After the two exhibition Andy Warhol - Travel in Italy and the Graphitists, The Bramante Chiostro presents again a collection of works of the '60s, demonstrationg a strong intuition of the contemporary cultural taste. Let's think to the many exhibition about Pop Art present in Europe in these days, and to the two ones at the Palazzo of Esposizioni in Rome: David La Chapelle, who was a scholar of Warhol, or to Baudrillard's photos (the french phylosopher wrote the most interesting pages about Warhol and about mass media).
The main theme of this exhibition is the comparison between Pop Art in USA and in Europe, a very important question paradigmatic of the all cultural adoption of american models by Europe. In fact, european Pop Art should not be defined "pop" but generically New Figuration or New Realism (definition given by the french critic Pierre Restany) because it lacks some element of american Pop such as the blind faith in mass production, in technology, in consumism as a supreme form of social exchange.
Only the extraordinary exhibition of "Pop Art" held at the Royal Academy of London in 1990 gave importance to these differences without finding the real point of the question: the polemic attitude of european artists. While it put in evidence another aspect: the ascendence of american Pop from the experiences of the Independent Group in the '50s. The Independent Group, in fact, for the first time gave an aesthetic value to mass media images. Two sociologists of the group, Leslie Fiedler and Rayner Banham, gave the definition of "Pop" in 1956 to all those easy artistic manifestation such as advertising, the cinema of Hollywood, Elvis Presley's music. Moreover, the first pop work of art was made by Richard Hamilton in 1956, it was entitled "What Makes Today's Homes So Beautiful So Appealing", a collage of images of contemporary life style: radio, television, cinema, a body builder.
In the relationship between art and media, Pop Art has a "reportagistic" eye (M. Calvesi), it adopts the media images as they are to use their obsolescence (G. C. Argan), the power of notoriety. The images of mass media, in fact, find a place in the common social imagery and they are a sort of catalougue where the pop artists could take material for thier ready-mades. From this point of view, Pop Art can be interpreted as a further step on the path started by Duchamp. We should consider Pop Art as the last important artistic group of our century because it ends the "aesthetic" era of art before transforming itself into some other "thing", as thorized by the french philosopher R. Barthes, J. Baudrillard and the american A.C. Danto.
Pop Art, in fact, demonstrated that mass media are the most important producers of images, so art is forced to eteronomicity (kantian term to define a language that takes its rules from an external source, in this case art takes them from mass media).
Moreover, most of american popists were advertisers before than artists, such as Jasper Johns, Rauschemberg, Warhol, Rosenquist. Their knowledge of commercial art let them produce shoking and seductive images, by using techniques of advertisings: innatural colours, enlarged particulars, cut of the image to show a particular.
We could criticize that the curators of this exhibition did not give importance to cronology of Pop. We find, in fact, at the ground floor the american popists (Warhol with his Elvis and Popeye, Rosenquist with his Joan Crowford, Tom Wesselman withi his interiors hinabited by housewifes, and Mel Ramos with his pin-ups). Only upstares we find the fathers of Pop Art: Jim Dine, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, known as New Dadaists, because they re-descovered the ready-made technique, that let them take the everyday life into the canvases after a period of abstractions of Action Painting.
The italian works are quite different one another: Cesare Tacchi's Windows, Giosetta Fioroni's portraits, Fabio Mauri's Frank Sinatra (the singer is represented on a support that makes a shadow on the canvas: in my opinion it is a quite seriour formal mistake in the pop style, because Pop Art wants bidimensionality as a characteristic of the "cold" attitude towards mass media.
A little section presents the photos of Ugo Mulas, the italian photographer who showed the golden age of american Pop Arte: Jim Dine's performances, Warhol's Factory, vernissages at New York galleries, such as Leo Castelli.