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Contemporary Figurative Art

Finding The Intersection Between

Contemporary Figurative Art And Pop Art


Rejection of the painterly techniques of Abstract Expressionism prompted Pop artists in the 1950’s to return to a figurative style about the clean lines and flat colors of Hard-Edge painting. Pop art achieved the most widespread appreciation and commercial success out of every other modern movement because it used familiar iconography in figurative styles. 


The term “Pop art” originated in the mid-1950’s to describe an emerging group of artists that were incorporating commercial imagery into their works of art. Before Pop art emerged, most art had a purpose, it was seeking to provide value beyond aesthetic pleasure. But then Pop artists came along and completely disrupted society’s ‘definition’ of art.  The most controversial thing about pop art was: it is what it is. There was no meaning beyond what you saw. It can be said that pop art is closely derived from the short lived Dada movement from 1916-1921, where artists like Marcel Duchamp exhibited everyday objects as fine art causing an uproar about what can be considered art and what is not.  His most controversial sculpture was “Fountain” from 1917 of an upturned urinal.


Though primarily a figurative painter, Mel Ramos is often identified among contemporary pop artists for his racy depictions of women in nationally recognized brands and candies like Lifesavers, Tootsie Rolls, Baby Ruth, 100 Grand, Velveeta, and Coca-Cola. Along with famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and James Rosenquist, Mel Ramos produced art works that celebrated aspects of popular culture as represented in mass media. Ramos’s figures are draped over vastly exaggerated sizes of commercial items from popular culture, such as “Five Flavor Fannie” with a sexy blonde woman draped over a massively oversized Lifesavers candy. 


Today, female contemporary painter Chloe Wise uses familiar iconography in her paintings like in  “Tormentedly Untainted” where a woman holds a full bottle of Purell and “Which Lake Do I Prefer” where a young man is adorned in a baby blue Adidas sweat suit. Ramos and Wise are perfect examples of the intersection between Figurative and Pop art. 


You can also find this intersection of styles in my body of work where I depict individual every-day subjects adorned in street fashion, often flashing prominent logos such as Supreme, Fila and Gucci. If this kind of creative spirit in contemporary figurative art excites you, be sure to keep an eye out for my name- Marisa Rheem.

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