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During the period 1957-64, the visual arts in America went through a dramatic transformation as the formal strategies of abstract expressionism and the modernist edifice began to crumble. These ideas gradually began to seem irrelevant in the light of popular culture, where capitalism, together with electronics, created a world of excess visual imagery.

Figure 15: Richard Hamilton. Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?
(Ades 1986: 145)

A younger group of artists began to demonstrate the direct connections between art and society, declaring their independence from modernism and formalism. They began using everyday pulp images appropriated from the mass-media to reflect on the cultural style of the consumer society that spawned them. [Figure 15] As Lawrence Alloway, the English critic who was among the first to use the phrase 'pop art', put it in 1959:

Mass production techniques, applied to accurately repeatable words, pictures and music, have resulted in an expendable multitude of signs and symbols. To approach this exploding field with Renaissance-based ideas of the uniqueness of art is crippling. Acceptance of the mass media entails a shift in our notion of what culture is. Instead of reserving the word for the highest artifacts and the noblest thoughts of history's top ten, it needs to be used more widely as a description of what society does. (Hughes 1993: 342)

This shift from art as a unique and worthy act to that of art as a reflection of, and on, its time, has paved the way for an interaction with those cultural fields which mark 'what society does'.

A major concern for the artist of the 60s, one which has become more pronounced today with Cable News Network (CNN) giving live coverage to all the major wars and revolutions going on across the globe, was that the continuous spectacle of violence and disaster had the effect of turning everyone into spectators. The dismembered wreckage of metal and flesh in Andy Warhol's Disaster Paintings (1963) [Figure 16], the brooding presence of the Electric Chairs (1967), were filtered through his application of the silk-screen medium in which he used repetition to amplify the spectator's sense of apathy.

Figure 16: Andy Warhol. White Burning Car II, 1963.
(Crone 1970: 325)

Robert Rauschenberg was attracted to silk-screen by the way in which he could use it to portray the blizzard of images that flashed across the media, television in particular. Using silk-screen to apply printed images to canvas, his found objects became found imagery from the media. 'I was bombarded with TV sets and magazines, by the refuse, by the excess of the world ... I thought that if I could paint or make an honest work, it should incorporate all of these elements, which were and are a reality.' (Kotz 1990: 99) [Figure 17]

Figure 17: Robert Rauschenberg. Signs, 1970.
(Rose 1987: 113)

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