Category Archives: Week7


Vittoria Somaschini

This week was really about exploring varying pop artists for me, as I had had exposure to the big names like Wesselemann, Warhol, and Leitchenstien, however I was not familiar with some of the other names in pop art, which is why I chose to look at the work of Edward Ruscha. He is most recognized for his typography paintings that express concepts. in 1962, His work was featured in “New Paintings of Common Objects” at the Pasadena Art Museum along side other big name pop artists and has since been grouped together as a pop artist.  Ruscha worked with photography, painting, typography, writings, and film. He is known for using a multitude of media in his art such as, “gunpowder and painted and printed with foodstuffs and with a variety of organic substances such as blood and the medicine Pepto-Bismol” (MoMA).

Unlike his contemporaries, Ruscha did not appropriate the works of classical artists to make social commentary and challenge preexisting conventions about art. He instead made social commentary by using text and two highly recognizable signs: Standard gasoline, and Hollywood.


The Standard gasoline painting is easily Ruscha’s most recognizable work and it offers a picture of classic Americana, as there were Standard gas stations all along Route 66. In the vein of pop art  as commercial art, Ruscha used the Standard gas station painting to create a variety of screen prints and it became “one of the first fine-art applications of this commercial process that combines differently colored inks” (MoMA).

Much like the Standard gas station image, Ruscha similarly played with the Hollywood sign. It first appeared in 1968 as a drawing with charcoal and has since


had many reincarnations. According to Alloway, “Pop Art deals with material that already exists as signs: photographs, brand goods, comics, that is to say, with pre-coded material”(Alloway). The Hollywood sign is both a physical sign but when unpacked it is also a semiotic sign that carries pop cultural and historical meaning, particularly as Hollywood can be hailed as the Mecca of pop culture.

Works Cited

Alloway, Lawrence. “Popular Culture and Pop Art,” Studio International, July-August 1969: 17-21.

“Edward Ruscha. Hollywood Study #8. (1968).” Web.

“Edward Ruscha. Standard Station (1966).” Web.

“Edward Ruscha.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2013. Web.

Honnef, Klaus, and Uta Grosenick. Pop Art. Köln: Taschen, 2004. Print.

Sir Peter Blake: A Look at Hybridization and Pop Art

By: Arianna Drumond

The works of British Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake serve as an excellent example of the hybridization of genres indicative of the emerging themes within art in 1960s. A contemporary of Pop Artists Warhol and Lichtenstein, Blake’s work explored the relationship between mass culture, consumerism, and traditional artistic genres such as portrait and sculpture. Blake sought to combine his appreciation for the seminal works in art history with modern consumer and popular culture. As a result, many of his pieces refer back to Renaissance works in their form, while thematically reflecting modern popular culture.

In his highly recognizable 1961 oil painting “Self-Portrait with Badges,” Blake inserts himself into American pop culture through his denim attire, Chuck Taylors, and Elvis magazine. The badges point to cultural icons and showcase the artist’s own personal pop culture obsessions. Blake deeply admired the work of Thomas Gainsborough, famous for his 1770 painting “The Blue Boy.” Blake directly references this work in “Self-Portrait with Badges (Peter Blake: Self-Portrait with Badges).”  Both figures stand in contrapposto, with their left hands in the jacket pocket. The faces of both figures share a similar expression, and the backgrounds of both paintings are similarly dark and ill defined.

Self-Portrait with Badges 1961 by Peter Blake born 1932   Blue Boy

Blake’s “Self-Portrait with Badges,” exemplifies the notion that Pop Artists do not intend to dispose of traditional means of artistic expression, but wish to incorporate those themes and styles into new works, which reflect more on modern themes.

Blake is perhaps best known for his cover the Beetles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). The work is an iconic piece of Pop Art. Blake, who collaborated with his wife Jann Haworth on the project, combines likenesses of pop culture icons such as Fred Astaire and Bob Dylan, alongside historical, religious, and political figures. Writer William S. Burroughs, political philosopher Karl Marx, and Hindu guru Sri Yukteswar Giri among others appear on the album cover. Blake’s collage perfectly demonstrates the Pop Art tradition of using iconic figures to explore the mass consumer market. In early versions of the cover design, Mohandas Gandhi was positioned within the third row, but was removed before the final printing for fear that the album would not be sold in India with the controversial figure on the cover (Neatorama). The relationship between art and consumerism is clear here.

