The 20th century became a turning point in the lives of millions of people who had been oppressed by natural course of the history for a number of years. Different ethnic and minority groups have been accepted and protected by society; women have gained voting right and promoted gender equality. Different minds brought different thoughts on art, music, fashion, politics, and life in general, drastically changing tendencies and trends of the cultural and social development. Urbanization, industrialization, and constant military activities led mainly by the US in most parts of the world shaped the directions of new society trends and movements. They have laid the basis for creating new future where black and white, poor and rich, women and men could find a happy place in the same sun.
The 1960s were marked by the emergence of pop art, conceptual, performance and op art, minimalism, feministic trends, to name a few among many others which mostly complemented to the main ones. Hard-edged abstraction as well as color-field painting brought a new look to older styles. Their followers were radical in their subjective perception of abstract expressionism – the main style of the 1950s’. Minimalistic trends of the conceptual art, often called conceptualism, rejected expressionism of the previous decade even more: A set of instructions could help anyone to become a conceptual artist, as there was no need to elaborate ideas and messages for a painting. An artist should decide on the idea and plan the following steps of the art work, and only after that start painting. For the American society, art of the 1960s is considered to be the connecting link between expressionistic ideas of the 1950s and sensibilities of the new age. Optimism for a better future after the World War I and II, technological development, longing for free, luxury life in all possible aspects, vulgar motives describe the circumstances and state of the art in the 1960s.
Conceptualism and minimalism became a so-called Edward Munch’ Scream of the modern age, negating overwhelming atrocities and horrors of the post-war time. The events and developments of this period became a history which had to be forgotten, erased, and purified. Minimalism allowed spectators to concentrate only on the most important, single element. There was no more need to read between the lines as in abstract expressionism of the 1950s. Identity of presented subjects became clear and simple. These trends allowed people to think about one thing at a time, relax in the beauty of simplicity, and reject the excessive flow of negative information of the war years. Minimalist artists proved that meaning could be efficiently conveyed with few forms, concepts, and features.
The 1960s art would not gain its full value without rapidly evolving pop art represented by David Hockney and Andy Warhol. The idea of pop art is closely linked to the one of conceptualism and minimalism – simple objects of daily use become the works of art when filled with some bright colors. Bottles of coke, comics, canned food, as well as famous faces were elevated to the forms of art.
Despite the growing popularity of the pop art, it was not quite complementing to the events going on in the country. Pop art was concentrating mostly on trifles, letting people forget about the less pleasant realities of the society. Civil Rights movement, as well as international political and economic issues was left aside. Pop artists looked at the world superficially without taking into consideration the pains and sorrows of people.
A great difference between the 1950s’ and 1960s’ art trends lies in the escalation of the Civil Rights Movement which gave birth to the changed ideas and world perception in general. Through mid-1960s and the entire next decade, oppressed ethnic groups, feminists, African-Americans, Latinos, and homosexuals started expressing their outlook on the better society freely. The Black Arts Movement showed to the depressed minor groups that they should not assimilate with the American trends. These people could finally talk about their history, rights, and ambitions, express their ideas on paper and canvas without being persecuted. It was a start of cultural renaissance for them. Despite these facts, not a large number of African-American artists were widely known, moreover accepted. Few people were interested in observing their works in art galleries, thus they were selling it directly in the streets. However, some of the African-American artists succeeded. Paintings of Horace Pippin, Norman Lewis, Jacob Lawrence,Sam Gilliam and others were depicting the changing of social attitudes, telling to the public about life and calamities of these people.
Civil Rights movement also brought out women into the streets. Until the 1960s women were considered domestic goddesses: primitive, but hardworking, absorbed in household chores and, children care, having jobs of narrow range (mostly teachers, secretaries, and nurses). Society was depriving millions of women to grow up intellectually, go into politics, and stand out for their rights. The 1960s made a difference. Protests for equality were bursting out across the whole country, gaining more and more supporters and achieving intended purposes. Male-dominating world was crashing down. The feminist art was as extravagant and powerful as the protests of thousands of women in the streets. Female artists were discovering those sides of life which would make their creations different from men’s. They depicted real women in their everyday struggle, and not just women’s beauty as men were inclined to do. The 1960s became a powerful decade of overall changes in minds of millions of people, giving them courage to stand out for their rights and fight for the future of equality and freedom for the generations to come.
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In conclusion, in the 1960s US art embraced several trends, such as pop art, conceptualism, performance and op art, minimalism. They represented the progressive view on the familiar concepts, introduced the era of freedom of artistic vision. Besides, progressive styles made it accessible for people to pursue art and have a right for self-expression. Partially, these trends led to the global society changes, inspiring oppressed segments of the people to struggle for their freedom and reputation. One of the consequents of these movements became the fact that all the people regardless of sex, race, and gender identity acquired the equal rights and could give full expression of their identities without fear in all the spheres of life, including art.