Andy Warhol, thinker who delivers his own intention through ordinary stuff

Who comes to your mind when you think about a Pop Art? Definitely, Andy Warhol is the most successful and influential person after world war II. He developed a new and innovative concept that is different from luxurious and difficult existing one being suitable for modern times. That’s Pop Art. He painted the best contemporary pop stars and celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and John F. Kennedy and the most consumed goods such as Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup. He tried to express commercial viability of industrial products and one-shot, that is to say an empty reputation and image of American culture which is plastered with the value of the goods.

There are many famous artists who have a great impact on Andy Warhol’s work. First, Duchamps gave inspiration to later artists by refuting traditional artistic system and pursuing free artistic spirit based on Dadaism. If the stuffs are separated from where those things used to be, they lose their original function and reborn for other objectives based on subjective preference, purpose and intention. Second, Jasper Johns use stale and common subjects that are confronted with us. So, he chose to depict the American flag and it created a great sensation being in accord with affairs of United States and inferiority complex of their culture. Third, Jackson Pollack is an abstract expressionist who painted what body intended for by concentrating on the behavior of painting rather than the object. And he thought drawing and painting itself is behavioral work of art that one’s energy is put into the work.

In 1950~60s, it is a consumer society that consumption is a virtue. So, Andy Warhol averted his eyes to the mass media. First of all, Marilyn Monroe was popular image nothing more than Coca-Cola and at the same time she was consumer goods in those days. I think her image seems to visualize the process of producing and distributing popular stars by simplifying her face, emphasizing her lips, hair and eyes and manipulating and exaggerating the used color. Marilyn Monroe’s face is like conventional icon highlighting fancy and sexual attraction of Hollywood stars and shows manufacturing method and result of consumptive image named star quality. Besides, her image that is appearing repeatedly several times feels like identical and machinery because her articles and photos came out in the papers or magazines everyday at that time. Secondly, Campbell’s Soup symbols mass production. Canned food was produced by handiwork for the first time and it was spreading the code of quantity production. So, we got accustomed to bulk production and our thoughts and lifestyles were mass-produced. Andy Warhol ridicules mass production through this artistic work by imitating and displaying cans and implies that art is also mass-produced.

I think Andy Warhol’s best accomplishment is the popular arts that people felt vulgar are accepted as elite culture by identifying the art that is thought to be the exclusive property of the privileged class with daily life of the popular culture such as Coca-Cola and movie stars. His splendid work is flashy, incendiary and reveals commercial potential. The consumption of popular cans in America and silkscreen technique that is possible to mass-produce have much analogy with standardized mass production in a capitalistic society.

Andy Warhol stated that ‘there was nothing behind the surface of his art.’ However, I disagree with his assertion. According to the ‘Vote Mcgovern’, Warhol based his print on a photographic image of Nixon and reduced the text to the words, “Vote McGovern.” The image of Nixon is familiar, but Nixon’s face is divided into three colors that arouse hatred. This work shows his thoughts and feelings about Nixon explicitly. Accordingly, artists cannot help supplying their own meaning and intention. I think art is not detached from reality and everyday life. Unlike the existing art custom, normal image can represent the culture of society of the day and realize an aesthetic value. Accordingly, Andy Warhol is a thinker that gives different messages by reinterpreting based on his own artistic criteria and objective.

Discussion Questions
1. According to the reading, Andy Warhol asserted that there was nothing behind the surface of his art. What do you think of his statement?
2. According to ‘Electric chair’, why did he express the image more human and anthropomorphized paradoxically?

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4 Responses to Andy Warhol, thinker who delivers his own intention through ordinary stuff

  1. Chen says:

    I just want to express some ideas of your first question.
    What impressed me mostly in the class was the short film ‘burger’. We watched the whole process of Andy Warhol eating a burger. At first, I felt sleepy because there is no interesting dialogue, no handsome actor, no splendid scene and no clear expression of the main idea. But when I thought more deeply, I asked myself ‘did the film really just want to show how to eat a burger?’ I told myself ‘of course, no.’ As a classmate said, Andy Warhol might hope to criticize the modern society, in which people only repeated every life without thinking about what they were doing or why they did like that. I feel that he was unsatisfied with the fast pace of society, where people just doing what they need to do as soon as possible but seldom enjoy the happiness within life and think about the true meaning of life . It is a criticism of empty in both society and individual. Although Andy Warhol himself insisted that there was nothing behind the surface of his art, he really had some ideas in his mind already. He said ‘nothing!’ just because he hoped to inspire audience to think more deeply with their own ideas without being tied to his meanings.

  2. sallypark25 says:

    I really liked how you analyzed in detail about Andy Warhol’s statement, “there was nothing behind the surface of his art”. As Christina said during the class, he refused to give clear answer when he was asked to explain about his art works. You said that you disagree with his idea of emptiness behind his works. I also think that he certainly tried to convey particular meaning to people through creating the some art works. This can be easily guessed by reading the materials that present his critics towards consumer society. However, I believe that his refusal has its own implication in the discourse of what he intended to express through his paintings. I think what he wanted to show by his work, “Marilyn Monroe” is that Marilyn Monroe became to have no special attractiveness due to the fact that she was continuously being exposed to people through Mass media. It is not the people but the media who identifies and defines who Marilyn Monroe is. Her identity is produced and interpreted in the context of media and in this process, people no longer have power to see and like her in a different way. We like her only through the particular image that was constructed by media. That is, in this consumer and mass media society, it became harder for an individual to have his or her own way of viewing the world. I think this refusal to put a particular interpretation on his art work is to express the powerlessness and lethargy as one individual and to criticize the excessive power of media.

  3. melbelle15 says:

    You make a good point about mass production and a capitalist society. A capitalist society is defined as an economic system where private people own and run companies instead of the government. This style of government ended famine and poverty in many countries in the 1700s and 1800s. One of the main ideals of capitalism is to increase the circulation of capital in a country, thus increasing consumerism. Because spending and materialistic objects fuel consumerism, mass production of goods is a beneficial factor in a capitalist society. The point you make about the mass production of things such as Coca Cola and linking it to a capitalist society makes a lot of sense when viewed from the perspective of a consumer. Advertisements and the standardization process of an object influence consumerism the most. Andy Warhol’s work is the epitome of a consumerist society. His work has been re-produced so many times that his pieces have become very popular and recognizable icons in American culture. I like how you relate your idea about Andy Warhol and consumerism to Warhol’s quote that “there is nothing behind the surface of his art.” Whether or not he had meaning behind his work, his pieces definitely influenced American culture and the trend of consumerism.

  4. soojinsim says:

    To talk about the Andy Warhol’s phrase that there was nothing behind the surface of his art, I think it means that whether or not Andy Warhol has meaning of his art, it’s viewer’s portion to decide how to interpret it. It can connect with the idea of death of artist. Every time people tried to ask the meaning of his art, he refused to answer and to interpret, and kept saying he doesn’t know. Therefore, viewers can think deeply about his art, and expand and broaden their interpretation about the art. He didn’t limit his art as just one meaning and wanted viewers to expand the imagination and interpretation on the art.
    And for the second question, I think Andy Warhol wants to talk about the paradox and contradiction of death penalty from electric chair painting. In my opinion, Andy Warhol wanted to express how irony it is and criticize the act of death penalty that justifying killing a person who killed other person.
    Also, Andy Warhol put his painting to viewers to interpret it. He drew the chair empty, and created empty interpretation for viewers to project their interpretations on it.

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