Throughout the years that preceded the tipping point of the 1950s, art was largely considered pretentious and inaccessible. For the most part, the art world was known mainly for fine art that lacked utility and accessibility, and therefore became a playground for the rich and wealthy. But the 50s were a time of change, and with the post-war consumer boom that took place and a newfound optimism in the air, a cultural shift began.
The cultural shift in the U.S. is marked most notably by the emergence of artists such as Elvis Presley, but pop art is also a marker of the beginnings of a culture that placed precedence on mass production.
A sharp contrast to the abstract impressionism that dominated the time period, pop art was witty, sexy and glamorous, easily consumable and made of ‘’low’’ subject matter. And with marketing becoming an art form, economics and aesthetic considerations were no longer in opposition. Art began to influence the business world and become more consumable to the average person.
Now, if we fast forward 50 years, pop art dominates our world. Vastly integrated into western culture, pop art exists anywhere you might think to look for it: vibrant marketing campaigns that pepper train stations and bus stops, colourful packaging on cheap snacks and of course in art galleries, framed alongside other acclaimed art pieces, as they should be. But although pop art is now reputed as a very well-known and respected form of art now, contemporary artists still have their own set of challenges they face from the art world, as well as consumers.
Kevin O’Quinn is an emerging pop artist who works out of the greater Vancouver area in B.C. Traditional to the rebellious origins of pop art, his work is heavily influenced by reality, and aims to do one thing, make someone smile, he says.
On the modern-day difficulties of working with pop art and working as an artist in general, Kevin states it isn’t difficult in the same sense as hard manual labour, but being an artist in general comes with its own unique set of challenges, such as, consumers that are unwilling to pay, high expenses and the difficulty of marketing one’s own pieces to the general public. These difficulties are universal to the art world, an unfortunate fact with the silver lining that pop art must be seen as a recognized art style in order to draw the same issues as other styles.
Pop art today is respected as much as most other forms, if not more for the utility some strands of it have. The integration of pop art into modern-day society is a hopeful indicator that with the passage of time, art will continue to become more inclusive, and the lines between it and other facets of life as we know it will eventually blur.
By Kiran Bassi