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.
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?