Ben Birillo (American, b.1928) is a painter and sculptor best known for masterminding the groundbreaking Pop Art exhibition The American Supermarket – widely considered to be the world’s first major exhibition of Pop Art. A contemporary and colleague of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Artschwager, Tom Wesselmann, and Claes Oldenburg, newspapers nicknamed Birillo the “Progenitor of Pop” and “Mr. Pop Art” due to his energetic promotion of the Pop Art movement.
Interestingly, when asked if he considers his own work to be Pop art, Birillo answers: “No - I’m just an artist. I don’t belong to any school. I just create art. It’s my life. My life is my art. I don’t understand anything else”. While Birillo hesitates to label himself a Pop artist, his body of wrok bares many of the telltale signatures of the Pop Art movement including use of bold outlines and vibrant blocks of color – yellow, red, blue, green, black, and white – and imagery sourced from the popular domain.
Today, Birillo’s artwork can be viewed in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and is included in notable private collections including those of Andy Warhol, Leo Castelli, Walter P. Chrysler, and musician Paul Simon.
Birillo currently lives and works in the Hudson River Valley.
Artnet, September 19, 2018