Pop Departures

Pop Departures

Seattle Art Museum

Josephine Meckseper, American Mall, 2010. Mixed media, 120 x 282 x 48 inches. © Josephine Meckseper. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

October 7, 2014

Pop Departures
October 9, 2014–January 11, 2015

Seattle Art Museum
1300 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
T +1 206 654 3100


More than 50 years after American pop art made its debut in the early 1960s, many of the issues first raised by the pioneers of pop remain pressing for artists working today. The exhibition centers on the topics of consumerism and display, as well as our ongoing infatuation with celebrity culture, all of which are bound up tightly with a constantly changing media and communications landscape. Pop Departures is organized by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and on view October 9, 2014–January 11, 2015. 

The exhibition focuses on three decisive artistic as well as social and economic moments. It opens with key works from the 1960s by artists who first defined our understanding of pop—including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Robert Indiana, Ed Ruscha, and Tom Wesselmann. Their interventions in the very fabric of commercial imagery and consumer goods came in reaction to the buoyant consumer optimism of the post-war period. They prompted an engagement with that media world, its materials and techniques, and they negotiated the status of the artwork within art history and a larger market economy.

The exhibition then considers the criticality towards photography in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when growing deregulation led to changes in the media industry and a merging of advertisement and entertainment. Artists such as Robert Heinecken, Barbara Kruger, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Richard Prince appropriated commercial images to craft messages that exposed the quiet seduction of the photographic image in establishing norms and shaping identities. 

With the shift into a digital era, consumer culture has again undergone profound changes with large volumes of purchases conducted online. The critical approaches by contemporary artists such as Josephine Meckseper, Elad Lassry, and Rachel Harrison focus on the aesthetics of product display. Much of their work is predicated on making the easy consumption of objects strange, and forcing us to look slowly, carefully at a time when our consumption of images seems increasingly accelerated. In this brave new world, the status of the artwork appears more precarious than ever. 

The issues relating to the commercial and artistic display of goods are intimately connected to our infatuation with celebrity culture. Andy Warhol’s reinvention of portraiture through the lens of celebrity set the stage in the early 1960s. Warhol’s understanding of media and celebrity, and his successful invention of himself as pop icon and art star has transformed artists of later generations. Jeff Koons continues where Warhol left off as an artist celebrity whose work mines the aesthetics of mass-produced kitsch. That model of the artist as celebrity remains influential to this day. At the opposite end of the spectrum, and on a grass roots level, our understanding and desire for celebrity and self-promotion has changed profoundly in the digital era. Artists such as Amie Siegel and Ryan Trecartin are probing this changing terrain, and its implications, in their video installations.

Pop Departures is accompanied by an illustrated catalog with an essay by Catharina Manchanda and contributions by Ken Allan, Anne Ellegood, Elodie Evers, Hal Foster, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Josephine Meckseper, Richard Meyer, Mickalene Thomas, and James Voorhies. The catalog is co-published by the Seattle Art Museum and Yale University Press. 

The exhibition is organized by the Seattle Art Museum and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Special Exhibitions at SAM are made possible by donors to SAM Fund for Special Exhibitions. 

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October 7, 2014

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