Neo-Dada was an art movement that mocked and celebrated the culture of consumerism through merging opposing conventions of realism and abstraction, and blatantly ignoring boundaries between media through extreme experimentation with performance, assemblage and other unorthodox crossbreed combinations.
The term primarily applies to American artists of the 1950s and 1960s whose attitude, intentions and approach echoed the art of the early twentieth century Dada movement. Rebelling against the emotionally charged paintings of the Abstract Expressionists that dominated the art world in the 1950s by introducing banal subject and emphasizing performance, these artists inaugurated the revolutionary transformations modern art underwent during the 1960s and paved the way for Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptualism.
Unlike the militant declarations of the Dada movement, which was formed in negative reaction to the horrors and imprudence of the first world war, Neo-Dada artists provoked through covert strategies more suitable to the cold war climate. Their works encouraged viewers to look beyond traditional aesthetic principles and interpret meaning through critical thinking generated by contradictions, farcical juxtapositions, encrypted narratives, and other incongruous signals.
Neo-Dada artists subscribed to Marcel Duchamp’s theory that works of art are intermediaries in a process in which the artist assignment was solely to begin the work and allow the viewer to complete it. In essence, the term primarily applies to the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Allan Kaprow and Jasper Johns because of their heavy use of mass media, assemblage, found materials and collage and their apparently anti-aesthetic agenda. It is also important to note that the term Neo-Dada also has some justification due to the presence in New York of the Father of the original Dada movement himself, the French artist, Marcel Duchamp.