Pop Surrealism art of woman with pink hair by icanvas artist Lori Earley
Art 101

Art Style Education: Pop Surrealism 101

At iCanvas, we want to make appreciating art easy and fun for everyone. This blog series is designed for art lovers of all backgrounds to shed any fear, get equipped with the basics, and feel empowered to appreciate various art styles and movements.

At first glance, pop surrealism can make your head spin. You might see it as weird art, creepy, or straight-up twisted. But fear not, we’re here to properly acquaint you with the mysterious and sometimes disorienting world of lowbrow art.

What is Surreal Art?

Intended to reflect unconscious thoughts, surrealist art is created to push the boundaries of the mind’s eye. Similar to the meaning you can extract from your most bizarre dreams, it’s founded in the idea that not everything is what it seems. As described by Tate Museum, surrealism began as “a twentieth-century literary, philosophical and artistic movement that explored the workings of the mind, championing the irrational, the poetic and the revolutionary.” Embracing alternative perspectives and celebrating warped perceptions, surreal art is layered with imagery encouraging a closer look and an open mind.

What is Pop Surreal Art?

What sets “pop” surrealism — also known as lowbrow art — apart is the incorporation of elements from popular and mass culture. Sometimes ironic, sometimes playful, lowbrow art features everything from notable brands and memorable characters to cultural trends and hot takes on current events. 

Lowbrow artists often thrive on creating their own worlds ripe with symbology and full of double meanings. While artists lean into specific vibes spanning from punk to gothic, the common thread between all pop surrealism is an alternative perspective on something considered “the norm” or otherwise straightforward. By asking the viewer to consider unorthodox perspectives, they inspire open-mindedness and creativity within the psyche of their audiences.

The image above wonderfully illustrates the intersection of pop culture, symbology, and curiosity. With the classic white apron over a blue dress, a rabbit leaping down a hole, the red-painted flowers, and the literal letters “WONDERLAND” across her fingers, there’s no doubt the artist is speaking to the lessons in Alice’s classic story. While the dripping blood and exposed chest cavity may at first be unnerving, overall the print is asking viewers to contemplate another point of view. And while some of the above imagery may feel easier to comprehend, other elements, like the smoking keyhole on her hand, may require a bit more personal interpretation. 

While it can be perceived simply as “weird art” at first glance, a deeper look results in the possibility of multiple perspectives. In going “down the rabbit hole,” the subject could be on a journey of self-discovery. Do the playing card symbols represent her own keys to multiple paths? The answers and questions inspire introspection and encourage imagination.

With your newfound understanding of pop surreal art, we invite you to scroll through the gallery below to tap into your own interpretations.

iCanvas has a huge variety of pop surrealism, making it easy to find one that fits your personality. Browse our full collection of more than 2,500 lowbrow art prints designed to stretch your imagination.

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