Images of Andy Warhol

To compare Andy Warhol to artists like Duchamp and Jackson Pollack would be difficult, since Andy Warhol’s pop style of art falls into its own category.  He doesn’t highlight a certain mood or a certain fantasy, but instead it is a rather accurate representation of everyday objections. Such as the Campbell Soup Cans mentioned in the reading. Together with some of his other works like, Marilyn Monroe, and the electric chair he creates this blank canvas with mundane objects for others to project their own interpretation and imagination onto his work. I believe the beauty in Andy Warhol’s art comes from the simple and normal subjects he points out through his work.

Even one of his earlier creations wasn’t an idea of his own. The idea of doing the paintings of Campbell’s soup came from a friend, which the idea he paid 50 dollars for (THOM 5). Meaning that his inspiration mostly comes from others and what surrounds him. His reason for releasing this painting of the Campbell’s soup was to capture the “essence of nothing” (THOM 7).  Many critics found the lack of a meaning in these paintings frustrating (THOM 9). But I believe he was trying to represent the lack of attention in society, and how you can find beauty in the geometry and colors even in such ordinary objects like the Campbell soups cans. I think this is what Warhol meant when he said “I feel I represent the U.S. in my art” (THOM 9).  That people in society, cannot see past the can of soup as a can of soup. They fail to see the symmetry and commonality of the cans. Someone on the other side of the world, might have the exact same can but in a completely different situation.  The idea of multiple interpretations is one he allows in his art. Another popular piece that possessed this trait was Marilyn Monroe’s portrait.

Again, Warhol picked someone everyone would be familiar with, a movie star. But in this picture he is representing Marilyn as a “movie star rather than an individual” (THOM 10). In the author’s words “the image is a blank, something which we can project our own thoughts and fantasies upon” (THOM 10). Warhol wanted her to become a symbol, a standard for beauty. Through the reinforcement of color in the main features of Marilyn, Warhol has successfully stripped of the identity behind the painting and made Marilyn Monroe an icon that will last forever. Warhol’s later statement “My painting’s just about entertaining people” made me wonder if his whole goal was to evoke an emotion in his art.

If his ultimate goal was to evoke an emotion, I feel like his later work “Big Electric Chair” is a perfect example. The image itself is meant to show the sense of horror and death, but we can see that the chair is empty (THOM 29). This goes back to the idea that he is trying to create a blank slate for us to project our own interpretations on it. I would think that he was trying to show the irony of how we kill people to teach other people that killing people is wrong.

Throughout many of Andy’s works, the simplicity and minimalism is what leads to their popularity. Through the “Campbell’s Soup”, “Marilyn Monroe”, and the “Electric Chair” we see that one common thing Warhol likes to do is to choose a rather normal subject, one that might stir up mixed emotions in society.  As to the question to weather he is a thinker, observer, or vacuum. I believe he is all three because he only chooses the images around him that might produce the most controversy or the most agreement.  Overall, Andy Warhol is very different from some of the other artists I’ve heard about. Many other usually have a set moral or message to get across to the audience; Andy’s paintings carry a kind of freedom that other art doesn’t.

Discussion Questions

1)      What do you think Andy Warhol is trying to say in these three images?

2)      Do you think this is considered original art?

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9 Responses to Images of Andy Warhol

  1. sho5ko17 says:

    I totally agree with your idea about the irony of “Big Electricity Chair”. I thought it was an irony for Warhol because we punish killers by actually killing killers themselves. Maybe Warhol thought we should punish them in other ways to teach killing others is not good. For your second question, I believe his art is not an original art but a little unusual. It makes it unusual because many artists tell us the meanings he or she have in their work, but Warhol won’t. He says that there are no meanings in his work. Although Warhol states that way, I think there is something he wants to tell us through his art. I feel Warhol wanted to be silent so that we could freely imagine what the meaning of his art is. I think that will make the work more interesting because they will have multiple meanings, not only from Warhol but everyone who saw his work. I think he became famous because his work was not original. He drew public attention by behaving differently from others and making stuff in a unique way that nobody would come up with, by using normal products as a model.

