Andy Warhol is today regarded as one the leading pioneers of Pop Art. From his height of popularity in the 1960’s his creativity has continued to gain fans and inspire a new generation of creative minds.
Name: Andrew Warhola
Year of Birth: 1928
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Mediums: Fine Art, Video
About Andy Warhol
Raised in Pittsburgh the social interactions which would have a profound affect on his work began at an early age for Andrew Warhola. Diagnosed with chorea – a disease which causes involuntary limb movements – the young Warhola was often bed ridden. Becoming isolated from his peers Warhola was said to have collected images of celebrities and repeatedly posted them around his bed as a way to keep himself occupied. After graduating from the School of Fine Art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949, Warhol moved to New York in order to find work which matched his artistic ambition. Working as a an illustrator, Warhol gained notoriety for his shoe design campaigns, a creativity which saw him hired at RCA records to design album covers.
It was not until 1962 however when Warhol’s solo career began to gain momentum. The Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles debuted works such as 100 Campbell Soup tins and Marilyn Diptych – 50 images of the then recently deceased Marilyn Monroe. These works were the first ‘Pop Art’ seen in American culture. The pieces took a satirical stance, examining the way individuals are made to feel unique in their purchasing of a product, which in reality has been manufactured countless times, thus demonstrating why for example 100 Campbell’s soup tins were printed. The meaning of these pieces had ramifications for a culture of consumerism which produced images of the ‘Nuclear Family’ as the American Ideal, a norm which ultimately Warhol rebuked. Pop Art of this nature ultimately has echoed through a generation. 2008 saw the release of the ‘808’s and Heartbreaks’ album by Kanye West under the genre of ‘Pop art’. Featuring songs produced largely by synthesizers with lyrical content which suggested ‘unique’ emotion, ultimately this album was a reference to Warhol. West took the same satirical stance – selling 1 million copies in the first week – and demonstrated just as Warhol had done before him, how easily the public are fooled; thereby demonstrating the effect Warhol has had on a cultural icon of today.
The ‘anti-film’ “Sleep” directed by Warhol was released in 1963. Featuring 8 hours of John Giorno sleeping, Warhol again mocked the public by demonstrating the pull of disengaging material which they were willing to accept. This again has had ramifications on contemporary art. The 1980’s saw revolution in high end fashion with brands such as Comme des Garcons and Maison Martin Margiela pioneering the deconstruction movement of clothes. These brands took for example leather jackets and turned them into dresses, a design stance never taken in classical fashion. Unquestionably the movement which Warhol created with this film gave creative licence to others and allowed them to challenge the ‘ordinary’ in other artistic fields.
After “Sleep”, Warhol went on to form ‘The Factory’, studio spaces where artists could meet and share creative ideas. Attracting names such as Gerard Malanga and The Velvet Underground the space became notorious for its production line style of producing exciting art. This set-up gave rise to movements such as the Bowery Boys in contemporary art. Graffiti artist André who is today regarded as one of the leading figures within pop art has also undoubtedly taken lead from Warhol, and this phase of his career. André has went on to create the Le Baron nightclubs in Paris and Tokyo, both of which are places where young and creative minds can meet. Furthermore the works of Warhol which transpired from this time can also be seen as important to André. Inverted images of Banana’s and Mushroom Clouds were used by Warhol and reinvented in only two colours. This suggests the monotone feeling we receive from everyday objects exemplified in the banana, and how we as a society relate the same routine emotion to such a dramatic situation such as an explosion. Ultimately this condemns the controlling nature of the media and state. Again André in cotemporary pop art has continued this theme in his ‘love graffiti’ works.
‘The American Supermarket’ exhibition in 1964 questioned the fabric of art and its true purpose. By recreating a supermarket in a gallery space the artists made subtle satirical statements about the nature of a generated society, where we are told what to think and how to behave in certain situations. This exhibition is described by many as the most influential movement in Warhol’s career, as to many it encapsulates the statements he had made in his earlier art. English graffiti artist Banksy has also described the exhibition as influential in his own art. He aims draw attention to issues in society using somewhat black humour in order to do so, ultimately using the sentiment from ‘The…Supermarket’ exhibition.
After an attempted assassination attack in 1968 Warhol’s career took a much quieter tone, focussing much more on portraits of celebrities at the time such as Michael Jackson and John Lennon. This appeared to be a reference to Warhol’s childhood of posting pictures around his bed, suggesting to critics he had become reserved once again and taken on a less intimidating, childlike persona. Throughout the 1980’s Warhol’s career continued to become less publicised as he gained continuing criticism for focussing on business rather than artistic endeavour. His death on February 22 1987 from cardiac arrhythmia however shocked not only the art community but wider reaches of world culture. Warhol was famously quoted as saying “I love Hollywood…everything is plastic…I want to be plastic” a sentiment which can be seen as having came true. Warhol is regarded to this day as one the great artists of the 20th century, a legacy which will last into the future. His work has inspired artists in all fields, from music to fashion and has given them a licence to be creative outside of the expected realms – arguably his greatest achievement. In his last interview Warhol stated about pop artists “They have different reasons to do things. All these kids are so intellectual.” As founder of the movement it can be argued that Warhol therefore is the figure who has allowed generations of previously unquantifiable youths to truly explore their own imaginations.