The Pop Arts’ movement began in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Dubbed, the founding father of the movement, Andy Warhol brought forward society’s obsession with mass culture and allowed it to become the subject of art itself. Using many techniques such as isolation, repetition and colour placement, Warhol brought to the world of art his views on materialism, politics, economics and the media. Andy was quick to warn his admirers and critics, do not look any deeper than the surface of my art and my life’ (Bockris 21).
Andy Warhol produced works that defied the popular notion of what art should be. Warhol’s works were meant to be taken at face value, for nothing more than what they portrayed on the surface. While he stressed this superficial attitude about his art, his works were often the cause of debate and influenced public opinion like no other cultural figure in North America ( Shanes 5 ). Through his series with common images, celebrities and death, Warhol teaches us that surface images have a lot to say about pop culture.
By exploring and learning more about the artist who opened so many doors in the art world, one can see why looking at the surface of his works often meant seeing and understanding so much more about the society in which we live. Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans are arguably some of his most famous works. Warhol wanted us to look at the simple image of the can for what it represented to our culture. He challenged “old fashioned” critics to overcome their ideas of art as complex and incomprehensible by using simple, common images. Warhol’s selection of the soup can may be the most important part of the work he did with them.
He wanted to display his view of America and to him eating Campbell’s soup represented being American. Andy wanted to explore these common images that are part of our everyday lives, which we accept without hesitation. In his painting 32 Soup Cans ( Shanes 53 ), one can note his prominent use of repetition. Warhol often used this technique to magnify the appearance of objects produced mechanically in large quantities. By choosing 32 different varieties of cans Warhol was forcing the viewer to look hard and study his painting to see the difference between each can.
He made us realize the way in which we looked at art, always carefully examining and looking for a deeper, hidden meaning beneath the surface. On the outside all we see are soup cans, 32 times and to most observers it seems meaningless. Warhol’s main goal was to show us that in a world where everyone claims to be searching for universal truths and importance an ordinary object like a soup can, dictates so much about societies’ beliefs, values and our views on art. Andy Warhol loved glamour and celebrities. Through looking at much of his work one can conclude that female starlets were some of his most favored subjects.
Only a few months after the announcement of Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962 he began a series of paintings that represented the many faces she held. Warhol chose Monroe as a symbol of the separation between the glamourous public life of a star and their often dysfunctional private lives. In Marilyn Monroe’s Lips ( Shanes 69 ), Warhol isolated Monroe’s lips and repeated them throughout an entire two canvases once in colour and then in black and white. Once again we can observe one of Warhol’s main approaches to dissecting societies obsession with mass- communication and constant repetition in the media.
Using the same format as many of his other works with Coke, Brillo Pads and soup cans one can deduce Warhol felt that Monroe was just another one of these items that had been produced and marketed. By presenting one canvas in colour and the other in black and white Warhol illustrated the double life of Marilyn Monroe. While much can be interpreted from Warhol’s series on celebrities, in particular his Marilyn Monroe pieces, one can still see we have learnt and observed through the surface of what Andy chose to place on his canvas.
The emotions we feel are linked directly to our feelings with the certain celebrity and how we have perceived the “surface” image shown in the media repeatedly. The hidden meanings, ideas and feelings that are evoked by these simple faces bring us back to Warhol’s main idea that nothing lies deeper than what you see on the surface. When you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn’t really have any effect ( Gidal 28 ). ‘ Warhol’s death and disaster series was sparked when he was given a newspaper with a headline that read 129 DIE IN JET’ ( Shanes 20 ).
Andy decided to analyze and portray the cultural implications of viewing tragic images on a regular basis. Most of Warhol’s disaster images show images taken from a newspaper repeated several times a long a blank canvas. By using this technique, once again he shows us his concern with the way society accepts tragedy when viewed through mass media. From a series of paintings called the Electric Chairs, Electric Chair ( Gidal 36 ) the object, the chair is the focal point of the piece. We are in no way confused about the message of the painting.
In true Warhol style, it is not necessary to search for a deep meaning. The appearance of emptiness and loneliness is immediately visible. The only words in the picture, silence’, are taken in subconsciously. The well chosen image makes a statement in itself. The success of Warhol’s work during the sixties made him an immensely popular artist. At first glance Warhol’s images appear to be simple. But, it is that simplicity that allowed these images to have such a huge visual impact when the viewer could associate with them.
Warhol exemplified the meaning of Pop Art. Though his works may be simple and surface oriented we can see that Warhol had a very accurate understanding of pop culture. He used imagery from popular culture as a means of criticizing contemporary society. His images and ideas were all easily accessible for the audience. Emerging as arguably the most famous American artist, Andy Warhol opened up many important doors and minds in the art world which modern artists are still benefitting from today.