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Historical Bibliography Of Pop Art Definition

There are an enormous number of books that cover modern sculpture, both in and out of print. Potts 2001 notes that “a distinctively modernist tradition in sculpture first properly established itself in the art world in the 1930s” (p. 145). In addition, Potts discusses Burnham 1978 (cited under Materials and Techniques), Giedion-Welcker 1937, and Read 1956 as the core texts that established an understanding of modernist tendencies in sculpture. Many of the books still in print listed here are standard texts that are commonly cited on the subject that were originally published forty or fifty years ago. Their availability is a testament to their importance in the historiography of modern sculpture, but they have also been challenged and revised by more recent publications. Curtis 1999, for example, is a recent and inexpensive introduction that is useful for students and scholars new to the subject. Elsen 2001 is a standard text, originally published in 1974 and still in print; however, the images remain in black and white, which could have easily been revised and which weaken the more recent publication slightly. Krauss 1981 is a seminal text that refutes Elsen’s dominance in the field of modern sculpture and presents a discerning study of specific artists and objects from a theoretical point of view. Read 1956 and Read 2007 are thematic, rather than chronological, texts on modern sculpture, originally published in 1964, and it contains some artists in the last chapter who have not fully withstood the test of time; however, it is still useful for undergraduate courses and introductory reading as a part of the historiography of modern sculpture that can been approached with questions and analysis. While it is no longer in print, Selz 1968 interestingly and importantly pulls the discussion of modern sculpture into the period before Rodin and remains useful for that point of view—in other words that the question of when does the “modern” period of “modern” sculpture really begin and why it would start in one decade or century over another. The history of sculpture in general has always been problematic for scholars, not only in placing it into its proper historical place, as the artists and the objects do not always conform to the stylistic periods defined and set in the traditional canon by painters and painting but also in the medium’s three-dimensionality, its relation to place and space, and its significance within the fine arts, which has traditionally given preferential treatment to painting and painters; Trier 1962 deals with the issues and problems of sculpture. Tucker 2002, like Elsen 2001 and Read 2007, is a reprint of an often-cited text on sculpture, but in this case written by a sculptor. It suffers, like most of the older books, from poor illustrations not updated in the newer editions and a bias toward male artists; however, Tucker’s discussion of Brancusi’s sculptures at Tîrgu Jiu and the final chapter, entitled “Gravity,” still holds together well. Wagner 2005 explores modern sculpture through three British modern masters and is a fine introduction to the plastic arts in England during the period. Curtis 2008 explores the important and interconnected relationship between sculpture and architecture. Todorov 2014 discusses the roots of “elemental sculpture,” or the relationship between sculpture and natural elements.

  • Curtis, Penelope. Sculpture 1900–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Provides an overview of the major artists and themes of modern sculpture. Inexpensive and readable, it is ideal for undergraduate courses. Contains many illustrations in color. Also see Textbooks.

  • Curtis, Penelope. Patio and Pavilion: The Place of Sculpture in Modern Architecture. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.

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    The book is an overview of the role of sculpture within modernist architecture and is a study of the relationship between the two media. Chapter topics include case studies such as the work of Georg Kolbe (1877–1947) in Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion (1929), the work of Lucia Fontana (1899–1968) at the Milan Triennale in 1936, and a study of the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden in New York in 1953.

  • Elsen, Albert E. Origins of Modern Sculpture: Pioneers and Premises. New York: George Braziller, 2001.

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    Originally published 1974. Covers topics such as the “crisis” of sculpture prior to the First World War, the nude, meaning and metaphor, portraits, and the use of abstraction. In contrast to some of the other selections here, Elsen presents works primarily from the 1890s through 1918 only.

  • Getsy, David J. Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c. 1880–1930. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

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    This anthology covers the sculpture of the key figures and issues in British modern sculpture, including an essay on Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s (1891–1915) Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound written by Jon Wood.

  • Getsy, David J. “Tactility or Opticality, Henry Moore or David Smith: Herbert Read and Clement Greenberg on the Art of Sculpture, 1956.” In Anglo-American Exchange in Postwar Sculpture, 1945–1975. Edited by Rebecca Peabody. Los Angeles: Getty, 2011.

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    A critical discussion of the opposing views on postwar sculpture of Read and Greenberg.

  • Giedion-Welcker, Carola. Modern Plastic Art: Elements of Reality, Volume and Disintegration. Zurich: H. Girsberger, 1937.

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    Expanded and republished in 1955 as Contemporary Sculpture: An Evolution in Volume and Space, Alex Potts cited this book as one of the first to attempt to define modern sculpture.

  • Krauss, Rosalind. Passages in Modern Sculpture. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1981.

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    Presents a theoretical overview of the major sculptures and sculptors of the modern period, including discussions of Rodin, Futurism, Constructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism, welded sculpture, and extends the discussion of modern sculpture through conceptual shifts of the 1970s.

  • Potts, Alex. The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist. Oxford: Yale University Press, 2001.

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    Includes chapters on “Modern Figures,” “Modernist Objects and Plastic Form,” and “Modernist Sculpture,” and within those chapters, discussions on the historiography of modern sculpture and the works of Rodin, Brancusi, and David Smith.

  • Read, Herbert. The Art of Sculpture. London: Thames & Hudson, 1956.

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    An analysis of sculpture history and theory from prehistory to Read’s own day. The book is a compilation of Read’s Mellon lectures that he gave at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in 1954. The book’s emphasis on tactility was challenged by the American critic Clement Greenberg in the latter’s review of the book in the New York Times Book Review in 1956. Numerous reprints.

