Andy Worhal



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Andy Worhal
Andy Warhol, the American painter, printmaker,
illustrator, and film maker was born in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928, shortly
afterwards settling in New York. The only son of immigrant, Czech parents,
Andy finished high school and went on to the Carnegie Institute of Technology
in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1949 with hopes of becoming an art teacher
in the public schools. While in Pittsburgh, he worked for a department
store arranging window displays, and often was asked to simply look for
ideas in fashion magazines . While recognizing the job as a waste of time,
he recalls later that the fashion magazines “gave me a sense of style and
other career opportunities.” Upon graduating, Warhol moved to New York
and began his artistic career as a commercial artist and illustrator for
magazines and newspapers. Although extremely shy and clad in old jeans
and sneakers, Warhol attempted to intermingle with anyone at all who might
be able to assist him in the art world. His portfolio secure in a brown
paper bag, Warhol introduced himself and showed his work to anyone that
could help him out. Eventually, he got a job with Glamour magazine, doing
illustrations for an article called “Success is a Job in New York,” along
with doing a spread showing womens shoes. Proving his reliability and
skills, he acquired other such jobs, illustrating adds for Harpers Bazaar,
Millers Shoes, contributing to other large corporate image-building campaigns,
doing designs for the Upjohn Company, the National Broadcasting Company
and others. In these early drawings, Warhol used a device that would prove
beneficial throughout his commercial art period of the 1950s-a tentative,
blotted ink line produced by a simple monotype process. First he drew in
black ink on glazed, nonabsorbent paper. Then he would press the design
against an absorbent sheet. As droplets of ink spread, gaps in the line
filled in-or didnt, in which case they created a look of spontaneity.


Warhol mastered thighs method, and art directors of the 1950s found in
adaptable to nearly any purpose. This method functioned provided him with
a hand-scale equivalent of a printing press, showing his interest in mechanical
reproduction that dominates much of his future work. Such techniques used
for almost all of his works derived from his beginning in the commercial
arts. His pattern of aesthetic and artistic innovation, to “expect the
unexpected,” began with his advertising art in the 1950s. Much of his
future subject matter can be placed in the realm of such common, everyday
objects, that were focused on in these early times. Nearly all of Warhols
works relate in one way or another to the commercially mass-produced machine
product. Hence, Warhols future artwork and techniques were greatly influenced
by his rather humble beginnings. Although Warhol did receive recognition
for much of his commercial illustrations during those times, he was constantly
pursuing another career as well-that of a serious artist. Unfortunately,
Warhol was not so successful at first in obtain this goal. His delicate
ink drawings of shoes and cupids, among various others, had no place in
a decade dominated by such heroic artists as William de Kooning and Jackson
Pollock.

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Warhol And Pop Art
Pop Art emerged in the US in the early
1960s, at first completely unacknowledged. During its beginning, Pop
Art was often seen as an insult to the roles of such artists as Pollock
and de Kooning, who were leading a revival of Abstract Expressionist, “an
abrupt and conspicuous dialectical reaction to a great wave of abstraction,”
at mid-century. Emerging with considerable fanfare, mainly condemnation,
but by 1963-64, it suddenly began being extensively exhibited, published,
and consumed as a cultural phenomenon By the early 60s, Warhol became
determined to establish himself as a serious painter, as well as to gain
the respect of such famous artists of the time such as Jasper Johns and
Robert Rauschenberg, whose work he had recently come to know and admire.


He began by painting a series of pictures based on crude advertisements
and on images from comic strips. These first such works, such as Saturdays
Popeye(1960) and Water Heater”(1960), were loosely painted in a “mock-expressive”
style that mocked the gestural brushwork of Abstract Expressionism, and
are among the first examples of what came to be known as Pop Art. Warhols
works during the early 60s are among those for which he is best known
for. He reproduced advertisements and cartoons, as well as such familiar
household items as telephones and soup cans, often painting one image repeatedly
in a grid design. Many of these works, such as his pictures of dollar bills
and soup cans, as in Cambells Soup Cans 200″(1962), show many ideas underlying
advertising, as well as showing his interest in techniques that enabled
multiplication of an image, such as silk-screen printing, techniques that
dominated much of his work. Through these works Warhol gained his much
desired recognition, becoming an instant celebrity, having gone from respected
commercial illustrator to controversial and influential artist. Such Pop
Art images as Warhols soup cans and Lichtensteins comic book panels jumped
from the vast American consumer culture into the realm of high artistic
and aesthetic recognition. It is not known whether Lichtenstein or Warhol
was the first to displace commercial images from the media to modernist
painting, but Warhol, of all the founding Pop artists, first and foremost,
consistently “hewed to the canons of Pop technique and iconography.” These
first Pop works, in their intentional exclusion of all conventional signs
of personality, in their obvious rejection of innovation and their blatant
vulgarity, were somewhat brutal and shocking, designed with the intention
of offending an audience “accustomed to thinking of art as an intimate
medium for conveying emotion.” Warhol further extended these concerns by
using techniques that gave his images a printed appearance, using stencils,
rubber stamps, and hand-cut silkscreens, along with in his choice of subject-matter.


