The Art Pop Primer

Art Pop is here and it’s as cool as the patches on your professor’s elbows. There are many tenets and variations but one unifying rule: Art Pop is a style more intent on bursting bubbles than creating them. Where Pop Art sought to celebrate, Art Pop seeks to implicate, impugn, or reform.

There are plenty of people making Art Pop, some of whom are openly advocating for it. I’m not just talking about “protest art,” though Art Pop often targets corruption and oligarchy. It’s wonky. It’s specific. Art Pop names its enemies. The Art Pops are prolific, prickly, literary, and aggressively “indypendent.”

I’ve made a short list of my favorites and remixed some jpegs into an awful album cover – it’s a grouping sure to annoy anyone on it or off it. To keep it spicy, I included a comedian and a professor/lawyer/social activist.

Finally, I wrote a slightly longer description of Art Pop at the end of the post. Consider that part extra credit – liner notes for real fanatics.

Sorry and you’re welcome.

Who’s the Who?

William Powhida


Wonky Issues: late capitalism / oligarchy / the art market
Enemies: Jeff Koons, Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Colen, Jules de Balincourt, Dana Schutz, Zach Feuer, the banking system etc. etc.
Remixed Spirit Animal: Tyler Durden, Mark Lombardi, William Hogarth, and Holden Caulfield as the four horsemen of the apocalypse


Jennifer Dalton


Wonky Issue: gender disparity
Enemies: the invisible phallus constantly thwacking America’s frontal lobe
Remixed Spirit Animal: Susan B. Anthony as an unmasked Guerrilla Girl

Hennessy Youngman


Wonky Issue: racial disparity / MFA culture
Enemies: weak emcees, weak EmEffAyes
Remixed Spirit Animal: Cornel West as the misunderstood big bad wolf

The Bruce High Quality Foundation


Wonky Issues: MFA culture / museum culture / culture at large
Enemies: broken dreams, student debt, art stars
Remixed Spirit Animal: Allan Kaprow as the University of Phoenix rising from the ashes

Marc Maron


Wonky Issues: righteous and truthful comedy
Enemy: the typical American consumer / prop comedy
Remixed Spirit Animal: Bill Hicks reincarnated as a wise but feral cat

Lawrence Lessig


Wonky Issue: campaign finance reform, copyright law
Enemy: institutional corruption, K Street, Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the MPAA
Remixed Spirit Animal: David Byrne as Humpty Dumpty

Art Pop’s Greatest Hits

1. #Class – William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton

2. The Gate: Not the Idea of the Thing, but the Thing Itself – The Bruce High Quality Foundation

3. How to Make an Art – Hennessy Youngman

4. What Are We Not Shutting Up About? – Jennifer Dalton

5. Enemies and Allies – William Powhida

6. “Cultural Commons” – Lawrence Lessig

7. Interview with Carrot Top – Marc Maron

8. Female Gaze – Hennessy Youngman

9. “On Normalcy” – Marc Maron

10. Cool Guys Like You – Jennifer Dalton

11. “Derivatives” – William Powhida

12. “Rootstrikers” – Lawrence Lessig

13. Teach 4 Amerika- Bruce High Quality Foundation

Extra Credit (Liner Notes):

Art Pop is not great art – it’s ungrate art. It is suspicious of its venue, its maker, its audience, and its collectors or patrons. It’s initially off-putting and doesn’t rely on beauty or craft. Though it’s helpful to have a primer in the topics of an Art Pop’s ire, the Pops typically describe the bubble they intend to burst.

You might change your worldview after seeing some Art Pop, but that’s because you’re the kind of person who actively looks for reasons to change. Your interest in Art Pop probably means you are the 1% of the liberal arts economy. You are a vast consumer of culture, but that knowledge does not always equate to power.

If Art Pop could have a motto it would be “Question Everything.” The first thing an Art Pop would tell you is that “Question Everything” is a bullshit motto, since the motto itself has to be questioned. Art Pop is suspicious even of its own right to exist.

For the Art Pops, inequity is the holiest subject and form. Inequity abounds and it’s beautiful, sad, verdant. An entire oeuvre exists in this paradox: the institutionally backed, corporate-funded quest for proprietary patronage of “Great Art” is a cultural battleground. It is a non-egalitarian misery but also the only functioning economic engine for living artists. It’s nothing new. Groucho Marx could dig it: “Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my wallet.”

The Art Pops deal in rhetoric, conjecture, satire, and contempt. Sometimes the Pops present solutions to intractable problems, but often they are more concerned with identifying the central components of an issue and describing its parameters.

Perhaps what I love most of all about the Art Pops is the surrender to indulgence or insanity that motivates anyone to criticize the ocean from inside the guts of a whale. It’s the kind of reckless anti-careerism that’s needed to stop art practicing and start Art Popping. In the words of Hennessy Youngman, “Let’s go, son.”