Andy Warhol And Pop Art Essay Research

Andy Warhol And Pop Art Essay, Research Paper

Pop ArtThe pop art movement began in London during the 1950’s and then

quickly spread throughout nearly all of the industrialized world. Although the

artists did have some overlapping styles, pop art focuses more on the subject and

less on style, which was left up to each individual artist. The main themes that is

evident in all pop art revolves around modern social values. The style in which

these values were portrayed varied depending on the culture and artist. Critic

Barbara Rose claimed in her review of a Pop Art show that Pop Art, ” I wish to

disagree with the assumption that pop art is an art style. It is not; these artists

are linked only through their subject matter, not through stylistic similarities. This

makes it possible to talk of the iconography or attitudes of Pop art, but not of Pop

art as an art style, as one would speak of Baroque or Cubism.” (Bondo, 1998)

In America, Pop Art used the images and techniques of mass media,

advertising, and popular culture, often in an ironic way to play off the social issues

of popular culture. The art form developed rapidly once reaching the U.S. New

York City, often viewed as the epicenter of American popular culture, fostered the

growth of many of the most highly regarded pop artists, including Warhol,

Rosenquist, Segal and Lichtenstein. California, namely San Fransisco was

recognized as the Pop Art capital of the west coast (Bourdon, 1989, 12)Subject

The subject of Warhol’s work revolved around various American social

issues of the mid-century. As America exited from World War II and entered the

Baby Boom era, the culture had become decidedly sanitized. Some of this could

be attributed to the Cold War and fear of the “enemy”. The flight to suburbia,

mass production, conservative family values, and development of new social

standards also played a major role in this “Leave-it-to-Beavering” of the nation.

This was also the period of time where admass culture had its beginnings.

Warhol played off the irony of these issues in such works as Campbell’s Soup

Cans and his famous Brillo Boxes (Bourdon, 1989, 34)

During the 1960’s, the nation began to see rapid changes. The space

program was under way, the Vietnam war was in action, Kennedy was killed,

racial equity became and issue and the “hippie” movement was at its peak;

spreading its trademark ideals of free love, drugs and music. Although Warhol

continued his focus on the irony of admass culture, he began to branch out into

new territory. He began to print his Flowers series, which had a decidedly

psychedelic flavor to them, matching the flavor of the current social scene

(Bourdon, 1989, 42)

As the 70’s disco scene came to rise, Warhol’s work followed. Warhol

himself frequented many of New York City’s hottest, most glamorous nightclubs.

Studio 54, famed for its exclusivity, was one of Warhol’s favorites. It is at this

period that Warhol became totally engulfed with creating works of other people,

mostly celebrities. Ever since childhood, Warhol had been obsessed with

celebrity life and fame. Some of Warhol’s most famous works were of celebrities.

Many were chic designers such as Halson, Diane von Fursenberg, Jean Paul

Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent (Bourdon, 1989, 53)

Death and disaster was also a subject that Warhol worked with, especially

during the early 60’s. These subjects contrasted somewhat with his others, for

they seemed to be far more gruesome and vulgar. However, it was said that

these were not intentionally vulgar, but again a clip from popular culture. When

confronted about the morbidity, Andy said “Every time you turn on the T.V. or

radio, they say something like ‘4 million are going to die’. That started it.” Warhol

frequently remarked about news broadcasts that projected deaths. For example,

a news program may project that 50,000 people will die in alcohol related

automobile accidents. To most, it seemed as if the media were relating this as a

warning. To Warhol, this was a “goal to be met.” Also, Warhol was obsessed

with the way vulgarity looses its effect after view multiple times. This is the

reason that he multiplied car accident pictures many times. Many of his famous

works, such as Car Crashes, Race Riots, Electric Chair, Suicides and Tuna Fish

Disasters were gruesome in nature (Bourdon, 1989, 109)

Another subject that seemed to permeate his work, especially his movies

was sex. This was not the sex that was seen in the pornography of the time, but

a more erotic and advant garde style. Sometimes, only bared flesh was seen,

and other times, it was full blown intercourse. Homoerotisism was another strong

theme in these movies. It wasn’t just man with man or woman with woman, that

would be too simple. Many of the scenes featured men as women, drag queens

and asexuals. This only added to the peculiarity and erotisism. His four most

famous movies revolved around sexual themes: Sleep, Blow Job, My Hustler

and Flesh (Bondo, 1998).Medium

Warhol’s art career began with commercial art, in where he created

illustrations using a blot-line technique. The blot technique is as follows: a

completed drawing is taped and hinged to a piece of Strathmore paper. The

original would be inked and then blotted onto the Strathmore paper.

