career

Pop Artist

 

"Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again."

Andy Warhol from Popism: The Warhol ‘60s  

“Popular, transient, expendable, low cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business.” British artist Richard Hamilton used this veritable shopping list of adjectives to describe what he coined as “Pop” art. Derived from popular culture, Pop art revolutionized the art scene in the late 1950s. From telephones to soup cans, what made things pop was their everyday flavor and familiarity. Prior to the pop explosion, art was assumed to be something highbrow. Pop artists, however, loved the banal--the things that Warhol said, “anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second.” The world of Pop that engaged Warhol was distinctly American and reflected the burgeoning commercialism and vitality of post World War II America.

Social Commentator

 

"I think of myself as an American artist; I like it here, I think it’s so great. It’s fantastic. I’d like to work in Europe but I wouldn’t do the same things, I’d do different things. I feel I represent the U.S. in my art but I’m not a social critic. I just paint those objects in my paintings because those are the things I know best."

Andy Warhol from “My True Story” - an interview with Gretchen Berg  

Critics’ opinions differ regarding the social commentary in Warhol’s work. The artist was deliberately evasive about his intentions and his work allows for diverse and often contradictory readings. As noted by one biographer, Warhol thought that the electric chair reflected a “typically American way to go.” Does this preclude a statement on capital punishment? Or does the artist see the chair as merely another American icon; a Campbell’s soup can, Marilyn Monroe figure or Coca-Cola logo? Warhol seems to adopt, as art critic Robert Rosenblum maintains, “the stance of an aesthete-observer in the face of any subject, whether a stalk of asparagus or a murder.”

The social intent of his work may lie in its very ambiguity and the possibility for multiple interpretations. Do Warhol’s portraits pay homage to Jackie’s stately example of mourning—her public grief as the widowed First Lady? Or do they mirror, in their constancy and repetition, the media’s relentless portrayal of the events surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination? In this work, as in others, the artist seems to both celebrate and critique American culture.

Celebrity

 

"More than anything people just want stars."

Andy Warhol from THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)  

Fame infatuated Warhol. His art reflects an ongoing fascination with Hollywood and celebrity culture. In the 1960s, Warhol achieved his own celebrity status. His Ray -Bans and black leather jacket cut a stylish image of New York underground cool. Warhol was featured prominently in magazines and news stories. People clamoring to see the artist’s enigmatic figure mobbed the opening to his 1965 retrospective at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.

In the 1970s, Warhol’s nightly forays into Studio 54, the premier club of the time, solidified his iconic reputation. Business flourished as the rich and famous commissioned him to paint their portraits. By this time, Warhol had traded in his downtown leather jacket for an uptown tux. He was seen with everyone from country singer Dolly Parton to President Jimmy Carter. The 1980s saw yet another Warhol incarnation as he hosted Andy Warhol’s TV and modeled high fashion.

Entrepreneur

 

"…Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art."

Andy Warhol from THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)  

As a successful, sought-after New York commercial illustrator in the 1950s, Warhol got an insider’s view into advertising. He learned the ropes from some of the most talented art directors of the day.

The solid grounding in “Madison Avenue” spin trained him to be deeply cognizant of consumer culture, especially its way of manufacturing allure for objects and celebrities.  Warhol parlayed this knowledge into the successful branding of his own image and a signature style.

He engaged everyone — from his studio assistants to the rich, famous and notable of the day —with the Warhol world. People wanted to be near him: to hang out in his art studio, to commission him to paint their portrait, or appear in his magazine, Interview.

Innovator

 

"The pop idea was that anybody could do anything. So naturally, we were all trying to do it all."

Andy Warhol from In his Own Words  

Filmmaker, photographer, painter, commercial illustrator, music producer, writer, and even fashion model--Warhol was a true radical in his approach to art.

The breadth and significance of his influence has made him one of the most important artists of our time. He challenged traditional boundaries between art and life, art and business, and different media. In the process he turned everyday life into art and art into a way to live the everyday--collecting, documenting, reproducing, experimenting and collaborating with the people, places and things around him.

Warhol’s enthusiasm for life was rivaled only by his love of the methods of capturing it. He loved the framing device--the camera, the silkscreen, the empty box, the tape recorder, the shopping bag; the telephone—as much as the content it framed.

Perhaps Warhol’s greatest innovation was that he saw no limits to his practice. His Pop sensibility embraced an anything-can-be-art approach--appropriating images, ideas and even innovation itself.