The most popular print in pop culture
Polka dots, the vivacious little dot that holds a very prominent place in pop culture. The print makes major appearances on iconic stars like Minnie Mouse then fluctuates to being the main attraction in blue chip contemporary art by the likes of Danien Hurst, Roy Lichensten and Yayoi Kusama. The popular print, possibly brought to the mainstream by the art world, has seeped into so many decorative aspects of our daily lives. You will find polka dots donning the surface of everything from home decor, fashion, toys, cinema, but possibly the most large scale, in modern art.
In the 1960’s, pop artist Roy Lichenstein made his mark with his series of dot paintings. Liechtenstein would use stencils to create these perfectly round bold colored dots. The surgically precise shapes would be arranged meticulously to create stimulating visuals most famously in the form of comic book characters. The inspiration behind painting with dots came from a commercial printing technique called Ben - Day. This printing technique utilizes a series of teeny tiny dots to form images and shading for magazines and newspapers. Lichtenstein, inspired by this commercial process, borrowed this ideology but blew up the dots to monumental scale and spaced them out to created his own unique imagery. The pop artist, considered incredibly famous and successful during his lifetime is known all around the world for his take on the polka dot.
The success of Liechtenstein was well known and one could easily surmise this led the iconic dots to creep their way into fashion and home fashion. The simplicity and mega versatility of the print made for a super smooth transition and people obviously loved spotted surfaces so why not slather them on to a chair. Industrial and home decor designer, Rodney Kinsman, did exactly that. In the 1970s, Kinsman created his most notable “Omstak" chair. However, instead of printing dots onto the surface like Lichenstein, he did the opposite. Punching holes into molded sheet steel treated with a epoxy resin to create the print with negative space. The result is a very simple industrial forward chair with a prominent place in the design world. The vintage chairs can go for over $5,000 for a set. A pricey polka dot indeed.
When discussing dots in pop culture one would be remiss to leave out Yayoi Kusama. The art world mogul who has dedicated her life and career to polka dots. For example, her popular piece ‘Obliteration Room’ has been a traveling installation for over 20 years. The super playful interactive piece is a massive hit at every gallery and museum it reaches. When the installation in its initiative phase it begins with a standard living room like set up, but everything is painted stark white. Visitors are handed sheets of colorful dot stickers and encouraged to place them around the room as they wish. Within days, honestly hours even, the once sterile white domestic space is a kaleidoscope of psychedelic color. The collaboration between the artist and visitor to create the ever evolving installation invites the participant a chance to be the artist. It's a powerful piece to see and more importantly an absolute blast to partake in.
Kusama’s dotted master pieces don't stop with the ‘Obliteration Room’, the artist is synonymous with spotted pumpkins. Over her entire lifetime, Kusama has been creating oversized biomorphic polka dot gourds. Her fascination with the pumpkin began as a child and never ceased. Most commonly they will appear yellow with black dots, occasionally the colors will shift hues, but kept to a strick primary palette. The motif has been translated into paintings, installations, events and most recently a major collaboration with French luxury house Louis Vuitton. When Kusama is asked about her obsession with dots she replies “Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity.”