  2. ljdoherty says:

    I have to say, I’m not sure if I agree with your interpretation of Warhol’s Cambell’s Soup paintings. Though it is possible that Warhol was, as you said, “trying to represent the lack of attention in society, and how you can find beauty in the geometry and colours even in such ordinary objects [,]” I felt as if he was almost trying to do the exact opposite. To me it seemed like Warhol was demonstrating the blandness and repetitiveness of society. He painted 32 of these cans, each one differing in only the name of soup on the label. To me this shows he was far more interested in the fact that the cans were all essentially the same as opposed to the beauty of each can.
    I like your second discussion question because it does bring up a very interesting point. Even though his pieces are very original in the fact that no one had really made art like his before, he himself did not come up with any new ideas beyond that. His works were all of well-known images, hence the name “Pop Art,” which indicates that they were perhaps purposefully unoriginal. To answer the question then, I’m torn. His work as a whole and his persona that surrounds his work are original but it’s hard to say whether or not the actual pieces are.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    I can see you are trying to clarify the motif, or the motivation of work by Andy Warhol. You first stated his work is “for others to project their own interpretation and imagination onto his work”, and provides “Campbell Soup Cans”, and later in the back, “Big Electric Chair” as examples to validate the argument. Then in the middle of this article, you quoted Warhol’s own statement “My painting’s just about entertaining people” as your start point to bring up another motivation of him, which is “evoke an emotion in his art”, supported again by “Big Electric Chair” work. The question is: are both of them ultimate goals of his work as always? Or simply they are just occur exclusively in some work while cannot reasonably combine.
    Just it is because if you want to evoke an emotion, you will try to convey your thought and emotion through your work, and intentionally manipulate viewers’ interpretation. That is Warhol’s work as a commercial illustrator. The “Big Electric Chair” is a perfect example, as he wants people to be feared and successfully got his point. While he does not want to be misunderstood and narrow the possibilities of this work can be rethinking otherwise. He intentionally want viewers to interpret his work from his point of view, however, giving it multiply paths towards it.
    Then in his another work “Marilyn Monroe”, I can see your point “create a blank” for views to fill up. However, I don’t see any emotion involved of inside since there should not be any. These sort of leading me to conclude his freedom style of his work, which you concluded as well.

  4. melbelle15 says:

    I like how you state that the beauty of Andy Warhol’s art comes from the viewer’s interpretation. Some artists want to create a sense of mystery in their artwork and some artists really want the viewer to contemplate what they are looking at. Andy Warhol was one of the first artists of his time to put a spin on something you normally would not regard as artwork. Though it was a risky thing to do, his ideas and artwork were hugely successful. The “Big Electric Chair,” like you mention, is a perfect example of letting the viewer interpret the artwork in their own way. Depending on the viewer’s past experiences, it could evoke completely different reactions than another viewer. In the reading, I remember Any Warhol’s quote that “there is nothing behind the surface of his art.” Whether or not he had meaning behind his work, the viewer could look at his artwork and find meaning based on their own experiences. And that is what made Andy Warhol so famous and popular. He put a spin on “normal” things and made them different in a unique way. The fact that his artwork is so unique made people very intrigued. His work became so popular and recognizable that his pieces have been reproduced multiple times and have become icons in American culture.

  5. wuyue2004101 says:

    I agree with your opinion on what Andy is trying to express in his Campbell Soup Can image. He didn’t draw the can itself (it does not require any mature skill in drawing); rather, Warhol is trying to abstract something from it, by repeating the can for fifty times. So he might try to lead people’s attention to ordinary everyday life. However, more importantly, I think he was trying to exhibit America’s mass consumption culture through the cans.This idea can probably be illustrated in three ways. First the cans contained food, the source of his energy to paint everyday. That’s an icon of ordinary American consumption. Second, the image evokes me, and I believe a lot of people, to hit on a shelf filled up by thousands of Campbell cans. This is the “mass” side of American consumption. Third, nobody can have privilege of having a superior can. This is the “equal” trait of American consumption. Just like what Duchamp himself said, “If you take a Campbell’s soup can and repeat it fifty times, you are not interested in the retinal image. What interests you is the concept.”
    Same consumption ideas can also be seen in Warhol’s other art works. I googled his name and found a bunch of pictures, though possessing different contents, with almost same pattern: repeated picture combo, exaggeration in colors. So it gives me the impression that people are consuming Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Chairman Mao. Most interestingly, I saw a lot of self portraits of Warhol himself. I can’t help but think, is he trying to make people consume himself?

