Pop Art was a revolutionary art movement excited in the mid-1950s in Britain, then followed by the United States in the late 1950s.
The term “Pop” originated from the quote, “popular mass culture” in the essay by Lawrence Alloway the Britich art critic and curator.
As a response to the wealthy Post World War II society and the growth of materialism and consumerism, Pop art focused on materials that can be easily found in people’s everyday living environment. As Lawrence Alloway stated, instead of “an aesthetic that isolated visual art from life and from the other arts, there emerged a new willingness to treat our whole culture as if it were art” . Along with a growth of such innovative ideas, a number of designers in the 60s were increasingly influenced and inspired by the Pop movement. The major markets subject to influence included fine arts, fashion design, and last but not least, the furniture industry.
The influence of Pop Art Furniture design during the 1960s was so obvious that it is surprising to find the term, “Pop Furniture” never mentioned before in history. In fact, it is quite difficult to define Pop Art Furniture not only because nobody has ever specified it in the past, but also because even Pop art itself has so many different characteristics and purposes depending on each artists portraying them. Cara Greenberg, in his book “Op to Pop”, introduces two major ways to distinguish them: some by a “specific pop-cultural reference”, and others through “simply bright primary colors, basic geometries, or oversized scale, which are links to Pop impulse”. To narrow these two broad categories down a bit, I will focus on the three major attitudes that Pop Art Furniture tends to take: dealing with the most contemporary issues of the time, having strong but unrestricted point of view and style, and lastly being short-lived but lifetime noteworthy.
First, Pop Art Furniture resembles its origin with Pop art in the “popular mass culture.” Pop art, as an ironic and humorous way to comment on the contemporary society, often used market products, celebrities, comic strips, and advertisements as its raw material. A perfect example of a furniture piece inspired by a typical medium for Pop culture is a Bocca sofa or Marilyn sofa produced by Studio 65 in 1972. This iconic piece of modern sofa in an oversized shape of simple but bold red lips became famous world-wide and sells for $8,595 today. The materials used were cold expanded polyurethane and elasticized fabric cover. There were two major inspirational characters known for this Pop furniture design: Salvador Dali and Marilyn Monroe. Studio 65’s sofa reminds me of the most significant Pop artist Andy Warhol and his massive production of silk screen prints with Marilyn Monroe icon. They both took the subject from what is already out there, and reinterpreted into their own style and with their own perspective on it. What makes the Marilyn sofa so special is that it looks too cartoonish as furniture, and too realistic to be just a mock-up blob of lips; moreover, it functions perfectly as any other sofas do. Amazingly, the natural characteristic of a lip-the soft and curvy outlines and an elegant folding between the upper and lower lips make the sofa visually and physically attractive that not only offers you a seat, but also a mouthful of chatter. Another beauty of this particular form is that it dramatically differs from each angle, looking like a plain normal sofa from the side. The sofa is only produced in red-the most iconic color of Pop art, and of course, the lips. The literal identity and role of lips allow the sofa to speak for its own social standing and point of view.
Second, Pop Art Furniture ‘pops up’ with its bold color usage and minimalistic design, just like Pop art never forgot to give an accented focal point to its viewers. Pop art, regardless to its simple and superficial characteristics, hardly allows the viewers to get lost or bored when examining it. At first glance, it strikes you with its own stylistic or color identity, but the rest of the interpretation remains solely yours, without any restrictions or guidelines. The example of Pop Art Furniture that especially cares about the consumer’s personal taste or playfulness may be the Malitte lounge furniture by Roberto Sebastian, manufactured in 1965. The materials involved in production were polyurethane foam and wool. An interesting fact was that the five separate slices of the blobby looking furniture came together to a single, perfect cube. The chairs’ light weight and free forms let the user arrange them however they want, and create a personalized space. These ideas fit into the basic concept of Pop art, which highlights itself as well as its surroundings through novelty and faddishness. When I saw this “jigsaw puzzle of foam” in the Museum of Modern Arts in NY, my very first attention went to the yellow piece in the middle of the cube. Honestly, I might have not noticed such a wonderful piece of work if that smallest yellow piece did not catch my eye. It was not only the eye-catching color, but also the fact that this piece was placed in the middle. It made me speculate about the piece, making me want to look for connections between each piece more carefully. It was obvious that the insightful speculations and thorough planning have gone through the building process of this simple, yet eye-catching piece of Pop furniture.
Third, the continuous discovery of new materials and the effort to define the fundamental purpose of art influenced Pop art as well as the Pop Art Furniture to become a temporary statement without a demand for sustainability or permanency. The materials discovered and used during the 1960s as a rebellion against an accepted style included “plastics, metallic fibers, and even paper”. If the most popular design among the youth group in the disposable fashion market was the temporary mini paper dress, there was the air-inflatable furniture in the home business. “Blow-up furniture was a direct outgrow of the utopian pneumatic architecture movement”. Despite the possibility of air leak while in use and low durability of the material, this revolutionary idea with which they could travel anywhere desired was appealing enough for the youth group. By producing visually appealing designs out of cheap material, New York sculptor Philip Orenstein criticized the money-oriented American Post WWII society. Although this boom was short-lived due to the physically, economically, and environmentally unhealthy elements of the thin plastic shells, it was technologically advanced enough to fill the entire apartment with air supported furniture; including sofa, bed, pillows, etc. The question of whether art or design has to be preserved permanently in its original form is still one of the biggest issues often brought up by the artists, designers, and viewers. The inflatable furniture of the 60s was one of the most influential examples in placing such debate, and still remains a big part of our leisure necessities.
The Pop Art Furniture, furniture designs in 1960s directly or indirectly influenced by Pop art movement, was a direct translation of Pop art’s focus on everyday living into an object. Due to a very intimate relationship between furniture and our life-style, it is not an overstatement to say that furniture from the 60s was the most practical version of living Pop-art. As a reaction to the mass culture of post World War II era, Pop Art Furniture constantly made a clear statement and led disoriented hearts along the path of restoration through use of bold, symbolic colors and various kinds of materials to fit the needs of industry as well as the consumers. In conclusion, Pop Art Furniture was a retranslations of “popular mass culture” through its own minimalistic but bold style, in a faddish attitude that resembled the consumers’ materialistic minds in the 1960s.
Origin from http://jujootm.blogspot.com/2008/10/popfurniture.html