Clockwise from top left : 1. Marshmallow Sofa, George Nelson Associates, Inc. (Irving Harper), 1956; 2. Mezzadro (No. 220), Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1954-57, © Vitra Design Museum; 3. Paper Plate, Roy Lichtenstein, 1969; 4. Untitled (Bomb), Kiki Kogelnik, c1964

Pop Art Design

Investigating the patterns in Pop Art

In 2014, PATTERNITY visited the Pop Art Design exhibition at The Barbican, London, to hunt for patterns and learn how the prolific art movement has influenced design.
Pop Art was created by artists commenting on the consumer, commodity-driven era that followed WW2, when corporations used the forces of advertising, television and media to fetishise products and sell fast luxurious lifestyles. The age of the celebrity was here, and many of the artists, such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein used the rhetoric of this outwardly confident phase to create playful, sometimes cynical, new work.

This artistic reaction to the forces of commerce inevitably influenced the look of the era too. Designers picked up on the bold colours and shapes that created a spectacle – much in the way the boisterous age of advertising did on Madison Avenue. We saw a number of objects and artworks from the movement that followed this theme – using striking shapes and colour to create brash pieces that would have got people talking.
Photo, left: Letter, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, 1955 Right: Space Trophy, Joe Tilson, 1962
Geometric patterns featured heavily across many of the pieces, as seen in those by Ettore Stottsass and George Nelson Associates, where basic shapes balance upon each other to create useable furniture. The geometric shapes also adorned surfaces, with stripes and spots jarring against each other to create playful patterns; in some cases juxtaposing the objects they are on, such as Kiki Kogelnik’s Untitled (Bomb), adding commentary as well as style.

Designers applied the Pop Art mood to everyday objects, permeating the home with fun never-seen-before crockery, chairs and soft furnishings. The plates by Ettore Stottsass and Eduardo Paolozzi are good examples of this.
Photo: Ettore Sottsas Left: Eduardo Paolozzi, Variations of a Geometric Theme
In the Pop Art Design exhibition, we found that pattern was used to create dazzling objects, referencing new print processes (Roy Lichtenstein’s half-tone artworks) or used in futuristic shapes and textures (Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni’s Stool and Guido Drocco and Franco Mello’s Cactus). This playful but considered use of simple pattern makes the Pop Art movement a firm favourite.
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