During the 1960s, Roy Fox Lichtenstein, along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, David Hockney and Peter Blake and others, became leading figures in the new postmodernist Pop Art movement. Drawing inspiration from mass media, advertising and commercial imagery, their work defined the premise of pop art through parody and critique. One of his most famous paintings Whaam! is currently on permanent display at Tate Modern.
This particular piece is a parody of Roy Lichenstens’ “Oohh Alright” painting. However as I am a bigger fan of comic books, Lichtenstein’s original inspiration, the June 1963 edition of Secret Hearts #88 was the reference for this image.
Because I also love typography and print and to add that extra twist, the traditional Ben-Day dots, used for the mass printing of comic books and mimicked in paint on “Ooh Alright”, have been replaced with the “Protect Ya Neck” song lyrics.
You best protect ya neck
“Protect Ya Neck” is the first official single from Wu Tang Clan’s critically acclaimed first album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Produced by The RZA, it features eight of the original nine group members.
In 1993, when the Wu-Tang Clan first emerged, Hip Hop as a whole was not considered Pop culture. The Wu-Tang Clan’s distinctly New York underground sound was far too ‘radio unfriendly’ to be commercially mainstream, at least not by today’s standard. At that time, production values were giving Hip Hop a more polished sound that appealed to a broader audience. In contrast the Wu-Tangs’ stripped back sound, choppy samples and rhyme flows didn’t allow for formulaic radio play and was definitely underground.
Despite this, the Wu-Tang Clan helped pave the way for a ‘back-to-basics Hip Hop’ wave of new artists and crews. Their first album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) sold 30,000 copies in the 1st week, achieved Platinum status within two years and is widely regarded as one of the most influential Hip Hop albums of all time and one of the most significant albums of the 1990s.
Parody, irony, satire?
The Pop Art movement raised questions about mass consumerism and western values. It was a revolt against traditional views on what art should be. Hip Hop was born from the revolution of marginalized communities, giving expression to the political and socially unheard around the world. Both challenged the status quo and were rejected as art by critics and the mainstream.
Today, Pop Art is one of the most recognizable styles of modern art and Hip Hop is the most popular genre of music. It may or not be ironic that Pop Art and Hip Hop culture have had such a huge impact on the commercial world despite their revolutionary roots of anti-establishment expressions and cynical views on mass consumerism.