Pop Art, understood as a manifestation at an international level which bursts into existence in the late fifties has no manifesto and is heterogeneous in technique, ideas and the means it employs; it constitutes the axis that is articulated by the exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. This is a movement that is primarily urban - it has a contemporary development in the more important cities involved in the art scene in the second half of the twentieth century: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Rome and Milan - it establishes a special link with mass culture, which it seeks to reflect. In this mass culture it finds its themes, its vocabulary, its icons, its artistic resources and even its means of diffusion, converting the information overload and visual stimuli that assault the passerby, the spectator and the consumer in their daily lives, into the engines of their work. Pop comes as a shock to traditional art in its broadest sense (media, institutions, education, notion of the artist, authorship and even unique work) and also to what it had immediately proceeded (abstract expressionism and informal art). Screen printing, collage or the use of pre-existing images imply a criticism of the artist’s subjectivity, avoiding recognition (leaving a mark) of their involvement in the work of art. Also, in their reaction against good taste and high culture, there are many times when kitsch is recovered as the peak in aesthetics.
For American artists, in the words of Marco Livingstone, curator of the exhibition along with Norman Rosenthal, "pop is a manifestation almost entirely limited to its own culture" which is symptomatic of a radical return to representation after the experience of Abstract Art; the exhibition highlights the parts that are shared by pop artists on all levels: the use of collage, montage, screen printing and a great concern for the object of daily life, as well as the use of an iconography coming from the world of popular culture: movies, news, advertising and comic books, among others. According to art critic Sarat Maharaj, "pop art surges from the myths and representations of consumerism and then goes on to challenge them" (Robert Rauschenberg’s debris collages or accumulations by Arman)
The heterogeneity inherent to Pop Art is also proved by how the political and social peculiarities of each country determine or condition, formally and conceptually, the work of these artists. The political dimension is evident in artists from the group of nouveaux réalistes (New Realists), namely Rottella, Hains and Jacques de la Villeglé with their affichiste (poster) creations, based on the use of posters pulled down from streets, similar to the German Wolf Vostell’s décollage. Spanish pop art is also case specific, where Eduardo Arroyo and Equipo Crónica develop a particular iconography and themes with notable political references to the suppression of freedom and Spanish cultural life. In this exhibition Fluxus also illustrates the plurality of expressions derived from pop culture, his critical load is directed largely against the idea of art and introduces the practice of “happening” as an artistic event.
Royal Academy of Arts, London (September 13 - December 15, 1991); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (January 23 - April 19, 1992); Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Canada (October 23, 1992 - January 23, 1993)