When Pop Turned The Art World Upside Down

Andy Warhol and friends oversaw the death of a centuries-old tradition and the birth of the postmodern.

“It was like a science fiction movie—,” wrote the late curator and art critic Henry Geldzahler, “you Pop artists in different parts of the city, unknown to each other, rising up out of the muck and staggering forward with your paintings in front of you.” Geldzahler’s lines, with their playful lugubriousness, were apt. When the innovators of pop embarked on their mature work, much of which was uncannily similar and all of which explored the same terrain—American consumer culture—almost none knew what any of the others were doing, or even that they existed. Pop arose spontaneously, an authentic movement, an organic response to new realities.

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