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Abstract and Pop Art represented a shift in art and America finally challenged Paris as a leader in modern art.  The movement set the stage for America's dominance of the international art world and was, by nature, absolutely American in spirit. Both Abstract and Pop Art was about creating monumental pieces that expressed individual freedom.


In Abstract Expressionism artists challenged traditional ideals of what was deemed art, that art even had to represent something.  Even Surrealist paintings had distinguishable figures, meaning you can tell what was being painted.  You may not have understood what was painted, but you could tell what you were looking at.  Abstract Expressionism came along and asked why?  Why does the subject of a painting have to be distinguishable? Why can't I just paint what I feel and what comes to me in the moment?  Jackson Pollack and his "paint drippings" that were created by placing a canvas on the floor was unheard of.  Abstract art forced the viewer to really look at the painting, to determine what it meant to them, what emotions they felt. It created an entirely new world of art where what the piece meant to one person wasn't necessarily what it meant to the next.


Pop Art on the other hand was a shift in the completely opposite direction from Abstract Expressionism.  It's subjects were identifiable and mostly drawn from mass media and pop culture such as celebrities. Pop Artists celebrated the commonplace, things people were already familiar with in their daily lives and they sought to raise pop culture and commercial images to the same level as fine art.


Did you know?

Pop Art has become one of the most recognizable styles of modern art.

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Below is some basic information on Abstract and Pop Art and its characteristics and influences. If you would like to print off a copy of this page along with samples of art from this period, you can download the Abstract and Pop Art summary above.

Quick Facts:

Although they occurred during the same time period, the movements were very different as far as theme and characteristics

  • Abstract Art: Contained no recognizable subject; represented paranoia

  • Pop Art: Was a reaction to Abstract Art; sought to connect with the public

Characteristics and/or Types of Art:
  • Abstract: Used shapes, forms and textures to achieve effect

  • Pop: Consisted of bright colors and eye-catching images

  • Abstract: Anxiety and trauma of World War II

  • Pop: Mass media, consumerism, the public

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