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By: John Keaton

 

ANDY WARHOL : THE POPE OF POP
(Fame, Mass Media, Consumerism and Death)

Born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928, Andy Warhol was destined to change the world of art forever.

Upon his graduation, he moved to New York where he worked as an illustrator for publications such as The New Yorker, Vogue , and Harpers Bazaar. He also created window displays for several prominent retail stores at this time. It is perhaps during these years that he developed his keen sense of style and realized the power of image and media manipulation. Throughout the 1950s, Warhol was one of New York City's leading commercial artists, and he received numerous awards and accolades for his work.

He held his first solo show at The Hugo Gallery in 1952 and a group show at The Museum of Modern Art in 1956.

In 1961, Warhol created his first series of silkscreens with images of Campbells Soup Cans. The Pop Art Movement thrived on presenting seemingly banal, everyday objects and giving them a monumental importance, Warhol was simply making society aware of it's own obsessions. The silkscreen process enabled silk-screen mass-produced multiple images with a seemingly endless array of color and compositional variances. Consumerism, one of Warhol's central themes, was evident in many of the works produced at this time. Coca-Cola bottles, Brillo Boxes and Dollar Bills took on a life of their own. The silkscreen technique and the iconic treatment of Products as Art made Andy a star.

Warhol's next thematic breakthrough was the Death and Disaster Series. Works depicting car accidents, Electric Chairs, and racial Riots. The heavily manipulated photographs, repeated over and over again, imply through their multiplicity that society is merely a silent witness to everyday horrors and that death, is simply another aspect of life to be reckoned with. The public's reaction to these works was not exactly all-embracingly positive and at the advice of Henry Geldzahler, Warhol's Art Dealer, he produced a less threatening series of Flower Prints.

In the years between 1962 to 1964, Andy altered his concentration and celebration of iconic images to include famous personalities and focused on the allure and mystique of Fame. It was at this point that he created the now legendary Series of Marilyns, Jackies, and Elvis paintings, at his studio known as The Factory.
By this time, Andy Warhol had become a world famous artist. He held exhibits at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, The Leo Castilli Gallery, and as far away as The Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He produced works at an amazing rate and baffled many with his uncanny ability to choose images that literally became instant icons. Warhol erased the lines between Fine and Commercial Art and forced the world to consider a new perspective that it, subconsciously, had already embraced.

FAMOUS WARHOLIAN QUOTES:

" When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums."

" In the Future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."

" I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic.I want to be plastic."

" I want to be a machine."

The Factory was Andy's art and experimental film studio, where he and his entourage of self-proclaimed "Superstars" produced over 300 experimental and pornographic films. The Studio was far more than simply an artist's atelier. It was THE meeting place for artists, musicians, and actors. The atmosphere was a non-stop party where ideas, rock and roll, drugs, sex and art mingled. In 1968, Warhol was shot two to three times by a fanatical woman,Valerie Solanis, who claimed at her arrest that "He had too much control over my Life." The truth of the matter was that he had ignored her and her radical organization, SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men). This near fatal attack changed Warhol and his Art. His artistic response to this episode, The Skulls and The Shadow Series reflected an interplay between printing and Painting.

Moving away from the repitition of Iconic Figures, Andy's work focused on singular Portraits of the Rich and affluent. The silkscreen was still utilized but with a far more expressionistic quality and singularity. Some of his subjects were Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Liza Minelli and the like.

In the early Seventies Warhol began publishing Interview magazine. he also wrote the autobiographical The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (from A to B and back again). He continued to produce numerous Portraits of celebrities and members of the European elite. The phenomenally priced portraits photographed in Europe, were often produced by Warhol's assistants at the factory with Andy's long distance artistic "direction". His subjects in the late eighties, Mao-tse-Tung and The Endangered Species Series continued to confound,delight and shock art lovers with his always new and ever expanding catalog of colorful images.

During the last years of his life, Warhol began a series of collaborations and promotions with a whole new generation of artists, among them, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Harring, and Francisco Clemente.

Interestingly, these were all younger contemporaries of Andy's that were carrying on his tradition of artistic revolution. On Febuary 22 ,1987, Warhol succumbed to heart failure, and as a consequence of a badly executed gall bladder operation. The assassination attempt of 1968 had finally taken it's toll on the physically fragile artist. In 1989, an exhibit was organized by The Museum of Modern Art, encompassing the largest retrospective exhibit of his works to that date. in May of 1994, the Andy Warhol Museum opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Andy Warhol's influence on 20th Century Art cannot be denied. His perception, exploration and experimentation in the field of Visual Arts is unmatched. There is hardly an Artist today that is not touched in some way by his thematic and cultural accomplishments and vision. In accordance with his will, he provided a considerable endowment Fund for Art Education and Patronage, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

" Andy Warhol looks a scream, hang him on my wall. Andy Warhol, Silver Screen, can't tell them apart at all."
- David Bowie, Hunky Dory, 1971

Websites of Interest:
The Andy Warhol Museum
The Andy Warhol Foundation for The Visual Arts
Andy warhol Prints

This Article Text © 2005 by John Keaton . All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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