He used the shocking images of tabloids, as in 129 Die in Jet to money,
in a series of screenprinted paintings representing rows of dollar bills,
and to the products of consumer society, including Coca-Cola bottles and
tins of Cambells Soup. Thus, the once struggling commercial illustrator
transformed into one of the most recognized and influential artists of
the century, considered the “progenitor of American Pop Art.”
Death And Disaster
In the summer of 1962, Warhols friend
Henry Geldzahler laid out a copy the Daily News while the two were having
lunch. On the cover, the headline was “129 Die in Jet.” According to Warhol,
that is what began a series of paintings depicting rather gruesome images
of human death and disaster, with subjects ranging from the personal focus
of individual suicide, the banality of everyday disaster, death by legal
execution, to the historical death of political assassination, culminating
with the most destructive instrument the world has ever known-the atom
bomb. Together, these works are among the most shocking and disturbing
works of art the world has ever known. In most of these works, Warhol displays
death as an ever-present subject. His first silkscreened death and disaster
paintings were of suicides and especially gruesome car crashes, such as
in Ambulance Disaster” and “Saturday Disaster.” the power and suffering
shown in the images stunning viewers. Like the contaminated canned food
shown in “Tunafish Disaster,” these images appear to represent a breach
of faith in the products of the Industrial Revolution by showing consumes
products embraced by the population that backfire and cause death. Warhol
retained the images from clippings of newspapers, magazines, and photographs,
altering them only slightly, as was his norm, to show the images as they
were, everyday occurrences the public accepts yet forgets, forcing the
viewer to take them at face value. They portray “A stark, disabused, pessimistic
vision of American life, produced from the knowing rearrangement of pulp
materials by an artist who did not opt for the easier paths of irony or
condescension.” Among the most iconic Death and Disaster images in the
“Electric Chair.”(1963) According to Warhol, his replication of this image,
both within the single composition and from painting to painting, was intended
to “empty” the image of its meaning. The electric chair is shown from
the front, fully visible, showing a sign reading “SILENCE,” the sign exclamating
the emptiness of the execution chamber. The image, the chamber empty ,
showing only the sign, represents death as an absence and complete silence,
a complete void. This notion was characteristic of Warhol, who once said
“I never understood why when you died, you didnt just vanish and everything
could just keep going the way it was, only you just wouldnt be there,”
and who often stated that he wanted a blank tombstone when he died. Many
wonder why Warhol chose such imagery to focus on, and he himself gives
little reason. For some of these works, in which he shows images repeated
relatively unchanged, he was attempting to lessen the shock of the viewer,
recognizing such events for their face value, as everyday occurrences.


“When you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesnt really
have and effect.” As in the “Jackies,” images of the recently assassinated
President Kennedys grieving widow, were repeated to reinforce the obsessive
ways that our thoughts keep returning to a tragedy, and “stress the flash
of fame these little known(suicides) victims achieve in death. This can
be said to be consistent with Warhols claim that everyone “will be famous
for 15 minutes.” In this, does he mean by tragedy? Others claim the initial
context for these subjects was journalistic- as an artist trained in drawing
and pictorial design, he was obviously predisposed to consider the front
page of the news and other media items in visual , artistic terms-as a”media junkie” who continually pursued and collected printed matter, he
was drawn into a network of “sensationalized intimacies with the protagonists
of the news.” Regardless, there is a tie between these images and his celebrity
portraits. Warhol took up the theme of suicide shortly after his first
meditations on Marilyn Monroes death. While doing those works, he said
to have realized that “everything I was doing must have been death.” Thus,
the idea of death was not a new one for him, and thereby his choice of
subject matter may not have been completely random. Throughout the Death
and Disaster paintings, Warhol makes use of background color to serve various
functions. Mostly, throughout the series, he avoids the use of primary
colors, using mainly secondaries, such as oranges, lavenders, and pinks,
the types of colors “you would expect to find in a wallpaper store.” His
use of background color in the Death and Disaster paintings is mostly extrinsic
to the content of the images. In some, such as “Lavender Disaster,” the
background color seems to intensify the effect of alienation created by
the realism of the visual content. In others, such as “Atomic Bomb,” the
red-orange color serves a supporting role. The images Warhol selected for
these paintings were gruesome, though he showed again his brilliant eye
for such images so effective in shocking the viewer. “With an eye for the
eccentricity of an individual event, Warhols paintings capture the unpredictable
choreography of death.” Using a broad range of images, from car crashes,
suicides, burn victims, funerals, riots, to the culmination with the atomic
bomb, Warhol succeeded in giving the viewer what one expected of Warhol;
to expect the unexpected.

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