Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Andy Warhol: Capitalizing on Consumerism

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:

Banana, 1966
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.

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this! I also have always enjoyed Warhol for his relatable and everyday art, but I did not know about his studio or his punk band. I really like your inclusion of the electric chair piece. I had never seen that one, and it's interesting because that remains such a controversial issue today. This makes me wonder how Warhol came up with his unique ideas. His painting was quite revolutionary, and I wonder what made him think to paint a soup can (or whatever it may be) as a response to increasing consumerism and changing values in the United States, rather than using a different form to portray his ideas since such art was pretty unheard of at the time. What exactly was the creative process that led to this? Very interesting!

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  3. Thank you for such a colorful and entertaining article on Warhol! You brought up some very cool points about his creative process. What I see as being one of the more fascinating facets of Andy Warhol's biography was that he was a practicing Catholic. I am curious to know how much his religious practice influenced his artistic process. Some claim that his images of famous individuals actually parallel Catholic icons of religious figures. On first analysis, I have the understanding that his religion would most directly affect his intrinsic vs extrinsic creative motivation. But, since religion is so personal, I am wary that art historians/psychologists would ever be able to fully discern the influence of Catholicism on Andy Warhol's work.

  4. While I was reading this, I was just reminded of a documentary I was forced to watch years ago by a roommate: Exit Through the Gift Shop. That documentary just highlighted Thierry Guetta's unoriginal-ness, and it just contrasts the pop art movement that Warhol was so instrumental to. I do wonder what Warhol's take on the underground street art scene would be? Would he consider it as pushing the boundaries on artistic expression/integrity?


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