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Pop Art and Mass Media Essay

Alloway views pop art as a form of tool that was used to break the hegemony of elitist aesthetic standards that had been set over the years and that had defined art. In a sense, pop art could be seen as a democratization of art just as in the area of governance the advent of democracy in modern society broke the power of absoluteness wielded by the monarchy and its aristocracy.

Alloway is of the opinion that though population explosion and the industrial revolution in Europe during the era of the Enlightenment had a seismic effect in transforming society, this transformation had been lacking in the field of art as traditional ideas still persisted. In effect these traditional ideas became a limitation on the development of art. Consequently, having pastoral and elitist conceptions about art prevents an art critic, for instance, from appreciating art forms emanating from the mass media.

The mass media and pop art present an artistic relationship where themes and expressions of pop art are easily discerned as offshoots of the mass media. Andy Warhol’s John Wayne Silkscreen – 1986 (figure 1 beneath) is a typical example of artistic expression based on a popular theme/personality in the mass media. Again Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis – 1963 (figure 2 beneath) shows the intersection between mass media and pop art.

In both the John Wayne Silkscreen and the Triple Elvis, popular personalities in the movies (and in popular music i. e. ith regards to Elvis) patronized by the masses are depicted holding guns in typical Western movie fashion. The persistence of pop art that draws its themes and expressions from the urban instead of the conventional and pastoral, and from the mass media/popular urban culture as against the artistic standards of the minority elite, signifies the demise of elitist definitions and standizations of art. The process of change in the fine arts as compared to the mass arts is however mitigated due to the fact that the fine arts have traditionally been invested with the ‘duty’ of being the repositories of cherished societal values.

Thus change or acceptance of change in the expression of the fine arts comes with the added hurdle of having to deal with time-bound values. The mass arts on the other hand are easily adaptable and readily responsive to technological changes. Advances in electronics have for instance changed the cinemas, TV and radio in the way they films, serials and programmes are presented to the audience in a way that appeals to them as consumers. These technological advances spur on consumer centric presentations in the mass arts.

The advent colour in cinema and TV for can be seen being replicated in mass printed glossy colour magazines. The ability of the mass arts to also depict fantasy in a way that appeals to audiences can be seen being depicted in popular comic art for example. Just like the examples of John Wayne and Elvis given above, the focus on heroes and personalities (some of them sex symbols) are fantasies in the mass media that audiences readily identify with and these consumer centred fantasies depicted in art become a continuum from the mass media.


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