Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wenshun Liu - Andy Warhol

Andrew Warhola (Andy Warhol) is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and the central figure of theAmerican Pop Art movement. After a career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his avant-garde Pop Art paintings and screenprintings. He was a diverse figure known for friendships with bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats. He was also controversial figure because of the nature of his works, his near fatal shooting, and his sex life. For these reasons and others he is known as the Prince of Pop Art.

The turbulent 1960s ignited an impressive and wildly prolific time in Warhol’s life.  It is this period, extending into the early 1970s, which saw the production of many of Warhol’s most iconic works. Building on the emerging movement of Pop Art, wherein artists used everyday consumer objects as subjects, Warhol started painting readily found, mass-produced objects, drawing on his extensive advertising background.  When asked about the impulse to paint Campbell’s soup cans, Warhol replied, “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it”. The humble soup cans would soon take their place among the Marilyn MonroesDollar Signs,Disasters, and Coca Cola Bottles as essential, exemplary works of contemporary art. 

displayed in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Brillo Box 

More than thirty years after their first exhibition at Stable Gallery (in 1964) in New York, Warhol's Brillo Boxes continue to unsettle museum visitors through their deadpan replication of American commercial culture. As part of Warhol's first sculptural project, theBrillo Boxes comment on the commercial framework behind the pristine spaces of the art gallery and art museum, while rubbing the nose of high culture in the mundane disorder of the supermarket stockroom.

Warhol at the Stable Gallery 1964

The Brillo Boxes were but one type within a group of replicas of commonplace supermarket packaging--Del Monte Peach Halves, Campbell's Tomato Juice, and Heinz's Ketchup--included in the 1964 Stable Gallery show.  The boxes were fabricated in plywood by an outside manufacturer, and then painted to mimic the models. The lettering and logos were screenprinted on the prepared boxes, replicating the originals with uncanny accuracy.  The first group of boxes was screenprinted in The Factory by Warhol and his principal assistant of the '60s, Gerard Malanga, the mode of production aping the assembly-line techniques then thought to be the sole paradigm for industrial production. Seldom was the brute act of repetition as evident as in the box project.


Celebrity Portraits 

Andy Warhol brought portraiture back into focus in the 1960s when he began creating iconic Pop art paintings of celebrities. As a whole, Warhol's portraits provide a fascinating account of his personal and artistic circle, as well as a chronicle of many of the most talented, best known and wealthiest public figures of the period. Warhol's celebrated subjects ranged from tyrants, tycoons and Hollywood movie stars to rock stars, fashion designers and drag queens of the New York City nightlife of the 1970s and 1980s.

Warhol paints Marilyn Monroe because she is the typical icon of the "glamorous women". Every female portrait he completed was in the same format which included emphasis on lipstick, eye shadow and frozen camera smile. He wanted to portray Marilyn as the comtemporary sex goddess , packaged for the public as a consumer item. Warhol uses a wide range of colors and off the registar printing to show variations on the image. Warhol could relate to Monroe's desperate try to rid herself of the vain, dumb blonde stereotype that she struggled with her entire life. Warhol too struggled with desperatly tying to be taken seriously.

The Elvis portrait is a silkscreen on acrylic on canvas. It was done in 1964 and is another celebrity portrait of a popular icon in the 1960's. For Warhol, Elvis was a symbol of an American success story. Elvis went from a singing truck driver to an idol of an entire generation. He also was known for slipping into fits of depression like Mariln Monroe and Warhol himself. This portrait is surrounded by a hint of tragedy similar to many of the celebrities Warhol painted.

The below portrait of Jackie O was based on a famous mass media potograph. He photographed Jackie O many times before and after the assisination of her husband, John F. Kennedy. He saw this painting as a documentary news piece reflecting American political and social history. The print has a graniness effect said by Warhol to show the hint of tragedy covering Jackie O. Warhol used a group of Jackie O paintings in a book to show how the event of her husbands assignation altered the spirit of the country.

The below portrait of Liz Taylor was based on a famous mass media photograph. It is an offset lithograph printed on white paper. Liz like Marilyn Monroe represented the "glamorous women" that Warhol became obsessed with. Liz was also surronded by a hint of tragedy by constatly struggling with health problems. Warhol had a similar struggle being a sickly child as well as adult. She embodied a success story by starting out as a child film actress and becoming one of the most highly paid stars in Hollywood.

The Factory

In 1963 Warhol moved his visual arts operations to a building at 231 East 47th Street in New York, a space dubbed The Factory by Warhol and his growing circle. By the time Warhol had become famous, he was working day and night on his paintings. To create his art, Warhol used silkscreens so that he could mass-produce images the way capitalist corporations mass produce consumer goods. In order to continue working the way he did, he assembled a menagerie of adult film performers, drag queens, socialites, drug addicts, musicians, and free-thinkers that became known as the Warhol Superstars, to help him. These "art-workers" helped him create his paintings, starred in his films, and basically developed the atmosphere for which the Factory became legendary.

The Factory, its interior sheathed with silver foil and aluminum paint by Billy Name, one of Warhol's most fanatic assistants during the 1960s, theatricalized the mock-industrial mode of production Warhol had adopted for his paintings and the films he had begun to make earlier that year. The exploitative character of Warhol's enterprise earned him a new nickname amongst his entourage: Drella, a conjunction of Dracula and Cinderella.

In 1968 Warhol suffered a nearly fatal gun-shot wound from aspiring playwright and radical feminist author, Valerie Solanas. The shooting, which occurred in the entrance of the Factory, forever changed Warhol.  Some point to the shock of this event as a factor in his further embrace of an increasingly distant persona. The brush with death along with mounting pressure from the Internal Revenue Service (stemming from his critical stance against President Richard Nixon), seem to have prompted Warhol to document his life to an ever more obsessive degree. He would dictate every activity, including noting  the most minor expenses, and  employ interns and assistants to transcribe the content of what would amount to over 3,400 audio tapes. 

What I really like about these works is how they refined the definition of art. The question What is art? has been part of philosophy since the time of Plati. But Andy forced us to rethink the question in an entirely new way. He closes the gap between high art and daily necessities. Plus, Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes look exactly like the real cartoons one could see in the stockroom of any supermarket in the land. Indeed, it would have been impossible for anyone unfamiliar with avant-garde art in 1964 to have seen the boxes as art at all. So the new form of the ancient question was: given two objects that look exactly alike, how is it possible for one of them to be a work of art and the other just an ordinary object? In all, his idea that "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it" is mind-blowing to me, and affects my way of viewing art from many perspectives.

Arthur C. Danto Andy Warhol

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