The Undeniable Impact of the 60sThe Art of the 60s
There were several memorable movements in America during the 60s. Art was undergoing a significant shift, and everything was changing. There was an air of protest against convention: Politically, socially, and artistically (Julie Baumgardner, How the 1960s’ Most Iconic Artists Made Art Contemporary, 2015). This atmosphere gave birth to movements such as pop art, Minimalism, and Fluxus, challenging the very concept of art by experimenting with form, style, or content. The 60s hosted several artistic geniuses. Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, and John Cage were only a few of these. We can get acquainted with them and others by getting a closer look at all these movements popping out in America.
Andy Warhol, the most famous artist of the movement, worked in the advertisement for a decade before deciding to take on an art-focused career path (Carin T. Ford, Andy Warhol: Pioneer of Pop Art, Berkeley Heights, 2001, 5). It was only one of the reasons why pop art emerged from the boundary between art and commercial. Consumerism and marketing had reached a level of frenzy in the United States. The bright and absurdly magnified representations in the pop art of mass-marketed goods altered their perception by the consumers (Encyclopedia, The Arts In 1960s America, 2020).
Warhol’s Campbell soup cans were among the first stars of pop art. Roy Lichtenstein’s use of the comic strip form is still in use. Claes Oldenburg was the sculptor who transferred the world of billboards into three dimensions, sculpting the mundane object in monumental dimensions (The Art Story, American Art: History and Concepts).
Minimalism’s most crucial aspect was that there wasn’t room for artistic expression in the art piece. The art’s substance was more important, and the artist would adopt an anonymous approach, restraining from personal expression (Silka P., 1960s Art, and the Age of Pop, 2014). Minimalist works typically consisted of geometrical forms, mostly in uniform color (Encyclopedia, The Arts In 1960s America, 2020).
Pinstripe paintings of Frank Stella pioneered the movement. Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Robert Morris sculpted the style: Enormous geometric shapes in uniform colors (The Art Story, American Art: History and Concepts). One of the factors that made it possible for the sculptures to attain the anonymous style was their industrial fabrication (Encyclopedia, The Arts In 1960s America, 2020). Critics were skeptical of Minimalism for not requiring skill, but the movement became very popular and was a stepping stone to other essential post-minimalist styles like conceptual art.
Fluxus and Happenings
Like pop art and Minimalism, Fluxus aimed to challenge the border between life and art. George Maciunas, in his manifesto for the movement, promoted the idea that time and space were objects for art in the same manner paint is for a painting or metal for a sculpture (The Art Story, American Art: History and Concepts). It gave birth, among other styles, to happenings and performance art. A vital revolution of incidents was about the spectator’s role, which was not merely viewers anymore; they were invited to become participants (Julie Baumgardner, How the 1960s’ Most Iconic Artists Made Art Contemporary, 2015).
John Cage’s contribution to the movement was significant; he played around with the factor of chance in his compositions. His most well-known piece, 4’33” consisted of the sounds in the environment when the performer came and sat down to play the instrument and then sat in absolute silence (The Art Story). Pop sculptor Claes Oldenburg’s Store Days was an early example of happenings (Edward Lucie-Smith).
The 60s and the art movements of the era shook the understanding of arts to its core. Today contemporary art pieces are reproducing and revisiting these movements. It’s been nearly sixty years, and still, they are more than relevant in the art scene. These movements questioned what art is and answered thoroughly, but in the end, it became hard to grasp for the spectator. The approach was towards an anti-elitist art, it was to challenge the boundary between life and art, but the blurred line still challenges the spectator.
Carin T. Ford, Andy Warhol: Pioneer of Pop Art, Berkeley Heights, 2001.
Edward Lucie-Smith, Movements in art since 1945, London, 1985.
Encyclopedia, The Arts In 1960s America, 2020, encyclopedia.com
Julie Baumgardner, How the 1960s’ Most Iconic Artists Made Art Contemporary, 2015, artsy.net
The Art Story, American Art: History and Concepts,theartstory.org
Silka P., 1960s Art and the Age of Pop, 2014, widewalls.ch
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Campbell Trademarks used with permission of Campbell Soup Company
Spoonbridge and Cherry, sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1985–88; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.© Michael Rubin Shutterstock.com
© Estate of Donald Judd /VAGA, New York/DACS, London 2020
4’33” by John Cage, for solo piano; reconstruction by David Tudor, page 1, ca 1989.