What below the Nothing

The book ‘Andy Warhol Images’ introduces Warhol’s art career and his various works by using quotation of Warhol and his close people. Among many quotations, the part, “I feel I represent the U.S in my art”, was quite interesting because the evaluation on his works of art is still not that favorable even in theses days according to the introduction of the book. It was ironic that he thought himself as an art representative of U.S even he get a completed estimation. Warhol is definitely one of the representative artist of U.S in now days, however as you can see when you heard of his atelier’s name ‘Factory’, he multiplied his works using silkscreen unlike traditional artists. In his process of making, the works are always same whoever printed them. On the other hands, artist’s unique and professional hands mean nothing in his works. The artist said that his work means nothing and he just tried to entertaining people, however, I think his choice of the way and multiplied subjects seems like imply something.

The most of the materials that he usually treated are made on a mass production basis like images of mass media or the Cambell’s soup cans, which do not require deep understanding on arts or sensitive souls.  Image of Marilyn Monroe was also one of the mass media as the author mentioned his first real portrait was ‘Self-Portrait’. All his materials were related with mass production and his method of making the works also resembles mass production system. This image reminds Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Lot of people select Coca-Cola and McDonald’s as a representative of U.S’s food, but it is actually very unusual phenomenon. In common sense, for example, Kimchi is representative food in case of Korea and the best Kimchi usually made by a professional with traditional and special method. Moreover, Kimchi tasted different by district and cook’s individuality. However, in case of representative of U.S, there is no professional on making coke and burgers or special menus in unique ways and they just have same size and taste. In addition, the food is deeply connected with the company’s name and large capital unlike other country’s food: sushi, fish and chips and so on. Warhol’s works are similar with those food and company, because they are distinguished from the works such as ‘the Mona Lisa’ and they can be duplicated whenever and wherever including some parts of big capitalism. His art closely resemble Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

This characteristic could be understood with a word ‘Nothing’. Those brands and Andy Warhol are both special symbol and identity, however there are no particular souls and foods and works just duplicated infinitely, which means they are eventually nothing. Warhol said his works means nothing but they shows us his American feature such as mass production and capitalism. I think that U.S’s identity is strong and it has lots of representative icons, but the principal that bind the society is ‘Nothing’. U.S has more diversity than any other country and the society is based on individualism that respect other’s difference. This would be the mechanism why mass production and uniformity represent the U.S and it helps this country with diversity to become a one country. Whether it is a authentic or a fake, whether it is a only thing or duplicated thing, the characteristic of ‘Nothing’ support everything of U.S.A and show the country’s own feature.

Discussion Question

1 Even Warhol’s characterful ways are multiplying and a mass production, he drew his self-portrait as a real portrait not using his technic. What is the meaning of this ironic and difference between them?

2 Warhol was very sensitive on fashionable subjects such as ‘Birmingham Race Riot’ and ‘Mao’. If he worked on these days’ issues, what would he choose?

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4 Responses to What below the Nothing

  1. sallypark25 says:

    I personally think you brought up the important point on the identity of America. I also think that America had no choice but to choose uniformity as the representative of the nation. Since the United States is immigrant country which allows people from overseas to come in with relatively less regulations, the society of the U.S had to find the best way to control and incorporate the whole people to make sure there is no one who is isolated. The community will be collapsed and break down even with the one unhappy social group. The idea of democratization of commodity made people think that they belong to the identical community and have equal social opportunity. You drink Coca cola regardless of social status, ethnicity, gender and age. The idea that we consume the same product every day gives people a feeling of homogeneity. This can be criticized for eradicating the diverse individual’s identity by implicitly forcing people to purchase the same goods. However, I think this can be also viewed as one political way of America being able to construct its own community to live. I’ve always thought about this whenever I observe how different ethnicity can live in the same territory with less conflict and fight than I expected it would have.

  2. Hailey Bang says:

    Your title, ‘what below the nothing’, includes everything which is embracing the main idea of reading material, Warhol’s artwork, and the other iconic image of America.

    The idea you pointed out, ‘he did not distinguished from the work’, is really interesting. After I read this part, I imagined about him and apparently the image of Andy Warhol himself stroke me, not one of his works. It is like when we think about Terry Richardson, the portrait and documentary photographer, the image of Terry wearing red checkered shirt is popping up, instead of his photography. It is one of distinctive specialty of American modern art which is compartmentalized with European arts.

    The mass production which is a typical manufacturing method of Coca-Cola and Mcdonald’s is one of the other characteristics of Andy Warhol’s work. Unlike most of artists pursue uniqueness or soleness, he made uncountable artworks by printing. He intentionally named his studio a ‘factory’. Because of these features, audience can enjoy his artwork relatively everywhere comparing to other artists. As for me, I’ve already seen his works more than five times. It is easy to access, enjoy, and recognize, same as Coca-Cola and Mcdonald’s. Whether he wanted to criticize uniformity of America or not, Andy Warhol himself has become one part of America.

  3. Grace Gu says:

    I like your way describing “the characteristic of ‘Nothing’ support everything of U.S.A”. It’s ironic but it makes sense in some way. With the development of the technology, a lot of things become more and more identical.The burgers in every McDonald’s almost taste the same. The iPhone that you are using is totally the same as mine. Whenever you walk on the street in the downtown of a big city, all the buildings looks so similar that you can’t easily tell whether you are in LA or New York. However, these identical things bring American together and help them to establish the mutual value.

    As you said, “U.S has more diversity than any other country”. I completely agree with you.When Andy Warhol tried to present America, he usually chose popular images, like Cambell’s soup cans and Marilyn Monroe. However, because America is so diverse, it is so difficult to present it objectively. No every one ate Cambell’s soup can, neither every one looks like Marilyn Monroe. However, when people seeing things as a outsider, they usually tend to magnify the meaning of the objects. As a foreigner, when I saw the portraits of Marilyn, I would imagine America full of blonde girls. When I saw Andy’s painting of Cambell’s soup can, I would imagine every single American had ate the Cambell’s soup can before. This images are kind of misleading but i guess Andy Warhol wanted to present the part of America in his mind but not the whole. He had his own unique way of presenting the ordinary and common things in life, but it is hard for ordinary people to understand his art. I guess his art didn’t necessarily need people to understand, but appreciate.

  4. soolim says:

    It was so impressed that you pointed out the irony in reading. I have always thought that mass products like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are representation of America without any doubt. However, after reading your response, I am really beginning to wonder why the mass production system has become the symbol of America where the huge diversity exists.
    In my opinion, America has so many varieties that they cannot help making mass products. This means that they should make standard and regular products because it is hard for products to be targeted and tailored to consumer’s diversified tastes individually. Therefore, mass production systems have been developed in America. And that’s why it has become the representation of America.
    From this point, the meaning of ‘nothing’ which Andy Warhol referred is that American culture is too diverse to define as only one word. Instead, he expressed it as ‘nothing’.

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