Sgt. P

As Lawrence Alloway stated, “an analogue of Pop Art’s translatability is the saturation of popular culture with current heroes of consumption (Alloway, 1969).” Both “Self-Portrait with Badges,” and the cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band prove this to be true. It the combination of pop and consumer cultures that make Blake’s work relatable and relevant within popular culture.



Alloway, “Popular Culture and Pop Art,” Studio International, July-August 1969: 17-21.

Irvine, Pop and Appropriation Art and the Encyclopedia (presentation)

Tate. “Peter Blake: Self-Portrait with Badges.” Accessed, October 14, 2013.

Neatorama. “The Cover Art of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”!lxm1h




“The Sign Man”: Jasper Johns and the Use of the Familiar Image

by Abby Bisbee

Jasper Johns came onto the Pop art scene in 1954 when he had his first solo show in at the Castelli Gallery in New York City. Johns, who is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the “Pop moment” (Foster), has solidified his place in art history with his work that incorporates familiar signs. In Umberto Eco’s essay “Theory of Signs and the Role of the Reader,” he recognizes that the role of the reader of art is “an active role in textual interpretation because signs are structured according to an inferential model” (Eco). Pop art is defined by its use of signs and the inference one can gain from viewing them. In an interview with the Guardian in 2004, Johns stated that he is “concerned with a thing’s not being what it is, with it becoming something other than what it is” (Brockes). This conceptual foundation of his art is particularly noticeable in his work from the 1950s and 1960s. To best examine how the Pop moment was captured in Johns’s artwork, I will examine two of his early pieces: Map (1961) and Painted Bronze (1960).


When one first looks at Map, the outline of the political geography of the United States of America is the characteristic that is most noticeable. Johns used the encaustic method in addition to oil paint and collage in his creation of Map.  While the “painting” uses traditional materials such as canvas and oil paint, Johns incorporated other materials such as wax and paper to make a collage. As such, when completed, Map shows as an assembly of various materials instead of an “illusionistic picture plane” that only abides by “traditional formal laws of geometric arrangement” (Irvine). The subject matter is not of his creation, but rather an internationally recognized symbol of Western power and unity. While the image is of the United States, the strict boarder lines become blurry with the use of the oil paint, and the stenciled state names (perhaps a calling to the mechanical reproduction that was so omnipotent in Pop art) are not all correctly placed in their states. The effort, however, to use a symbol that is so widely recognized forces the viewer not to look at the subject but to “see” the painting and artistic techniques used (“The Collection”). The meaning of the symbol can be interpreted in countless ways, but the recognition of the image is widespread.

Jasper Johns, Map. Oil on Canvas, 1961. Museum of Modern Art.

Jasper Johns, Map. Oil on Canvas, 1961. Museum of Modern Art.


Because Map’s assembly of non-traditional materials and the placement of the stenciled state names, the painting calls into question the commodification of the America; America has turned into an object that can be consumed. It also threatens the established “traditional” oil paintings that generally represent the nation.


The second work of Johns’s that integrates recognizable signs is his Painted Bronze, a bronze cast that depicts two Ballatine Ale cans. The use of these beer cans is homage to the Pop culture of the 1950s and 60s that was defined by advertising (Foster). The label of the Ballatine Ale is painted with oil paint on each ‘can’. By using “canonized” (Irvine) mediums to make beer cans that would have been widely available to lower and middle income Americans, Johns calls into question the importance of high art and the prestige given to traditional art. This piece embodied the Pop art moment of the 1960s because of its hybid use of materials, its “reuse of already made images” (Irvine), and its reference to the machine made object. In Painted Bronze, there is no narrative associated with the item and no formal composition that harkens back to great “masters” paintings. The pair of cans, while they can be interpreted as more than what they seem, are also just simply a pair of beer cans. One of the most potent statements about Pop art that can apply to both of these pieces of work is that it “reveals constantly a belief in the translatability of a work of art” (Alloway).

Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze. Bronze and oil, 1960. Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze. Bronze and oil, 1960. Museum Ludwig, Cologne.