  6. I couldn’t have put this in better words. I can really relate with your interpretation in the fact that he is taking “normal” things and showing them to us in a different light. We are constantly looking at images and see things in our everyday life. When they are simply shown or maybe even in an abstract way like Andy Warhol has done we start to access and apply different meanings to the photos. The repetitive nature of the Campbell’s soup cans has such a hidden meaning that I don’t think that I even fully comprehend. The ordinariness as well as the fact hat he chose a can as the viewpoint allows the viewer to interpret in in whichever way they want.
    Warhol is brillant in the means that he was not afraid to be different and not afraid to annoy people. The controversy of his work made him noticed. The goal of his work was not to please people but instead to bring out emotion, good or bad! Sometimes I don’t think that he had an answer to the meaning of his work which made it open to interpretation. This reminds me of a surveys: closed answer or free response. Meaning when you give people a list of answers those are what they will chose from but when you leave it open you will get a more diverse and interesting types of answers. His interesting work made him legendary!

  7. Richard says:

    Relating the three images together, from the “Campbell Soup Can” to the “Big Electricity Chair”, I think I find something related to Andy’s life experience. The first image, the Campbell Soup Can, as you said, shows the essence of nothing. I like the interpretation and I think it is necessary for people to notice that tiny thing in life. The kind of idea that the can is so common and it is of no need to care is pathetic. Andy has a poor childhood and that also gives him a chance of knowing the detail which ordinary people would not like to, and Campbell Soup Can is the representative.
    The Marilyn, presented by gathering the same icon with different colors, shows another essence of nothing. Because today people are trying so hard to give an explaination to something, find the attempt behind works, Andy gives the image to show the “death of author”, stressing on the importance of the understand by readers. What inspires me is your interpretion that “Andy wants to evoke an emotion”, and I am thinking that maybe the different color shapes Marilyn and everyone, because life is made up of no more than the color presented in that image. In addition, that is the main point Andy is working on at that time, he wants people to focuse more on themselves.
    For the electricity chair, I am not coming up with more creative idea. The interpretation is good enough, I think. So I just try to say something about the relationship between the image and Andy. I always think that Andy is not an advertisement maker but a real artist. This image shows the Andy’s attitude towards death, and that is the main concern of Andy when he is getting old.
    In conclusion, I think Andy is a brilliant artist with his magnificant ideas. Although I do not like his ways of presenting, I respect him and his images are original art, for they are picked by Andy, a such picky man.

  8. jeongyeon Ha says:

    In my opinion, Andy Warhol try to give people room to think and interpret for his art.
    As you said, ‘Campbell’s Soup’, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and the ‘Electric Chair’ are common subject we can easily access to.
    However i do not think that Warhol’s art works are the product of the fact that ‘he is ingenuously interested in subject matter'(THOM,7)
    I believe that the selection of subjects is not just the result of simplicity. He intend to make people to think through ‘blank’ in his artworks and
    want others to impart meanings. As a famous artist, these art works affect can somehow affect audiences and can be the center of attention as it is.
    I think Warhol’s artwork is suggestive as itself. Through his own, unique art-style and technique, he tries to let audiences think and consider.
    Also, for the second question, i think that there is no ‘original art’ in this world. Art is a kind of ‘expression’. There are no specific definition that what is
    the original art. Also there should be no limitation. In my point of view, Warhol’s art works are different from existing art style.
    He sets up and invents his own style. I think these subjects like ‘Campbell’s Soup’, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and the ‘Electric Chair’ are the change of shift in a new way.

  9. cdowens says:

    A comment from Brittany (post cut-off):
    “While I like the way you interpret his art, I believe the beauty of Andy Warhol’s art is that he has no intended meaning for his work. The artist is dead and it is up to the viewer to create their own interpretation of the art and I believe this is what art is all about.

    I do agree with you about the electric chair image. However, I think the significance comes from the history of the chair; it was used to kill Ethel Rosenberg, a presumably innocent person who was executed for espionage. When I first saw the image, I found it interesting but then when I understood its history, I found the greater meaning behind it. I think this image is successful because it produced an emotion from me; it was uncomfortable, disgust, and shocked. Like you said, the image becomes ironic because we kill people to teach them not to kill.

    I think he chooses these really simple images to push people to think about what these images mean to them and how they can change the way they think about other things. In response to your last question, I do think it is original art because I believe art is not just the end result. Art is the entire process from inspiration, to the thought behind it, to the application.”

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