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SuperReal: Pop Art from the AGO Collection

Andy Warhol
Elvis I and II, 1963-64
silkscreen ink, spray paint (silver panel) and acrylic (blue panel) on linen
each panel: 208.3 x 208.3 cm (82 x 82 in.)
Gift from the Women’s Committee Fund, 1966
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, inc. / SODRAC (2015)

Claes Oldenburg
Floor Burger, 1962
Canvas filled with foam rubber and cardboard boxes, painted with latex and Liquitex
4 ft. 4in. (1.32 m ) high; 7 ft. (2.13 m) diameter
Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Purchase 1967
© 1962 Claes Oldenburg

Richard Hamilton (British, 1922-2011)
Swingeing London 1967
1968
offset colour lithograph on paper
70.5 x 50.3 cm (27 3/4 x 19 13/16 in.)
Ann and Harry Malcomson Richard Hamilton Donation, 1994
© R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved, SODRAC (2016)

Gerhard Richter, Mao, 1968, Collotype in black-purple ink on paper, 83.9 x 59.4 cm. Gift of the Roald Nasgaard Fan Club in honour of his 50th Birthday, 1991, 93/31 © Gerhard Richter 2016

Exhibition dates

January 16, 2016 – ongoing

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#PopAGO

During the 1960s, Pop artists in America responded to the consumer society that had established itself after World War II. They analyzed the impact on the modern psyche of mass culture and the access everyone seemed to have to a wealth of new products. As painter James Rosenquist said: “I am amazed and excited and fascinated about the way things are thrust at us...things larger than life, the impact of things thrown at us.” To emphasize this, Pop artists painted big pictures, used everyday objects, or sometimes grossly inflated or simply reproduced things in surprising materials. They didn't just document the popular; they confronted it. They laid bare the insatiable materialism, gluttony and excessive visual stimulation of this new world.

On display are three of the AGO's most important works of art: Claes Oldenburg's Floor Burger (1962), Andy Warhol's Elvis I and II (1963–4), and Robert Rauschenberg's Story (1964). All are gifts of or were purchased with the assistance of the Gallery's legendary Women's Committee in the 1960s.

#AGOasks

In 1964, University of Toronto professor and mass media theorist Marshall McLuhan argued that the “medium is the message.” For McLuhan, the “message” was not the content of the news story itself – it was not, for example, the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe's 1962 suicide – but instead the fact that the television delivered this information to every living room. Everyone was forced to respond to and remember these events as they were turned into tragedies to be felt across the world. The European and American Pop artists on display in Gallery 129, the Robert & Cheryl McEwen Gallery, seem to have shared McLuhan's observation.

What do you think? Do we remember Mick Jagger's arrest in 1967 and Chairman Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in China because these events were important, or is it because everyone saw these images on television? Is the medium the message? And if so, what does this mean in our current age of mobile telephones and Twitter?

Visit the Gallery, look at the works, and share your responses on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #AGOasks.

Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

This exhibition is included with general admission.

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