Modern Design | Anna Powell Lecture

Friday 19th December

Today’s session focused on Appropriation within Art and Design. Once introduced to this subject, I was enthusiastic as it is something that I have touched upon before and intend to use for my 2500 word essay.

The definition of Appropriation according to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) is as follows:

Appropriation is the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects. It is a strategy that has been used by artists for millennia, but took on new significance in mid-20th-century American and Britain with the rise of Consumerism and the Proliferation of popular images through mass media outlets from magazines to television. 

Anna then moved on to talk about examples of Appropriation within Pop Art. Again, this interested me as my previously project strongly explored Pop Art. Artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselman and Roy Lictenstein reproduced juxtaposed or repeated mundane everyday images from popular culture- both absorbing and acting as a mirror for the ideas, interactions, needs, desires and cultural elements at the time.

Pop Artists did images that anyone walking down the street would recognise in a split-second-comics, picnic tables, men’s pants, celebrities, refrigerators, Coke Bottles.”

-Andy Warhol

Lichtenstein was one of the first American Pop artists to achieve widespread renown. When he created his comic strip inspired paintings he was first accused of lack of originality and copying. However, over years his iconic images have become synonymous with Pop art. Lichtenstein’s inspirations came from the culture at large and suggested little of the artist’s individual feelings, which I find rather interesting.

I have always been familiar with this style of pop art; but never known a name to put into place for it. I think Lichtenstein’s paintings our perfectly made to represent popular culture. His work looks like a combination of vintage and modern, influenced by comic strips which people have grown up with as a child, teenager or young adult.

Today, appropriating, remixing and sampling images and media is common practice for visual, media and performance artists, yet such strategies continue to challenge traditional notions of originality and test the boundaries of what it means to be a n artist.

Vintage Nostalgia 

Anna then moved onto talking about how appropriation is relevant in vintage nostalgia. This is because many artists tap into representation of the past and create work based on nostalgia. There are artists such as Kevin Walsh who paint realistic subject landscapes illustrations exploring different time periods. There are also artists that have taken to a collage style approach, and using vintage nostalgia such as newspaper, ephemeral materials, and imagery to represent a certain representation of the past. A good example of this is mixed media artist Michelle Thompson.

We then moved onto to talking about Marcel Duchamp who was a Pioneer of the Dada movement what questioned long-held assumptions about what art should be and how it should be made. Duchamp began presenting objects as art themselves. He selected mass-produced, commercially available, often utilitarian objects, designating them as art and giving them titles. “Readymades” as Duchamp called them, disrupted centuries of thinking about the artists role as a skilled creator of original handmade objects. Instead, Duchamp argued “An ordinary object (could be) elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist”.

The readymade also defined the notion that art must be beautiful. Duchamp claimed to have chosen everyday mundane objects based on a reaction of visual indifference. In doing so, he paved the way for conceptual art. A perfect example of Duchamp’s readymades is his piece “The Fountain”.

Another example of Duchamp’s work of appropriation is his piece “L.H.O.O.Q”. This was a cheap postcard sized reproduction of the great Mona Lisa, upon which Duchamp drew a mustache and a goatee. Mona Lisa was chosen due to how famous the painting was, therefore more people will understand the concept of the “readymade”. Made in 1919 and is one of the most well known act of degrading a famous work of art. The title when translated puns the phrase “Elle a chaud au cul” coloquially means in french that “She has a hot ass”. It is said that the facial hair is supposed to in some way sign the image as a Duchamp piece by imitating his appearance. However this is not accurate.  This innovative “readymade” portrays postmodern themes of humour within art.

Appropriation of Appropriation 

In some cases, artists would create “appropriation of appropriation” work, in which duplicated the concept of appropriation and took it a step further. A good example of this is Banksy’s “Mooner Lisa”.

Again this has strong postmodern themes of humour, and is used more obviously. There is also the “Show me the Monet” example in which Banksey has taken an existed painting by Monet and recreated it in a contemporary style with current political and economical themes.

It is not unusual for designers or artists to use an existing piece of work and recreate it for another purpose, and is a perfect example of appropriation. Below shows another original art piece and a recreated version for advertisement intentions.

The original image by artist Herbert Matter, who brought photography to the table of International Swiss style in a way that was fresh and interesting. Using this admiration, Paula Scher recreating the image advertising the watch company “Swatch”. Scher said that it was “crying out for Swatch watch”.

Napalm- Banksy 2005

The photograph of the naked child was taken from the Vietnam war, and Banksy has decided to include the faces of Mickey Mouse and Ronald Mcdonald. This image is a juxtaposition using two large U.S brands, focusing on American popular culture and consumerism. It is a social comment on the way other cultures look at Americans in respect to how they see themselves and the vice-versa of how America see itself through the eyes of others.

In 1991, Sherrie Levine created an appropriation of the “Fountain”, readymade by Marcel Duchamp. This was a very postmodern principle, and shows how artistic innovation is often built from the past.

What is Parody? 

A parody imitates a work of art, literature, or music for the purpose of making playful fun or a joke of the original work. It may take an ironic or cynical approach to the work it is imitating or may just be for comedic relief. Most times, a parody involves a serious work that has been changed to make it seem absurd by mocking or pointing out shortcomings in the original work. This imitation is similar to and may also be referred to as burlesque, a lampoon or a spoof.

Film is a popular industry where a parody may be created. Iconic films that contain a parody of an original work include the Scary Movie series, which are spoofs of many top box office horror films and Spaceballs, which spoofs the George Lucas film Star Wars. Numerous others exist, many of which star infamous Hollywood comedians.

What is Satire?

Satire is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity, particularly in the context of contemporary politics or other issues.

Gerald Scarfe is famous for his satirical illustrations.  Worked with magazines such as: Punch and Private Eye, before moving on to the Sunday Times where he created political illustrations of figures such as Boris Johnson and Tony Blair.

Is appropriation plagiarism? 

What is a Pastiche? 

A pastiche is a work of visual art, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates

I found this lecture rather interesting, and I hope that it will support my chosen essay topic.