“…Famous for fifteen minutes…” Andy Warhol.
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh to Czechoslovakian immigrant parents. He studied painting and design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh before settling in New York in 1950. He achieved enormous success as a commercial artist, specialising in shoe advertisements, winning the prestigious Art Directors’ Club Medal twice in1952 and 1957.
In 1960 Warhol began to replicate a range of mass-produced images, beginning with newspaper advertisements and comic strips before turning to packaging, dollar bills and more. He is probably the most famous member of the Pop Art movement. Virtually any image that was in the public domain was a prime target for the Warhol treatment. In 1962 he had his first one-man show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles and in the same year exhibited at the Stable Gallery in New York. This was the year of ’32 Campbell’s Soup Cans’ (1961-1962). Soon after his sculptures of Brillo soap pad boxes, Coca-Cola bottles and replications of popular icons such as Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and most famously Marilyn Monroe were to appear and secure his reputation. The silk-screen process he favoured allowed for infinite replication, and he was opposed to the concept of a work of art as a piece of craftsmanship executed purely for the connoisseur; in Warhol’s own words, “I want everybody to think alike. I think everybody should be a machine.”
Thus Warhol’s work was intent on dehumanising his subjects whether they be images purloined from mass-culture or depictions of atrocities such as car crashes. He turned out his works/products like a manufacturer, going as far as naming his studio ‘The Factory’. As well as paintings, he published the long-running celebrity magazine ‘Interview’, managed the rock group ‘The Velvet Underground’ and achieved great notoriety as an underground filmmaker with lengthy films such as ‘Sleep’ (1963) and ‘Empire’ (1964). In their silent and almost completely static images Warhol raised monotony to new heights, as he said at the time, “I like boring things”. Andy Warhol has become one of the icons of the 20th Century, putting as much effort into publicising himself as promoting his work. He was finely tuned to the tedium of modern mass-culture, conveying and indeed revelling in the banality of the images proliferating around him. His stance was on the one hand distant and voyeuristic and on the other totally immersed in the culture of spectacle. He was able to both comment upon and completely embrace the materialism of the Sixties. Bernard Levin sums up the essence of Andy Warhol perfectly, “[He was a} one-man demonstration of the triumph of publicity over art.”