With the rise of industrialization, globalization, and mass production, the manufacturing productivity has been dramatically increased and accordingly the availability of consumer goods. And with the rise of the mass media, various products have been targeted on broad groups of consumers. Consumerism, which is propelled by a system of mass production and high levels of consumption, has been one of the themes in art works from twentieth century till now.
In regard to consumerism and gender, I find two figures—Hannah Hoch and James Rosenquist--connected. Hoch once worked for a women's magazine of the huge Ullstein Press while Rosenquist once earned his living as a billboard painter at Artkraft-Strauss. They had been working within the mass media during the day and using the fragments from the industry to create art works at night before they moved to their own studios. The Beautiful Girl (1919-1920) and The Light That Won’t Fail I (1961) are examples I will use to explore consumerism and the relationship between consumerism and gender. As insiders of the mass culture, Hoch and Rosenquist take both content and technique from the visual vocabulary of mass consumption and transform them into art. Their approaches of creating art pieces witness changes in the consumer world at different time periods of history. As manifested in their works, The Beautiful Girl and The Light That Won’t Fail I, photomontage and billboard-like painting resemble the forms of advertising. And their different kinds of juxtaposition embody the experience of the consumer world and the artists’ allegorical comment on consumerism and gender.
Consumerism is not only acting within the works but also through the medium. . The two artists not only take the subject matters from the mass media but also medium using a style based upon the visual vocabulary of mass production. Hoch’s and Rosenquist’s choices of medium manifest how industrialization, mass media, and consumerism develop through both content and technique. By the fragmented juxtaposition, both artists render the audience with the experience of mass culture, from which rises the mass consumption.
Firstly, Hoch and Rosenquist select subject matters from mass-produced consumer goods that they might have been working with. Both Hoch and Rosenquist, as spectators of the mass media and consumer world, give us a “snapshot” into the consumer world. For Hoch, she tapped into industrialization and the fashion world. We see mechanical elements in The Beautiful Girl such as the tire, machine handle, BMW logos, industrial bench, and watch. And elements of the New Woman of German Weimar period--bobbed hair, makeup, and exposed legs. (Geneva 2008) For Rosenquist, The Light That Won’t Fail I contains depictions of common consumer objects such as the comb, socks and woman smoking, which would have shown in billboard advertisements.
Secondly, the medium that Hoch and Rosenquist use witnesses how mass...