Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pop Art Prints

Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum

When: through August 31, 2014

Is it possible that I could be a fan of pop art?  I'd never thought much about it one way or the other before.  I didn't have strong feelings for or against.  But, reading the wall notes for this show, and finding out that pop art was a reaction against abstract expressionism, an art movement for which I do not have fond feelings, I thought I'd better give pop art a closer look.  The notes went on to say that pop art was a "sly commentary" on American consumerism, the country's fascination with celebrity, glamour and superficiality - I was prepared to be hooked.

The first show of pop art was in October 1962, and the featured artists catapulted to fame.  All of a sudden, they were no longer outsiders mocking the rich and famous - they were the rich and famous.  I imagine it must be difficult in those circumstances to avoid becoming that which you have satirized.

Prints were a way to satisfy the enormous demand for this art form.  These prints are part of the museum's permanent collection and are rarely seen - I'm not sure why exactly, although perhaps it's a preservation issue.

Like most shows, there were some things I liked and some I didn't.  There was quite a bit of Roy Lichtenstein, and after his big show at the National Gallery last year, I felt as if I'd seen enough to last me for a while.  Surprisingly enough, one of his prints was my favorite item in the show - Moonscape was such a vibrant shade of blue - it seemed to shimmer.

Claes Oldenburg was also represented with a piece called Pile of Erasers.  They're the same type of erasers as the one in the sculpture garden.  Yet another of his pieces that will be unfathomable in a few decades.

Verdict: If you like pop art, this is worth seeing - it's a small show, so easily manageable in a lunch hour, and these are not prints you see every day.

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