Images like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans have become undeniably iconic markers of the pop art movement. They feel so close to home, and so familiar. While both American and British artists drew inspiration from America’s popular culture at this time, their diverging approaches are a reminder of the differing ways we perceive a country’s way of life.
The earliest pop art in Britain was intellectual in nature. They were interested in the idea that America’s pop culture was so influential that it was actually controlling people’s way of life, while at the same time benefitting the way society functioned. They found this idea incredibly ironic.
Meanwhile in America, artists focused more on neutralizing the movement of abstract expressionism with satire through commonplace subject matter. Early on, they were also interested in distancing themselves from the advertising world, which had begun to frequently feature modern art. It took on a more forceful tone than the romanticized pop art of Britain.
Physical distance from the subjects at hand had to have played a large role in the countries’ distinctive outlooks. As Britain was viewing this influence of American pop culture in an inherently removed manner, it would only make sense that the observations were slightly idealized and even tongue in cheek. For the American artists, the themes hit close to home.
Of course pop art was not confined to these two countries, as its influence was seen largely all around the world. However, in the two countries from which it emerged, it is curious to see how they paralleled. It too is curious to consider what one county’s culture means to others across the globe.
We do see other countries through a more romanticized lens. Art making has long been a uniting tool in the discovery of the ways of the world and how we all intertwine. The pop artists remind us of this.