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Pop Art was a Modern art movement that emerged durring the mid-twentieth century in both England and America. It first began to gain recognition in the early 1950’s, after about twenty years of Abstract, as artists altered their attention and looked to change. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Pop Art became much more popular to the general public and successful for the movement’s artists due to the world growing tired of the repeditive forms of Abstract. Found in the Menil Collection, Seated Woman and Lavender Disaster are two examples of Pop Art. The comparison of these two pieces shows although they differ in medium and subject matter both Seated Woman and Lavender Disaster share common underlying themes possesed by all Pop Art.
George Segal was an American artist from New York. He began experamenting with the use of a new kind of medical bandage designed for setting fractures, and he developed a techniquie using these bandages to make plaster casts. This allowed Segal to produce a figure that kept the essential human traits with out great detail, and also enabled these figures to be cast directly from a live model. It is in this way that George Segal created Seated Woman in 1967.
Andy Warhol was a graphic artist, painter, and film maker, amoung other things, also associated with Pop Art. He moved to New York, around 1950, where he did his first advertisements as a comercial artist and, later, began showing in expositions. One technique employed by Warhol involved repeditive silk screen prints on canvas. He used this method to produce many series of prints with various, easily reconizable images. Between 1962 and 1964 in his self titled studio “The Factory”(Phaidon 484), Warhol produced over two thousand pictures. One of these, Lavender Disaster, was made in 1963 and belonged to a series of pictures all including the same image of an electric chair.
The subjet matter of these two Pop Art examples is for the most part quite different, although there are some similarities. George Segal’s piece is a white plaster figure on a wooden chair with a vinyl seat pad. The figure is sitting sideways in the chair, with her right side being closest to the back of the chair.
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Warhol’s Lavender Disaster is silk screen ink and acrylic on canvas. This picture is made from a total of fifteen square shaped prints in three colums and five rows. This is not to say, however, that the rows and colums are all in alignment. Some prints are crooked and even overlapping, making the picture look as if it were hastily thrown together. The color of the prints is the same screaming violet for each, though there is some variation in tint, contrast, and clarity. Generaly speaking, the images become darker and more obscure as they go across the rows from left to right, and down own the colums. The image Warhol used was of a room. A door in the back of the room on the right side has a sign over it which reads “silence.” On the left side, in back, a rectangular coloum rises up and out of view. In the middle of both the room and the image itself is a rectangular mat. This mat is placed on the floor in alignment with the room, meaning that the mat’s back edge runs along the same angle as the room’s back wall and so on. Placed on this mat is an empty electric chair which is also calibrated with the rooms walls and mat.
The simularities that exist between these compositions comes from the artists’ techniques used and the meaning behind it. First, both Seated Woman and Lavender Disaster have a rushed, unfinished sense to them. Segal’s plaster figure has very little detail, and the surface is rough textured and bumpy. You get a feeling of detachment from her. Warhol’s piece contains many imperfictly aligned prints made by an impersonal screening process. He also did nothing to cover up smeared prints or other mistakes. All of these traits suggest anonymity.