  • Read, Herbert. Modern Sculpture: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007.

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    Originally published 1964. A survey introduction to modern sculpture, with an emphasis on British sculpture. Discusses the medium from Rodin to the early 1960s. Also see Textbooks.

  • Selz, Jean. Modern Sculpture: Origins and Evolution. New York: George Braziller, 1968.

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    Complete survey of modern sculpture, tracing the movement further back than the work of Rodin, to the mid-nineteenth century. Includes a biographical dictionary of sculptors, especially interesting because some of the names are today wholly forgotten.

  • Todorov, Todor. Elemental Sculpture: Theory and Practice. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.

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    While the text focuses on contemporary sculpture, Todorov discusses the roots of the relationship between sculpture and the natural elements and explores the works of Hepworth, Moore, and Calder, among others.

  • Trier, Edward. Form and Space: The Sculpture of the 20th Century. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962.

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    Rather than focusing on style progression as do most other texts covering this material, Trier presents an overview of important “problems” in modern sculpture, such as those of form, meaning, and purpose.

  • Tucker, William. The Language of Sculpture. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.

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    Originally published in 1974 as Early Modern Sculpture, this is one of the standard texts on this material. All 155 illustrations remain in black and white. However, chapters cover major male artists such as Rodin, Brancusi, Picasso, González, and Matisse.

  • Wagner, Anne Middleton. Mother Stone: The Vitality of Modern British Sculpture. The Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

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    Covers a more concise period than the above texts (1910–1935) and focuses on three British moderns, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Jacob Epstein. While it lacks a bibliography, it contains substantial references in the endnotes.

  • Pop art, art in which commonplace objects (such as comic strips, soup cans, road signs, and hamburgers) were used as subject matter and were often physically incorporated in the work.

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    The Pop art movement was largely a British and American cultural phenomenon of the late 1950s and ’60s and was named by the art critic Lawrence Alloway in reference to the prosaic iconography of its painting and sculpture. Works by such Pop artists as the Americans Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselman, James Rosenquist, and Robert Indiana and the Britons David Hockney and Peter Blake, among others, were characterized by their portrayal of any and all aspects of popular culture that had a powerful impact on contemporary life; their iconography—taken from television, comic books, movie magazines, and all forms of advertising—was presented emphatically and objectively, without praise or condemnation but with overwhelming immediacy, and by means of the precise commercial techniques used by the media from which the iconography itself was borrowed. Pop art represented an attempt to return to a more objective, universally acceptable form of art after the dominance in both the United States and Europe of the highly personal Abstract Expressionism. It was also iconoclastic, rejecting both the supremacy of the “high art” of the past and the pretensions of other contemporary avant-garde art. Pop art became a cultural event because of its close reflection of a particular social situation and because its easily comprehensible images were immediately exploited by the mass media. Although the critics of Pop art described it as vulgar, sensational, nonaesthetic, and a joke, its proponents (a minority in the art world) saw it as an art that was democratic and nondiscriminatory, bringing together both connoisseurs and untrained viewers.

    Pop art was a descendant of Dada, a nihilistic movement current in the 1920s that ridiculed the seriousness of contemporary Parisian art and, more broadly, the political and cultural situation that had brought war to Europe. Marcel Duchamp, the champion of Dada in the United States, who tried to narrow the distance between art and life by celebrating the mass-produced objects of his time, was the most influential figure in the evolution of Pop art. Other 20th-century artists who influenced Pop art were Stuart Davis, Gerard Murphy, and Fernand Léger, all of whom depicted in their painting the precision, mass-production, and commercial materials of the machine-industrial age. The immediate predecessors of the Pop artists were Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, and Robert Rauschenberg, American artists who in the 1950s painted flags, beer cans, and other similar objects, though with a painterly, expressive technique.

    Some of the more striking forms that Pop art took were Roy Lichtenstein’s stylized reproductions of comic strips using the colour dots and flat tones of commercial printing; Andy Warhol’s meticulously literal paintings and silk-screen prints of soup-can labels, soap cartons, and rows of soft-drink bottles; Claes Oldenburg’s soft plastic sculptures of objects such as bathroom fixtures, typewriters, and gigantic hamburgers; Tom Wesselman’s “Great American Nudes,” flat, direct paintings of faceless sex symbols; and George Segal’s constructed tableaux featuring life-sized plaster-cast figures placed in actual environments (e.g., lunch counters and buses) retrieved from junkyards.

    Most Pop artists aspired to an impersonal, urbane attitude in their works. Some examples of Pop art, however, were subtly expressive of social criticism—for example, Oldenburg’s drooping objects and Warhol’s monotonous repetitions of the same banal image have an undeniably disturbing effect—and some, such as Segal’s mysterious, lonely tableaux, are overtly expressionistic.

    American Pop art tended to be emblematic, anonymous, and aggressive; English Pop, more subjective and referential, expressed a somewhat romantic view of Pop culture fostered perhaps by England’s relative distance from it. English Pop artists tended to deal with technology and popular culture primarily as themes, even metaphors; some American Pop artists actually seemed to live these ideas. Warhol’s motto, for example, was, “I think everybody should be a machine,” and he tried in his art to produce works that a machine would have made.

    Pop art was not taken seriously by the public, but it found critical acceptance as a form of art suited to the highly technological, mass-media oriented society of Western countries.

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