Harlem Renaissance Compared To Pop Art

Posted: September 9th, 2013

Harlem Renaissance Compared To Pop Art






Harlem Renaissance Compared To Pop Art

Pop art is an extension of pop culture into the realms of artistic expression (Madoff, 1997). The age of pop culture has its jurisdiction in pre-modern, modern and post-modern times. Art in this particular era is characteristic of popular images and graphics that are common to the eye of man. For this reason, Pop art is considered a diversion from abstract expressionism. This is further explained by the fact that the work of art under Pop art borrows from commercial art. Some of the images used in the collages are those from billboard advertisement, popular television advertisement and from print sources of publicity.

The emergence of Pop art found root in Britain in the early 1950s. This was among a group of artists known as the Independent Group. The post-war period was characterized by feelings of liberty and a break away from the somber mood of war and conflict. Pop art is characteristic of a more liberal form of art. The era of pop art sees the fusion of popular images integrated in ironical and paradoxical ways. Pop art’s integration of these images expresses both satirical and complimentary themes (Madoff, 1997).

Pop art was greatly influenced by popular culture that has its roots in America. Although Britain experienced apprehension towards the USA, it was coerced to adopt the culture because of its liberal expression. Pop culture enabled the Britons to express optimism after the Second World War (Madoff, 1997). Pop art was also influenced by Dadaism that is the liberal expression of art. The artistically freethinking of Dadaism is greatly translated in the use of familiar objects in pop art collages. In 1970s, Pop art became the mirror of society and this signified its transition into modern art.

Harlem renaissance represents the era where the expression of African American culture was dominant (Driskell, Lewis & Willis, 1994). This era marked by the divergence from the popular white style of art that was characteristic of Victorian and stereotypic values. Art in the period was influenced and shaped by the African American migration into the cities like New York and Washington. The period was marked by the African American break away from the oppressive relationship that they shared with the white Americans.

The Harlem renaissance was preceded the civil rights movement that had taken root in America in the 1940s (Driskell, Lewis & Willis, 1994). The art that was popular in this period held the themes of reform organizations and civil rights. The art was greatly influenced by black culture common in the Caribbean and the US. Visual art in this period was bold in expressing not only the plight of African American but also the celebration of the African American culture.

The Harlem renaissance and Pop art eras express two distinct historical periods that are correlated. The Harlem renaissance focuses on the African American emancipation and it is subsequently a mirror of the African American culture. On the other hand, the era of Pop art is the expression of popular culture as dictated by the US. The two eras experience both a convergence and difference in terms of their thematic concerns and styles. This is seen in a comparative analysis of the works of Eduardo Paolozzi and Palmer Hayden.

Pop art shows a continuation of the liberal tone that was communicated during the Harlem Renaissance era. This liberty is not only experienced in the themes addressed in the art but also the style that is used in the art. In Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1947 collage, I was a rich man’s plaything, he expresses this liberty in using commercial and popular art (Miles & Paolozzi 1977). The liberty shows a breakaway from the conventional abstract expressionism. Paolozzi uses the popular Coca-Cola logo and graphics from the popular Intimate Confessions. An assessment of Palmer Hayden’s, We Four In Paris, expresses the need for freedom among the African American (Gordon & Hayden, 1988). The painting shows the four men consciously keeping watch of their environment. This implies an aspect of anxiety and a lack of freedom.

The transition from Harlem Renaissance art to the pop art era represents an abandonment of the African American culture, as the area of focus. The dominant theme in the Harlem Renaissance was to extol the African American culture but the pop culture takes a diverse area of study. This is evident in the works of both Palmer Hayden’s and Eduardo Paolozzi’s works. The shift in the area of focus is also predictable because of the different social issues that surrounded the two art cultures.

A major similarity exhibited between the two art periods is the ability of the art to mirror the conditions of the society. Hayden addresses the prejudice that was prominent during the 19th and 20th centuries. In this particular painting, he echoes the plight of migrants in Paris. On the other hand, Paolozzi address the situation that had engulfed Britain after the Second World War. He makes a direct allusion to this by using graphics of Britain’s flight fighter.

Reference List

Driskell, D. C., Lewis, D. L., & Willis, D. (1994). Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem.

Gordon, A. M., Hayden, P. C., & Museum of African American Art (Santa Monica, Calif.). (1988). Echoes of our past: The narrative artistry of Palmer C. Hayden. Los Angeles: Museum of African American Art.

Madoff, S. H. (1997). Pop art: A critical history. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Miles, R., Paolozzi, E., & Victoria and Albert Museum. (1977). The complete prints of Eduardo Paolozzi: Prints, drawings, collages 1944-77. London: Victoria & Albert Museum.






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