, and history in the broader scope, makes the trendy stuff look silly. I would like to think that I only make work if there is a reason--there should be some urgency. ... I go on and on making speeches about how successful people do not have the luxury of making cute work a couple of times a month. You've got to burn to shine (John Giorno), that kind of thing. You know, get off your ass and do something serious." As we age, parallax works its wonders, and meaning changes.

Regardless of age and to the root of it: humans are inclined to recognize patterns. Meaning is a pattern of sorts. As an unsuspecting viewer, you never know what dumb pattern is going to blossom into meaningfulness. I'm not quite sure what should and shouldn't be included in a strict definition of post-Pop, but I've been around the block enough times to know that meaning can come from most anywhere. Omens are natural (and sometimes rather plain!) phenomena that generate meaning in the minds of their beholders. Why should any artifact of human culture be exempt?

I hope I'm still on topic. What was the question again? Oh yeah, does Pop = Warhol? Umm... how 'bout yes?

8/26/2005 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

For example, to play devils advocate a bit, couldn't you call some multimedia installation work the rightful heir of the art and culture of the medieval church with its use and celebration of synaesthesia?

very good point, james...and indeed you can do this with lots of movements to that degree, but then you get into dicussing the central philosophical concerns of a movement vs. technical innovations and such. If Pop was a response to/critique of the rise of commercialism, but commercialism is now more or less here to stay (or so it feels), isn't what's left merely a license to use low culture as subject without having to include social commentary?

excellent comment all around, btw...many thanks! just what my weekend-leaning mind needed...more food for thought.

8/26/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

...but then you get into dicussing the central philosophical concerns of a movement vs. technical innovations and such.

Exactly.

If Pop was a response to/critique of the rise of commercialism, but commercialism is now more or less here to stay (or so it feels), isn't what's left merely a license to use low culture as subject without having to include social commentary?

But I thought it was also a simultaneous critique and embrace to the rise of broadcast media and the resulting power structures (celebrity, centralization, amplification of voice, etc.) So I'm still left wondering "what should be called post-Pop?" Is a gallery-adverse anarchist like Josh McPhee doing post pop work? Or is it someone more like Sean Mellyn and his snowman fornicating with a penguin and all the light entertaining humor it carries more of a fitting example of post-Pop? (I couldn't find an image of the snowman/penguin sculpture. But you get the idea.)

more food for thought.

Speaking of which, time to switch off the Mozilla idiot-box and put dinner on the stove. But thanks for providing this forum for discussion.

8/26/2005 05:54:00 PM  

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