Works Cited:


Alloway, Lawrence. “Popular Culture and Pop Art,” Studio International, July-August 1969: 17-21.

Brockes, Emma. “Master of few words.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 26 Jul 2004. Web. 13 Oct 2013. <>.

Eco , Umberto. “The Theory of Signs and the Role of the Reader.” Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association. 14.1 (1981): 35-45. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.

Foster, Hal. “On the First Pop Age.” New Left Review. 19. (2003): 93-112. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.

Irvine, Pop and Appropriation Art and the Encyclopedia (presentation)

“The Collection.” MoMA. Museum of Modern Art , n.d. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <>.


Modern Interpretation of Traditional Oriental Art

Aena Cho

D    “Dongguri”

Ki Soo Kwon, one of the most successful contemporary pop artists in South Korea, is primarily known for his creation of Dongguri, a character that frequently appears in his work. Since his Dongguri is placed in and sold as a variety of different commodities from clothing to utensils, he is simply called “Dongguri artist” and tends to be classified as a commercial artist who appeals to popular taste (Metaphysical Art Gallery). However, this classification does not seem to adequately describe Kwon’s work which I find shows lots of the characteristics of pop arts that I have come to learn from the readings for this week. Instead, I would like to focus on Kwon’s unique utilization of historical artwork in his work which reminds me of the ‘pop artistic’ perspectives that I learned about from this week’s reading.
Kwon was originally trained as an Oriental Painter: he drew with Meok (Asian traditional black ink) and created half-painting, half-installation works for three to four years. However, Kwon felt frustrated by his own limits and wanted to go beyond the realms of Oriental painting. He felt limited in expressing the stories of today through the use of Meok and desired a breakthrough (Liz, 2010). He invented a unique character, Dongguri, (meaning “round shape” in Korean) and began to feature it in his every work which is heavily drawn from the Oriental painting tradition.
One of the most typical ways of Kwon to “reproduce” traditional oriental paintings is the use of a historical artwork or its theme or motif in his own work as the part or background. Below are two of his works that exemplify the best such direct use of historical art. The first one is his 2003 work “Plum blossoms around a cottage” (below) which directly adopts one of the 19th famous traditional paintings as the background. The second one is 2009 work “Listen without Prejudice” which is entirely modeled on a painting of one of the most famous 19th century Korean painter, Hong Do Kim. Although the use of the original material is not as direct as that shown in the former one, the main concept of the picture – a man on the horse listening to birdsong while passing under a tree– and the whole composition of all the figures are undeniably those of the famous Kim’s painting.

Plum blossoms around a cottage          a 19th century painting

권기수 설중                        매화초옥도

Listen without Prejudice                       a 19th century painting

권기수 listen wo prejudice                      Kim Hong Do

However, in both of the pictures, what the audience came to focus on and also what Kwon is intended to emphasize are not the original famous paintings but Dongguri, which is featured as the main character in the pictures. According to Kwon, Dongguri’s bright and simple smile represents what people likes to achieve most but find most difficult to have in this harsh, complex modern society; his (or her) highly pattenized and simple shape symbolizes the mechanized and simplified aspects of modern society (Liz, 2010). In this sense, he (or she) can be seen as an emblem of the inner world of contemporary ordinary individuals (Liz, 2010). Then, the very absurd, strange combinations of Dongguri and the old paintings inserted in the two pictures can be seen as Kwon’s attempt to connect contemporary individuals to old traditions or history, or “the Real to the Historical” (Kramar, 1962). An important point here, is that Kwon’s emphasis on Dongguri implies that he is mostly concerned with how contemporary ordinary audience perceive and relate themselves to history with their own modern sensitivity and perspectives but not how the history or historical artifacts have been valued and appreciated in art history by authorities. Also, in lots of other Kwon’s works, Dogguri is described as playing or mediating in a bamboo forest or flowers, which was considered as recreation or enjoyment only appropriate for elite people or upper social classes in many old Asian societies, including those of China and Korea. By allowing Dongguri – who represents just ordinary us – to enjoy such an “elegant” leisure, Kwon seems to attempt to bridge our mundane life to high art which is considered to be sophisticated and thus not easily accessible. Indeed, such hybrid and interdisciplinary approach and perspective of Kwon shown in all his works can be seen as parallel to those of lots of well-known pop artists, particularly Rauschenberg who said that “painting relates to both art and life. I try to act in that gap between the two” (Brucker, 2013).

