I still remember seeing Any Warhol’s work for the first time in San Francisco. He was the artist who made me as a little girl appreciate art. Before him I dreaded going to museums and looking at what I considered boring and traditional portraits of dead people (dramatic I know, but 6-year-old me was not interested). Little did I know that Warhol was an icon, not just as an artist who began pop art, but as a symbol in popular culture. He produced an managed The Velvet Underground, a revolutionary rock band that helped to shape punk rock. He founded Interview magazine, a publication still relevant today and wrote several books. Lastly, he was an openly gay man at a time before any homosexual liberation movements had really taken root. He was a trail blazer in almost all aspects of his life.
Warhol’s most iconic pieces are based on every day objects, which is why I personally found his art so relatable. It was a new way of looking at a dollar bill or can of soup, something exciting with lots of vibrant and bold colors. These painting, beginning in the 1960s, also led to Warhol “capitalizing on consumerism”. Paintings of every day objects, American icons like Elizabeth Taylor, along with pieces relating to Civil Rights Movement were the highlights of his work during this time. Some of his most notable works are shown below:
This print was actually featured on the cover of the first album of The Velvet Underground. The album is ranked 13th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone.
Big Electric Chair, 1967
New York stopped execution via electric chair in 1963 and Warhol was able to get a photo of the empty execution chamber. This series of painting began a conservation around the controversies of the death penalty.
Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962
Perhaps one of his most easily recognizable works, this series consists of 32 canvases. This series is also credited for enabling pop art to become a major movement within the united states. These works also lead to some criticism on Warhol profiting from consumerism, but also offered a look into the changing cultural values in America.
“The Factory”, also Warhol’s New York studio, moved locations over the years but remained iconic in the artistic and creative social scene at the time. It has been described as a haven for creatives, amphetamine users, and Warhol’s muses. His “art workers” (porn stars, drag queens, socialites, drug addicts, musicians and more who became known as Warhol Superstars) also helped him in the creation of many pieces. Warhol is an artist well known for how collaboration impacted his works. The relates back to the movie we watched in class, “Dog Town and Z-Boys”, on the importance of collaboration. Creativity can flourish in environments where creatives get together and continue to push each other to the limits. While the skateboarders were part of a team and relied on each other to perform for a greater average score or talent level, Warhol and his creatives were pushing each other to achieve greater in their respective fields. Collaboration is key to creative types, constantly pushing the boundaries while providing a fan club so to speak. Warhol was revered by his posse and this support allowed him to feel confident in his decisions and creative works.