Pop Art and the Origins of Post-Modernism

Pop Art and the Origins of Post-Modernism

Pop Art and the Origins of Post-Modernism

Pop Art and the Origins of Post-Modernism

Synopsis

Pop Art and the Origins of Post-Modernism examines the critical reception of Pop Art in America during the 1960s. Comparing the ideas of New York-based critics such as Leo Steinberg, Susan Sontag, and Max Kozloff, Sylvia Harrison demonstrates how their ideas bear a striking similarity to the body of thought and opinion now associated with deconstructive postmodernism. Pop Art thus arises as not only a reflection of the dominance of mass communications and capitalist consumerism in postwar American society, but also a subversive commentary on worldviews and the factors necessary for their formation.

Excerpt

This study is based upon the retrospective and now widespread identification of American pop art of the sixties as an expression of post-modernism. More specifically, this identification concerns New York pop, the form associated with the leading centre of art in both America and the world during this period. The immediate stimulus for this study lies in the question: Did the post-modernist art of American pop art in its initial form in the sixties give rise to a corresponding critical consciousness? In other words, can critical responses to pop during this same period also be retrospectively identified as post-modernist? This question determines the central task of this study: the recognition and establishment of the nature of post-modernist features in the critical consciousness generated by American pop art during the sixties. The retrospectivity of this endeavour should be stressed. What is offered by this work is a comparison between the ideas of a select group of American critics writing in the 1960s in response to the challenge of pop art, ideas that bear a striking similarity to that body of thought and opinion that is now associated with post-modernism. Hans Bertens's history of post-modernism, published in 1995, provides a precedent for this study's retrospective argument. In reference to the writings of American literary figures, namely Leslie Fiedler, Susan Sontag, and Ihab Hassan, as well as the music theorist Leonard B. Meyer, Bertens claimed that “much of what is now broadly seen as the postmodernist agenda was already more or less in place by the end of the 1960s. ”

The findings of this study centre on the relevant critical writings of Lawrence Alloway, Harold Rosenberg, Leo Steinberg, Max Kozloff, Barbara Rose, and Susan Sontag. These critics were all key figures in the New York art world or, in the case of Sontag, literary world during the period under review. Collectively, they span a number of generations and encompass two distinct approaches to the theorization of American pop art.

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