D O           kwon-ki-soo-a-little-boat-f

매화           뱃놀이

To see more of Kwon’s works:

<Works cited>

Brucker, Julia. Robert Rauschenberg. The The Arthistory Foundation. <>

Liz. Kwon Ki Soo signals new wave of Korean pop art. Art&Design. Oct. 2010. <>

Kramar. Hilton et al. From Vangobot’s Masters’ Art Theory Archive. Vangobot. April, 1963.

Relying on the Cultural Encyclopedia

Estefanía Tocado


While I was sitting in my modern Ikea furnished studio in DC and staring at Debora Azzopardi´s poster entitled “Sshhh” right behind my coach, I started thinking about the connections between the pop art I knew from my visits to the MoMA in New York City and the one I had hanging in my living room from Ikea.  Going back to Umberto Eco, he affirms that:  “The text interpretation is possible because even linguistic signs are not ruled by sheer equivalence (synonymy and definition); they are not based upon the identity but are governed by an inferential schema; they are, therefore, infinitely interpretable” (44).  The text is open, as signs are open for interpretation, so the active role of the reader is completely necessary in order to establish connections between what is in the text and what is inferred.  This affirmation that it is closely related to the literary world can also be extrapolated to the world of art.  Many times the artist relies on the audience to fill in those gaps that live between the piece of art and its interpreter.  If we look at some of the most important pop art pieces produced by Roy Lichtenstein, such as Oh, Jeff…I love You, Too…But… and Drowing Girl, we can see that the adaptation from the comic genre to a painting still preserves the text as a way to engage the audience in the same way it happens in a comic strip. 

At the same time by mixing the hybrid form of the comic, based on images and writing, with painting, the artist is blurring the boundaries of what is considered to be high and low culture while affirming that pop art was “not American painting but actually industrial painting” (Honef 11).  Moreover, the artist takes into consideration that his artwork relied on the audience to presuppose some of the main connections to other artistic movements and he wants the viewer to make connections to the cultural encyclopedia, such as the pointillism that goes back to George Seurat, the American comic world of the 1950 and 1960, or Japanese painting Katsushika Hokusai´s The Great Wave of Kanagwa.  Precisely, it is the role of the reader that attempts to understand the piece of art in depth to uncover all these sources in order to understand that all work of art participates in a network of conceptual nodes and cultural encyclopedia references; most of which are presupposed in the dialogic environment but not necessarily visible in any individual work itself (Irvine 2).

The cultural encyclopedia, as stated by Eco, is based on the idea of an interpretative community that shares a common historical, social, and political context that allows them to have access to this shared common knowledge in order to exchange meaning and be competent to a constantly changing corpus of words, terms, concepts, discourses, events… that belong to a culture´s memory (Irvine 20).  Interestingly enough, by precisely understanding how this cultural encyclopedia continues to grow, recent pop artist Deborah Azzopardi can be seen as an active participant of this interpretative community that belongs to the cultural encyclopedia.  Her work portrays a strong influence by Lichtenstein, American culture, and the comic world.  The same way Lichtenstein took pieces of Picasso and Van Gogh, creating a new piece of art by breaking the boundaries of the canon, she is approaching the 21st century audience with artwork that looks fresh, fun, and attractive.  Her collaborations with Ikea make the copies of her painting Solmyra affordable to a majority of costumers who can pay $9.99 for a pop art poster to decorate any of the walls in their home, making pop art as relevant as it was when it first came out fifty years ago.

Works Cited

Eco, Umberto. “The Theory of Signs and the Role of the Reader.” The Bulletin of Midwest Language Association 14.1 (1981). 35-45

Honef, Klaus. Pop Art. Tachen Books, 2004.

Irvine, Martin. “Pop and Appropriation Art and the Encyclopedia.” Communication, Culture, and Technology Department, Georgetown U, Sept. 2013. Web. 13 October 2013.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Roy Lichtenstein” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 October 2013.