We have been talking a lot about consumerism, and our consumer culture, but how have artists dealt with this aspect of our society? As you will see next, a number have managed this in very interesting ways indeed. Many artists have embraced consumerism, while exposing its ironies and contradictions.
In the 1950s, a few artists began to find the world of mass-produced consumer goods visually and conceptually fascinating. Some celebrated its hard-edged, colourful, machine-made imagery, while others delighted in the ironic aspects of it, and still others embraced it for its “democracy”.
Later, in the 1980s, some artists turned their focus from the visual aspect of consumer culture, to the verbal – that is, the words that bombard us from advertising billboards, neon signs, and electronic public message systems. They sought to find ways to subvert these to send very different messages.
England, Europe and America in the 1950s were experiencing new levels of mass-production – factory-made products produced in huge numbers meant that identical things could be bought almost anywhere, much more cheaply. The “consumer society” was just beginning: a society of people – in Europe and America especially – who had money to spend on fun, luxury and leisure.
Pop Art in South Africa?
Is there a South African Pop Art? Certainly South African artists have expressed their deeply ironic views of our consumer culture and our materialistic desires. (Packaging printed advertising material are sometimes used to make art, as the medium itself – often because artists find conventional art materials expensive or hard to get. But this is different to using such imagery or materials to comment on our culture.)