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First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha

by Hal Foster Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 352 pages
AU$79.99 NZ$82.60
Product Status: Out of stock. Not available to order.
Who branded painting in the Pop age more brazenly than Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Ed Ruscha? And who probed the Pop revolution in image and identity more intensely than they? In The First Pop Age, leading critic and historian Hal Foster presents an exciting new interpretation of Pop art through the work of these Pop Five.  

Beautifully illustrated in color throughout, the book reveals how these seminal artists hold on to old forms of art while drawing on new subjects of media; how they strike an ambiguous attitude toward both high art and mass culture; and how they suggest that a heightened confusion between images and people is definitive of Pop culture at large. As The First Pop Age looks back to the early years of Pop art, it also raises important questions about the present: What has changed in the look of screened and scanned images today? Is our media environment qualitatively different from that described by Warhol and company? Have we moved beyond the Pop age, or do we live in its aftermath?

A masterful account of one of the most important periods of twentieth-century art, this is a book that also sheds new light on our complex relationship to images today.

Homo Imago 1

Chapter 1: Richard Hamilton, or the Tabular Image 17

Chapter 2: Roy Lichtenstein, or the Cliché Image 62

Chapter 3: Andy Warhol, or the Distressed Image 109

Chapter 4: Gerhard Richter, or the Photogenic Image 172

Chapter 5: Ed Ruscha, or the Deadpan Image 210

Pop Test 249

Notes 253

Photography and Copyright Credits 321

Subject Index 323

Title Index 335





‘‘Foster's book offers the most sustained demonstration to date of the once contested belief that, far from merely reproducing their source materials, Pop paintings reinvent them. . . . Foster shines here. . . . His great pages on $he (1958-61 . . .) are unmatched in their grasp of tabular painting.’’ - Anne Wagner, London Review of Books

‘‘Foster is an erudite analyst of the five artists he has chosen--Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Ed Ruscha--and an illuminating guide to their paintings and sculpture. . . . For readers interested in placing Pop art in the contexts of postmodernist and postructuralist theories of subjectivity, Foster's book will be an important reference work. But for a general reader more interested in the history and evolution of Pop,The First Pop Age is most provocative for the ideas half-hidden or unstated in the text about Pop's rise and fall, ideas suggested by Foster's juxtapositions of artists and works and his increasing emphasis on the traumatic, distressed, and apocalyptic strains in Pop imagery.’’ - Elaine Showalter, Literary Review

‘‘Foster digs deep into the work of five pop painters: Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Ed Ruscha, paying particular attention to the formal qualities and often complex processes they used to create their paintings. This marks a shift from traditional readings of pop, which privilege subject matter over form. . . . Revolutionary. . . . Foster expertly leads us through the intricacies of one of art history's most popular movements.’’ - Anny Shaw, Art Newspaper

‘‘[Foster] brilliantly weaves a history of five Pop artists, including Andy Warhol, to detail his proposition that Pop Art, as much as it came as a reaction to the pressures of modernity, was centrally concerned with the role of the image in contemporary culture.’’ - Joel Kuennen, ArtSlant

‘‘The First Pop Age presents a fresh and highly engaging take on one of the most worked-over movements in the history of art. . . . Any book by Foster, Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, is something of an event in art history circles and The First Pop Age is no exception. It is lavishly illustrated throughout.’’

‘‘Drawing on historical and theoretical contexts, this volume explores how these artists (Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Gerhard Richter, and Ed Ruscha) exploited new subjects and media in the context of traditional art forms. Richly illustrated with numerous color reproductions, the book also reveals how the work of these key figures evidenced an ambiguous attitude toward mass culture and high art.’’

‘‘Copiously illustrated, the book is full of sharp insights into Pop social contexts as well as the art itself. And it reminds us why the style takes its name from 'popular.'‘’ - Dan Bischoff, Newark Star-Ledger

‘‘Anyone seeking a crisp argument for the importance of contemporary art history should welcome the introduction of Hal Foster's latest book,The First Pop Age. . . . [Foster's] set of claims, briskly laid out, offers a model for what art history might now aim to achieve. . . . [The First Pop Age] is the definitive book on Pop and subjectivity. It is a book we have needed for some time. It is only a bonus, then, that The First Pop Age is such a pleasure to read. Foster's voice is lively and bright; one has the feeling of listening to a series of captivating scholarly talks, ideas tumbling out as if effortlessly. The compact volume is simply designed but lushly illustrated, a perfect size for toting and dipping into, one essay at a time. . . . [A]n excellent book--a significant contribution to the huge literature on Warhol. . . . The First Pop Age is a virtuosic summation of thoughts Foster has been working on for years, and cumulatively it offers some of art history's most piercing characterizations of recent capitalist subjectivity. . . . It is no surprise that Foster has produced such a powerful account. He has been a major figure in modernist art history for thirty years--having demonstrated just how richly valuable art can be as a means for understanding twentieth-century experience. . . . [T]his book is indispensible. We will not soon find a better or more convincing statement of the ways in which popular culture has fashioned a new subject.’’ - Joshua Shannon, Art Journal

‘‘The First Pop Age is a remarkable book: it offers a series of trenchant models for understanding how five key Pop artists remade the modern picture and, in doing so, took on some of the most crucial issues of our time - mass media, consumer culture, trauma, and selfhood - as well as the possibilities of painting itself.’’ - Leah Dickerman, Museum of Modern Art

‘‘Pursuing brilliant close readings of art with a light theoretical touch, Foster shows how five artists at once relished and questioned the fundamental changes in ourselves and our images that defined the 1950s and 1960s. No one has thought Pop better.’’ - Harry Cooper, National Gallery of Art

‘‘Foster probes Pop's core obsessions: sex and death, celebrity and anonymity, fetishism and indifference, the machine and the body. Exploring the subjective dynamics of a supposedly antisubjective art, and the political implications of a putatively apolitical art,The First Pop Age offers a fresh account of 'distressed' masculinity in Cold War culture.’’ - Mignon Nixon, Courtauld Institute of Art

‘‘This is a deeply insightful, elegantly written, original, and important book that pushes beyond accepted pieties about Pop art and provides a refreshing new take on it. Seen through Hal Foster's lens, the paintings and writings of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha constitute remarkably astute engagements with pop culture at the very moment of its full emergence.’’ - Michael Leja, University of Pennsylvania

‘‘With visual and analytical acuity, Hal Foster offers a view of Pop art that is both genuinely new and generously open to further development. Engagingly written, with a keen sense of the shifting stakes of Pop across different contexts and careers, Foster's book is sure to become a standard reference for specialists and general readers alike.’’ - Graham Bader, Rice University

‘‘InThe First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha, Hal Foster tries to bring thinking back to Pop Art by arguing that it began with thinking - specifically, the same kind of thinking that could save art today. . . . Foster truly excels when he takes on Warhol, who sits at the center of all things Pop like a bewigged Satan at the frosty center of Dante's Hell, with all things Pop eventually feeding down to him. . . . Hal Foster's The First Pop Age makes the Pop Artists of years gone by seem not only much more serious than ever, but also much more seriously relevant to our image-confused modern consciousness than ever.’’ - Bob Duggan

<div>Ernest Aryeetey, secretary general, African Research Universities Alliance</div>
Hal Foster is the Townsend Martin Class of 1917 Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, and the author of many books, including 'The Return of the Real', 'Design and Crime', 'Prosthetic Gods', and 'The Art-Architecture Complex'. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2010 recipient of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing and the 2011 Siemens Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.