Presenting a new challenge to traditional fine art in the postwar world, Pop Art was an era that spawned numerous well known artists that continue to influence contemporary art today. Mel Ramos is hailed as one of the early pioneers of Pop Art in America, exhibiting with contemporaries that include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Wayne Thiebaud to name a few. His work celebrates aspects of popular culture as represented in mass media through his depictions of superheroes and the female nude emerging from candy wrappers, Chiquita bananas, and lounging in martini glasses. His hyper-realistic figurative renderings and bold swaths of color converge to create pivotal commentaries of mass culture, advertising, and mundane cultural objects typically elevated to a crucial status. Ramos’ crucial role in art history has influenced numerous painters over the last five decades, including fellow artists in The Power of Pop.
Delving even further into technological abstraction with a pop art aesthetic, John Waguespack creates abstract, figurative, and linear paintings that are relatable to the techno-symbols of our time. His technique is an homage and a contemporary reimagination of the original Pop Art aesthetic founded by Ramos, using bold colors to form iconic images of pivotal figures that are then abstracted through linear marking across each canvas or squares evocative of pixelation. His work has been featured at Art Basel Miami's Scope Art Fair, LA Art Show, and others including the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (LACD). Waguespack has held over 40 exhibitions throughout the United States, and was nominated for a SECA award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He creates works covering a broad spectrum of styles including abstract expressionism, surreal pop and linear deconstruction, marking him as an artist of our times.
While studying under Ramos, Gabriel Navar honed his technique and founded his aesthetic as one that challenges the conformity of digital art as a prescribed medium for artists of his generation. The increase of technological use in fine art painting has been a longstanding issue and progressive step for contemporary painters – it allows for a more refined technique while simultaneously, and somewhat hypocritically, also being regarded as an inherent lack of technique. Navar takes these notions into consideration and merges techniques of the old masters with not only a pop art aesthetic but also the modern technological world. Each painting is a reminiscent of numerous eras but could only have been created now with a massive amount of imagery at our fingertips courtesy of technological advancement. Navar’s most recent work includes celebrity and public figures, from the Pope to President Obama moved by a new generation of selfies taken on mobile phones.
These three artists, spanning more than half a century, come together to form an inter-generational view of Pop Art in America. Although artistic movements change rapidly, they are consistently a reflection of the time in which we live. Each artist utilizes their own technique to create commentaries on omnipresent technological growth through mass production, the internet, and even social media.
The Power of Pop will be on view at Gregorio Escalante Gallery from February 18 - March 26, 2017 with a public opening reception Saturday, February 18 from 7-10pm.
Project Contributions by: Noel Knight – Project Director, Eric Murphy – Project Manager and Co-curator, Tressa Berman, Ph.D. – Art Consultant, Rochelle Leininger – Project Manager.