Death and Disasters: Newspaper Activity

Appropriation and Manipulation of Journalistic Media
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Andy Warhol, Contents of Time Capsule 232, ©AWF

Students look through contemporary newspapers to critically examine the use of photojournalism to tell the news or to tell a story. Students create their own interpretation and story using Andy Warhol’s processes of appropriation, cropping and repositioning.

Grades:

6-12 

Subjects:

Social Studies, Journalism, Art, Photography, Language Arts & Writing 

Suggested Time Frame:

1 class period 

Objectives:

  • Students will interpret visual data from art and source materials
  • Students will differentiate between journalism and art
  • Students will predict how the meaning of an image will change through journalistic and artistic editing
  • Students will edit visual information to convey new meanings
 
Andy Warhol source material for 129 Die in Jet, printed ink on newsprint
Andy Warhol source material for 129 Die in Jet, printed ink on newsprint

About the Art: 

Andy Warhol loved all forms of daily media and collected various newspapers, magazines, and supermarket tabloids. He recognized the power of mass-circulated media images in American culture and appropriated these as source material for his artwork. To create the painting, 129 Die in Jet, Warhol used an image from the June 4, 1962 New York Mirror and an opaque projector. He omitted the photo’s caption from this hand-painted work, leaving the context of the headline unknown.

In his Death and Disaster series, Warhol explores the impact of cropped images taken out of a journalistic framework and placed repeatedly into the context of art. Some of the photographs that Warhol chooses as source images for this series depict horrific scenes, such as race riots, car crashes, suicides and nuclear explosions. Others focus on a narrative that may or may not be obvious, but is symbolic of death and disaster nonetheless, such as the Tuna Fish Disaster, Electric Chair and Jackie series.  In all of these works Warhol uses the repetition of images to mirror the repetition evident in society through media and technology.

Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster, 1962, ©AWF 
Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster, 1962, ©AWF 

Andy Warhol Quote: 

 

In 1963, while Warhol was working on his Death and Disaster paintings, Art News published an interview with him by Gene Swenson:

G.S.  When did you start with the “Death” pictures?

A.W.  I guess it was the big plane crash picture, the front page of the newspaper: 129 Die. I was also painting the Marilyns.  I realized that everything I was doing must have been Death. It was Christmas or Labor Day—a holiday—and every time you turned on the radio they said something like “4 million are going to die.” That started it. But when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it really doesn’t have any effect.

Interview reprinted in Andy Warhol: Death and Disasters, The Menil Collection, p. 19. 

Points of View: 

 

Warhol’s art [Death and Disasters] will convey the range, power and empathy underlying his transformation of these commonplace catastrophes.  Finally, one can sense in this art an underlying human compassion that transcends Warhol’s public affect of studied neutrality.

Walter Hopps, foreword to Andy Warhol: Death and Disaster, p. 9. 
 

Warhol’s repetitions of car crashes, suicides and electric chairs are not like the repetition of similar and yet different terrible scenes day in and day out in the tabloids.  These paintings mute what is present in the single front page each day, and emphasize what is present persistently day after day in slightly different variations.  Looking at the papers, we do not consciously make the connection between today’s, yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s “repetitions” which are not repetitions.

Gene Swenson, art critic, “What is Pop Art? Interviews with Eight Painters, Part I,” Art News 62 (November 1963): 24-27, pp. 60-63. 
Andy Warhol, 129 Die in Jet (Plane Crash), 1962, Collection of Ludwig, Cologne
Andy Warhol, 129 Die in Jet (Plane Crash), 1962, Collection of Ludwig, Cologne

Discussion Questions:

1. What do you think is conveyed in 129 Die in Jet?

2. How do journalists manipulate images by cutting and cropping out information in order to suit their story (examples: tabloids, magazines, internet, etc.)?

3. What is the difference between journalism and art?

4. How does the meaning change in these images when they are made into Warhol’s art?

5. Do you think it is okay for artists to work from other people’s photographs? Why or why not?

Procedure

 Materials: 

Image of 129 Die in Jet ErasersCurrent Newspapers/News Journals
ScissorsPensPencils
Templates  Glue Sticks

Procedure:

  1. Explain and Discuss:

    Appropriation (n.) In the visual arts, the term appropriation is often used in a general way to refer to the use made of borrowed elements in the creation of new work. These borrowed elements might include images, forms, or styles from art history or popular culture, or materials and techniques from non-art contexts.

    Manipulation (n.) The modification of images such as cutting and pasting, tonal adjustments, cropping, moiré reduction, etc. using manual or image editing software.

  2. Using Warhol’s method of appropriation, look through current newspapers/news journals to find headlines and images you find interesting.
  3. Cut or crop your image, editing out any information you don’t want.
  4. Glue your image onto the template; choose either a horizontal or vertical layout.
  5. Use an eraser to lighten areas of the newsprint. Use a pencil to darken or add contrast to areas of the newsprint.
  6. Answer the questions on the handout.
 
Assessment

Wrap-up:

Share work with peers and explain the choices you made to appropriate and edit your chosen images. Explain what other manipulations you would do to the material to create an artwork. Describe what you think it could mean.

Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Critical Thinking
Aesthetics
Communication
Creative Process
Historical Context