Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. It employed aspects of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. One of the most prominent authors was Andy Warhol and one of his most famous works is painting Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962, MoMA). It consists of thirty-two canvases, each measuring 20 inches (510 mm) in height × 16 inches (410 mm) in width and each consisting of a painting of a Campbell’s Soup can—one of each of the canned soup varieties the company offered at the time.
Also, till the mid May there are two interesting pop art exhibitions in Albertina in Vienna: Roy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings (1961-68) and Mel Ramos: Girls, Candies & Comics. Mel Ramos is a US painter, whose early work celebrated aspects of popular culture as represented in mass media. He became famous in the late 1960s with paintings that included the pin-ups girls. It was Ramos’ satire on brand advertising, with stylish pin-up girls in oil paintings, wrapped lustfully around Coke bottles, cigarette packages or pieces of diced cheese.
Recently I came across an artist who included brands and logos on his paintings. The first association was of course Warhol and the second was: that shouldn’t be paid product placement. He is an American visual artist Alex Gross, established as an author in the Pop Surrealism movement. Last autumn Alex Gross had an exhibition Discrepancies in Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York. On gallery’s website they wrote:
To complement the larger canvases, several smaller pieces on panel and paper parody the visual vernacul
ar of our generation—magazine ads, billboards, and television commercials. References to brands such as Apple, British Petroleum, Marlboro, and Coca-Cola add timeliness to the otherwise timeless aesthetic of Gross’ work.
In an interview for E-Junkie Gross admitted that he’s influenced by the world around him and by advertising imagery, because it’s inescapable in the world around us. He continued “And there is great beauty in some advertising. Since everything in the world is now connected with selling products, I feel that advertising is a really timely issue to be referencing in my work.”
Alan Macdonald is another painter who uses brands on his paintings. Macdonald is a Scottish author who creates seemingly traditional paintings (like some Dutch masters) that have a subversive note lurking under the surface, i.e. he incorporates modern products/brands or objects and additionally adds some words below the main image. Those words are usually some cool lyrics.
Brands have been present on paintings for more than 60 years, at first as an important part of pop art. In today’s art we can’t really categorize brands on paintings as product placement, but paintings which include brands certainly give message that we live in a branded world. And brands somehow follow us on every corner.
You can find more paintings from Alex Gross, Alan Macdonald and Mel Ramos at Brands&Films Facebook page.