203 Gallery

Pop artists addressed subjects that in fine art were traditionally considered debased by incorporating the visual language of commercial culture and advertising. This embrace of popular forms has been interpreted as both an exuberant affirmation of American culture and a thoughtless espousal of the “low.” Richard Hamilton is often credited as the founder of Pop art. He was a member of the Independent Group, which supported new technology and mass culture in the United Kingdom in the early to mid-1950s as a platform for creating visual art. Examples from Hamilton’s series of fiberglass reliefs of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which were inspired by a postcard of the landmark, demonstrate the repetition and reproduction of imagery that became a signature of Pop artists. Roy Lichtenstein painted his canvases with simulated Benday dots, a direct reference to the commercial printing techniques used in comic books and newspapers. By doing so he created “high art” out of what was considered a “low,” or popular, form of visual communication taken from daily life. Following his career as a billboard painter, James Rosenquist introduced many techniques and tropes of the sign-painting trade into his artwork. He broke apart and recombined fragments of images drawn from advertising, used commercial paint, and worked on a large scale. Greek- born artist Chryssa arrived in New York in the mid-1950s. She was inspired by the illuminated signs of Times Square that, for her, epitomized modernity and the entwinement of the vulgar and the poetic in U.S. culture. Andy Warhol, like other Pop artists, used as his subject matter found printed images from newspapers, publicity stills, and advertisements, among other sources. He then adopted silkscreening, a technique of mass reproduction, as his medium.

The relevancy of Pop has endured for generations since the 1960s. Contemporary artist Josephine Meckseper challenges the conventional interpretations of familiar images as well as the systems of circulation and display through which they acquire significance. By conflating art objects with commodities in sculptures that often adopt the form of shop displays, she draws a direct correlation to the way our consumerism impacts cultural production, often lending a critical framework to otherwise commonplace products and visuals. Douglas Gordon engages the history of Pop art by mimicking Warhol’s self-portraits and, in the work on view in this gallery, directly appropriating Warhol’s film Empire (1965) by bootlegging two hours of the original during a screening in Berlin and then recasting it as his own contemporary artwork. Gordon acknowledges both the renowned artist’s pervasive influence and his obsessive preoccupation with celebrity and fan culture.