Pop Art, by T. Osterwold

My copy: 9783822870211

I admit that when I went to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston for a lecture, I usually ended up with one of these Taschen art books before I left. This one and a few others, however, I believe I got when the bookstore in the mall was closing down and I blew a semester of college tuition buying as much as I could. As art books are rarely on sale, I figured it was sweet timing.

Like most books published by Taschen about art, this one’s got a great deal of attention going into the images. Pop Art contains works by many different artists from the post-war world through the 1960s. I’ll give credit to the author for some interesting choices beyond the obvious (Andy Warhol’s cans of soup or celebrity silkscreens). Often, someone trying to re-introduce themselves to art like myself only sees Warhol’s work, with perhaps some Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns thrown in.

Thankfully, this book goes beyond the obvious (and Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Johns have their own Taschen books, if I recall).

Pop Art includes those three, but dozens of others that many art-laypeople wouldn’t know. This book is a good introduction to the general style that became known as “Pop Art,” which to my untrained eye is a bit of a mess in many respects, but with something to it. I gotta admit, though–I’m not a big fan, so take this with a grain of salt.

Pop Art is organized somewhat chaotically, a bit like the art within. Osterwold’s writing reads like an art thesis, meant for those who already understand the subject enough that they can pick up and run with it. There isn’t a dedicated, streamlined explanation for the shift to or from Pop Art, or how artists became pop artists or were essentially born into the movement. This is the first half of the book.

The second half focuses on some of the big names in the movement and dedicates short chapters to the big ones. Each chapter’s full of information on what influenced the artist, mediums used, and critiques of how their art fits into the structure. It’s not as basic as an art catalog, but I admit, part of me wants to really read some old gallery critic’s work so I can see if the descriptive framework the author uses is the same.

The last dozen pages contains biographies of most of the Pop Artists mentioned in the book, which can answer some of the questions you might have about where this person was coming from when they made their work. All in all, I did get some new info about artists I knew of (and never heard of) and saw some interesting representations of works in full color on the pages.

But I can definitely say, Pop Art‘s not really my thing. Maybe that’s why I had a hard time getting through it, and some of the analysis was over my head. Maybe with more art book readings I’ll get the gist easier.

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