Richard Hamilton’s Plastic Problem: Pop artists set themselves apart by addressing throwaway culture. But how could they make the disposable last?, Roksana Filipowska, δημοσίευση στο Science History Institute [16/10/2016]Marilena Pateraki
Picture a visitor to an art gallery walking among landscapes of the French countryside, still lifes of bright oranges and blooming sunflowers, and Dutch portraits of long-dead patrons. She turns a corner and suddenly encounters an enormous Starbucks coffee cup. Is it a joke? Moving closer, she looks up at that unmistakable logo and plastic lid. She may dislike Starbucks coffee, or she may be a gold-card member counting down the days until pumpkin spice returns. Either way the result is an immediate, visceral reaction to the ubiquitous presence of an object usually destined for the trash, yet here elevated to a work of art.
This is pop art. By highlighting how commonplace, mass-produced objects inspire consumer fantasy, myth, and desire, pop art aims to destroy distinctions between high and low culture. Today the term most often evokes 1960s New York City and the iconic figure of Andy Warhol, whose deadpan public persona added intrigue to his Campbell’s Soup Cansand the Marilyn Monroes he silk-screened—over and over—until his images reached paradoxical fame and utter banality.
Today Warhol might be the icon of pop art, but it was British artist Richard Hamilton, an outsider to American culture, who first approached the country’s advertisements and consumer products with the same curiosity and criticism previously reserved for historical masterpieces. Instead of creating art from consumer images, as Warhol did, Hamilton considered how new synthetic materials were shaping society in the years after World War II. Materials like Poly-T, a refined polyethylene used to make Tupperware tumblers and sealable bowls, not only changed the way women stored leftovers; they also changed the way women socialized and earned money, inspiring the Tupperware party and its networks of female entrepreneurs and shoppers.
Hamilton observed the rising role of plastics in society and responded by creating artworks of contemporary life using synthetic materials. These materials were so “of the moment” and so new to art that Hamilton was uncertain whether his work would endure long enough to enter museum collections. Preserving such pieces was new territory.
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