Pop Before Pop

Not-So-Abstract Expressionism

The Daily Pic: In the 1950s, Grace Hartigan injected the everyday into her abstractions.

10.29.12 10:18 PM ET

“Billboard”, painted by Grace Hartigan in 1957 and now in the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where I saw it on a recent trip to the Twin Cities. Although Hartigan “officially” counts as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, what impressed me about this picture was how much it anticipated Pop art. Hartigan based it on a collage of Life magazine snippets that included ads for toothpaste and food shots. “I have found my subject,” she’s quoted as saying. “It concerns that which is vulgar and vital in American life, and possibilities of its transcendence into the beautiful.” All true of the best Pop, except for that old-fashioned bit about transcendence.

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