Relationship Between Graphic and Dada’s Half-Century


by Sayyed Mehran Zare

All events before the 20th century and the beginning of it set the stage for the introduction of modern art. But ultimately they were unsuccessful in conveying their message to the larger community–that ability for acceptance of a massive shock–until the mid 20th century. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, (1760-1840) the soul of intellectual curiosity was injected to the European community and commercial growth of trade between countries and development of sales grew, making products more widely available and finally resulting in a flourishing Graphic Arts field.

From the perspective of modernity, a proper relationship is a relationship that can be established between the arts and industry, removing the dominance of capitalists. With the emergence of Dada, all forms of Capitalism’s Art such as Expressionism were rejected.

“Richard Huelsenbeck,” Dada Manifesto “(1918):

“The word Dada symbolizes the most primitive relation to the surrounding reality; with Dadaism a new reality comes into its own. Life appears as a simultaneous whirl of noises, colors, and spiritual rhythms, which Dada takes unflinchingly into its art, with all the spectacular screams and fevers of its feisty pragmatic attitude and with all its brutal reality. This is the sharp dividing line separating Dadaism from all artistic directions up until now and particularly from FUTURISM, which not long ago certain weak minds took to be a new version of impressionist realization. By tearing to pieces all the platitudes of ethics, culture, and inwardness, which are merely cloaks for weak muscles, Dadaism has for the first time ceased to take an aesthetic position toward life.”

Dada tried to introduce the nihilism of art for a challenge with concept and form, but that philosophy was faced with a dam of Hitler’s policies. At that time, the policy world was shaking with his name. All radical changes that had begun in the late nineteenth century and that had pulled in huge masses of the public, the wheels of such movement still need more circulation, but world wars proved as major barriers strongly reducing the movement’s dynamics. The spiritual domination of Nazis over much of Europe and the philosophy of Hitler clearly imposed on all fields of art.

We can consider this movement, from a new perspective, that was a gap among Dada & after Nazi. The gap was spontaneously filled with the help of the masses in the 30s, especially in the United States and more complete in musical expression; two decades after that Pop emerged out from it.

Hamilton-appealing via


Certainly we can introduce Jasper Johns (American painter) as revolutionary, with his courage to exhibit the American flag with an ancient painter’s style in January 1958; he could stimulate the sensitivity of the audience in the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. Perhaps those sensitivities emerge from the classical mind of that era, who still believe in the principles of life, especially in the realm of art. Johns’ exhibition in 1956, aimed to show the interaction of architecture and the visual arts, especially the wonderful booths of “Richard Hamilton and John McHale” and with John’s collaboration, he was the architect.
With “blues” and “country” styles, the audio aspect evolved earlier than others, and a new path was opened in 1930s. In the next two decades a young singer, Elvis Presley became the king of rock and roll. John Lennon was quoted about Elvis Presley: “Before Elvis there was nothing.”

Elvis_Presley via:


The audio aspect can be seen from Country music to American singers and film actors such as Frank Sinatra who boosted public opinion for psychological acceptance of Richard William Hamilton’s collage poster “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” In 1956, Hamilton produced “This Is Tomorrow ” for an exhibition of the Independent Group in London. Two important painters in the establishment of America’s pop art vocabulary were Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. While the paintings of Rauschenberg have relationships to the earlier work of Kurt Schwitters and other Dadaists, Robert Rauschenberg’s concern was with social issues of the moment. Robert Rauschenberg’s approach was to create art out of ephemeral materials and using topical events in everyday America life gave his work a unique quality. Johns’ and Rauschenberg’s work of the 1950s is classified as Neo-Dada, and is visually distinct from the classic American Pop Art which began in the early 1960s. It is the foundation of Fluxus, Pop Art and Nouveau realism.
Those events injected a new attraction to audiences. People had never confronted such art before. It did not exist before in the field of art. This popular commercial art comes out of the collective memory of society and found its way whether wanted or unwanted in a meandering path. Maybe we can use James Ensor’s painting “The Entry of Christ into Brussels, 1888” as guidance and a torch for the path.

Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889 via


At that time, graphic art gained most benefit, because graphic art had found a way that needed to accelerate its expression and inject much intellectual content to audiences from two centuries ago. A style like Pop art paved the dusty road that graphic art commuted over. Graphic art could easily gather the masses and connect the psychological infrastructure with all classes of people as it was well-suited for establishing a proper communication.

Pop art rapidly penetrated in many areas, such as graphic design and film. With the start of a new era, massive billboards emerged along the highways, and Pop art found its most powerful tools. Pop art and making money became closely connected; we cannot completely view them separately.

Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, and / or combined with unrelated material.
Subsequent coinage of the complete term “Pop art” was made by John McHale for the ensuing movement in 1954. “Pop art” as a moniker was then used in discussions by IG (Independent Group) members in the Second Session of the IG in 1955, and the specific term “pop art” first appeared in published print in an article by IG members Alison and Peter Smithson in Arc, 1956. However, the term “Pop Art” was first used by the English critic Lawrence Alloway in a 1958 issue of Architectural Digest to describe those paintings that celebrate post-war consumerism, defying the psychology of Abstract Expressionism, and worshipping the god of materialism. The most famous of the Pop artists, the cult figure Andy Warhol, recreated quasi-photographic paintings of people or everyday objects.


Article written by Sayyed Mehran Zare
Translated from Persian by Sayyed Mehran Zare
Editing by Irini Spyridakis

Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (

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