One may wonder, why blotted drawings instead of using the originals?

Andy stated, “I like the style…..Well, it was just that I didn’t like the way I drew. I

guess, we had to do an ink blot or something like that at college, and, then, I

realized you can do an ink blot and do that kind of look, and, then, it would look

printed somehow.” (Bondo, 1998). This printed look is what made Warhol

famous, adding to his admass culture themes. For a brief period, Warhol also

used rubber stamps and stencils to achieve the machine made, printed look.

It was in the early 60’s that Warhol began to use the silk-screen method.

In retrospect, the rubber stamp method he was using to repeat images over and

over (a Warhol trademark) suddenly seemed to homemade– he wanted

something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect. The silk-screening

method was done by taking a photograph and transferring it in glue to silk, and

then rolling ink across the silk so that the ink permeated only certain spots in the

silk. This way, Warhol could achieve the same image, slightly different each

time. The pictures were slightly faded and blurry, which resembled the way the

media dulls down a story each and every time it is told. Tiny but important details

are lost (Bondo, 1998)

Film and magazines were two other mediums used by Warhol. His films

were considered underground and low budget, with strong sexual overtones.

They were produced for only a brief period in his career, and were many times

initiated by friends and lovers.

His magazine, however, would live on even after Warhol’s death.

Interview was the name of the magazine that he co-produced with John Wilcock,

then editor of an underground newspaper called Other Scenes. The magazine

featured text and loosely edited interviews from cassette tapes. Andy often said

that he started the magazine to get free tickets to all the premieres. The

magazine quickly turned into a monthly review of popular culture, including

moviestars, fashion, art, music, television, gossip and celebrity nightlife–

especially the notorious Studio 54 (Kakulani, New York Times Magazine, 1996).

Another medium that Warhol used in the 70’s was known as Oxidation

paintings. These were large canvases created by coating them with copper paint.

Warhol and his male friends would urinate on them while the paint was still damp.

The uric acid and copper sulfate combined to produce a green patine. The result

was work that varied widely, from Pollock-like drip paintings to misty landscapes

(Bourdon, 1989, 238). Organization & Style

Organization plays an important role in defining Warhol’s work. His use of

color, treatment of masses and values and use of patterns are distinctly “Warhol”,

separating it from that of the other Pop artists.

Color was key to much of Warhol’s work. In fact, it was so important, that

many times Warhol would produce a work without color first. Then, he would

observe the work and think for days what the color should be used. Many times,

color was applied by airbrush later to achieve an overlay effect. For the most

part, his color schemes were bright. He also used a dot-matrix technique that

spread color out by means of a tiny dot pattern. This was achieved through the

silk-screening process, and added to the mass produced look (Bondo, 1998).

He used appropriated and serially repeated images to achieve his

machined look. This imagery arrests the eye, and speeds up the work creating

his “admass” effect (Bourdon, 1989, 206)

The shape of many of the images in his most popular works had a

rounded, streamlined look to them. The values did not posses lots of detail

either. This was to give them a plastic look. He was quoted as saying that these

resembled club life, “plastic clothes, plastic jewelry, plastic surgery, plastic

emotions.” (Kakulani, New York Times Magazine, 1996)

The center of interest on a Warhol image is the image itself. The objects

were not meant to be “storytellers”, as did the more classic artworks. The

Warhol image was intend to confront the audience with boredom as an issue

itself by making the images superficial. Usually, the objects were surrounded with

space rather than pattern, emphasizing this center of interest idea (Bondo, 1998).

Warhol used a detached style, in which little emotional involvement or

identification is created. By use of this method, a statement is made, but does

not effect the audience on a personal level.Conclusion

Andy Warhol was one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists. And like many

artists, Warhol saw the world in a very different way. However, he was

misunderstood as one who satirized American Pop culture because he did not

agree with or fully understand it. Nothing could be more opposite of the truth,

Warhol loved Pop culture since he was a child engrossed with the beautiful

people that graced the magazine covers and movies. He became a Pop culture

genius, and through his work, he became a part of it as a social commentator and

visionary. And through his genius, he launched his work to become an icon of



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