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Indepth Arts News:

"American Pop Icons: Works by Eight Key Artists"
2003-05-19 until 2003-11-02
Guggenheim Hermitage Museum
Las Vegas, NV, USA United States of America

The Guggenheim Hermitage Museum opened its third exhibition, a selection of works by eight of the most important precursors and participants in the Pop art movement. American Pop Icons traces the origins of the Pop Art movement from practical beginnings as commercial and consumer imagery to the full-scale celebrity of the genre, through the art of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann. American Pop Icons will remain on view through November 2, 2003.

In a statement, Thomas Krens, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, said of the Pop exhibition: "American Pop Icons is the third major presentation at the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum as part of its ongoing mission to bring many of the world's finest masterpieces to Las Vegas. This show focuses on a key moment in American art, when painting began to reflect artists' engagement with the popular culture that surrounded them. The Guggenheim Museum in New York has a long tradition of exhibiting and collecting the work of the American Pop artists, and it is a great pleasure to share that tradition with our growing audience in Las Vegas."

By identifying key moments in the development of Pop Art, such as early works by Robert Rauschenberg that bridged the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Pop, American Pop Icons explores the sociological phenomenon of Pop through images that may be read as both an unabashed celebration and a scathing critique of popular culture. This concise overview takes as its point of departure the Guggenheim's seminal 1963 Pop exhibition Six Painters and the Object, organized by British art historian, curator, and critic Lawrence Alloway. For the present exhibition, Wesselmann and Oldenburg have been added to Alloway's original group of six.

The exhibition has been organized by Susan Davidson, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

American Pop Icons explores as it subject the artists who emerged, or more appropriately, burst upon the art world, particularly in New York and Los Angeles in the early 1960's. The artists were responding to the newly formed consumer culture in the United States - a result of the amazing growth that transpired in America from the end of the Second World War through the Cold War period of the 1950s. Those who came to be identified as Pop artists embraced consumerism as a fitting subject of their art. Expression and gesture-hallmarks of Abstract Expressionism, which preceded Pop in the late 1940s and early 1950s-were replaced with cool, detached, mechanical illustrations of common objects, often based on appropriated advertising images. Pop art proposed a new kind of subjectivity, one that did not rely on an artist's singular expressive gesture. While many of the Abstract Expressionists had turned hermetically inward, the Pop artists turned outward for aesthetic stimuli.

In Pop art, the narrative or epic impulse of Abstract Expressionism was replaced with straightforward depictions of the everyday, and the mass-produced was afforded the same significance as unique works of fine art. Basing their techniques, style, and imagery on certain aspects of mass reproduction, media-derived imagery, and consumer society, Pop artists gleefully eroded the gulf between high art and low art, taking inspiration from advertising, pulp magazines, billboards, movies, television, comic strips, and shop-window displays.

 Roy Lichtenstein,
Preparedness, 1968.
Oil and Magna on three joined canvases,
10 x 18 feet.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 69.1885.a-c.
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

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