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Andy Warhol: The King of Pop Art

Posted by
on May 03, 2014 at 05:23 PM

Andy Warhol was a conduit for a sort of collective American state of mind in which celebrity - the famous image of a person, the famous brand name - had completely replaced both sacredness and solidity. 

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Fewer artists have made a mark in the twentieth century than Andy Warhol - best known as the pioneer of pop art. Be it in the field of art, media, or film, Warhol has handled the reigns of each wisely, and spectacularly so.  Warhol was one of the most important artists of pop art, which became extremely popular in the second half of the twentieth century. Though he is best remembered for his paintings of Campbell's soup cans, he also created hundreds of other works including commercial advertisements and films, and interesting  portraits of iconic stars - the very idea with which he changed the meaning of art, and led to the beginning of the popularization of  new art movement - that of Pop Art.

Pop art was a new style of art that consisted of realistic renditions of popular, everyday items. Warhol turned away from the blotted-line technique that he was popularly known for, and chose to use paint and canvas to document everyday things as ideas of art. What were these everyday objects then? What would make the mark and what wouldn’t?

Warhol began with Coke bottles and comic strips but his work wasn't getting the attention he wanted. A friend’s idea  was for him to paint what he liked most in the world, perhaps something like money and a can of soup. Warhol then decided to paint both.

The first of many celebrated masterpieces, Warhol's thirty-two soup cans are about nothing of the kind. His iconic representation of the everydayness of the Campbell Soup has created history in the art world. They are about sameness (though with different labels): same brand, same size, same paint surface, same fame as product. They mimic the condition of mass advertising, out of which his sensibility had grown. ‘This unaffected, fascinated and yet indifferent take on the object, became the key to Warhol's work; it is there in the repetition of stars' faces (Including the likes of  Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Jackie Kennedy and the rest), and as a record of the condition of being an uninvolved spectator it speaks eloquently about the condition of image overload in a media saturated culture.’ quotes Robert Hughes in his book, American Visions

Unfortunately, Warhol found that he couldn't make his paintings fast enough on canvas, and he soon discovered the process of silk screening. This technique uses a specially prepared section of silk as a stencil, allowing one silk-screen to create similar patterns multiple times. He immediately began making paintings of celebrities, most notably a large collection of paintings of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol would use this style for the rest of his life, working on one style icon after the other, creating a trademark of sorts, that would ultimately lead to a new trend in the future of art, and design- one that finds its way in kitschy art all over the world, in the form of imitations, DIY kits, and even mobile apps!

Most of Warhol's best work was done over a span of about six years, ending only when he was shot.  His art was rightly one-of-a-kind, nothing people had seen before, and it all flowed from one central insight. In a culture glutted with information, where most people experience most things at second or third hand through TV and print, through images that become banal and disassociated by repeated again and again and again, there is role for affectless art. It’s art that one can feel, without emotion, without being a critic, and most importantly, without having an opinion. Not that Warhol worked this out; he didn't have to. He felt it and embodied it. He was a conduit for a sort of collective American state of mind in which celebrity - the famous image of a person, the famous brand name - had completely replaced both sacredness and solidity. 

In so many ways, Warhol’s work was a satire. Of society, of media, and quintessentially a satire of his own work- which , at the end of the day, is the key to what really makes a master artist stand out from the rest. And that’s what Andy Warhol was - a visionary, a master artist, and the ultimate rule changer of the twentieth century.

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