in-the-car-roy-Lichtenstein

Campbell’s soup tins line the walls, a red-lipstick-clad woman takes a bath in front of us, Marilyn Munroe’s head blooms out of a vase of flowers and a man takes a devious, sideways glance at the woman riding shotgun in his car.

The colours are predominately primary, the tone is often sexual, violent or commercial and the works are striking: “Pop to Popism” is a bit of a sensory overload. With over 200 works on display until March 1, 2015, it’s easy to get lost in pop at The Art Gallery of New South Wales at the moment.

My accompanying friend and I could see that the influences ranged from pop culture and celebrity, to war, to pornography to consumerism. But the exhibition was so eclectic that it was difficult for us to come up with a clear definition of what categorised something as “pop art” in our minds.

We turned to the exhibition guide:

“Pop was one of the defining movements of the 20th century. It was radical because it brought the realms of mass entertainment and consumerism into the hallowed halls of art galleries and museums,” it informed us.

“Pop artists looked to advertising, product design, packaging, television, film, tabloid journalism, celebrity photographs, pulp fiction and comic books for both subject matter and style. While for many this new art was a shocking betrayal of high cultural values, for others it was a liberating encounter with the world that people actually lived in,” it continued.

It was a surreal experience to see Andy Warhol’s works in person for me. His artworks on display include “Marilyn Munroe” (1967) (in a set of 10 screen prints), “Triple Elvis” (1963), “Campbell’s Soup Suite 1” (1968) and “Self Portrait No 9” (1986).

Another favourite of mine was Roy Lichtenstein’s “In the Car” (1963), which I loved so much that I ended up coming home with a set of “In the Car” drink coasters.

But the work that’s stayed with me the most is one by Barbara Kruger, an “Untitled” photographic silk screen on vinyl from 1990. It featured black and white shoes, with a red and white text overlay reminding:

“You can’t drag your money into the grave with you”.

For an art movement engaged with the contemporary world and its preoccupation with violence, advertising, consumerism and celebrity glamour – there seemed no better definition to me.

(Image at top: Roy Lichtenstein’s In the Car (1963). Photograph: estate of Roy Lichtenstein.)

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