Posterity celebrates him as the leading figure of last century’s visual art movement – pop art. Before he arrived on the artistic scene of the 1960’s, advertising and celebrity culture had already enthralled the American people. His contributions to fields such as drawing, painting, film making, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture and music, had something in common: his obsession with finding the relationship between artistic expression and popular culture items or people. During his lifetime, Andy Warhol’s controversial artistic personality stirred numerous talks about whether his so called art pieces could really be seen as such. Today we know that Andy Warhol’s works includes some of the most expensive paintings in the world.
1. Campbell’s Soup Cans
One of Warhol’s most famous art pieces is the painting entitled “Campbell’s Soup Cans” which he produced in 1962 by making use of a semi-mechanized silk screening technique. It includes exactly 32 smaller paintings showing the now famous Campbell Tomato Soup cans, each of the same size, with a height of 20 inches and a width of 16 inches, being arranged in an orderly fashion on four rows. The number 32 is not coincidental, actually at that time there were exactly 32 varieties of soup sold by Campbell’s. Andy Warhol’s reaction to all the mass media fuss about this series was: “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for twenty years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.” This art piece is in perfect harmony with his personal artistic belief: “…the most banal and even vulgar trappings of modern civilization can, when transposed to canvas, become Art.”
2. The Andy Warhol Diaries
“The Andy Warhol Diaries” was published posthumously in 1989 and it comprises eleven years of telephone conversations between Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett. This project began innocently in 1976 after Andy Warhol was audited and it was at first used as a method of documenting his daily spending habits. Hackett was the one to carefully transcribe every monologue or conversation he had with Warhol for legal purposes, although sometimes they contained far more details about his personal life than such a process would have required. More than 20,000 pages of diary were condensed into an 807-page book telling the unconventional story of Warhol, starting with the 24th of November, 1976 and ending just a few days before his death in 1987.
3. The “Brillo Boxes” Sculpture
Andy Warhol’s most popular sculpture is by far the “Brillo Boxes”. It was exhibited for the first time at the Stable Gallery in 1964 as a part of a series of “grocery carton” art works which also included Campbell’s tomato juice cases, Heinz ketchup, Kellogg’s corn flakes, Mott’s apple juice, and Del Monte peaches. With this masterpiece, just as with “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, Andy Warhol achieved once more a successful transition between consumer-product imagery to the realm of art. He employed carpenters to build a number of 24 plywood boxes in identical size and then with a bit of assistance silk-screened each box with the logo of the Brillo soap pads. With regard to this sculpture, Warhol received just the amount a bad critique he was aiming at.
4. The “Chelsea Girls” Movie
After many attempts at receiving recognition for his avant-garde approach to movie making, Andy Warhol finally struck gold with his 1966’ “Chelsea Girls” movie. The movie was shot in the Chelsea hotel and other places in New York City, starring some of Warhol’s most admired superstars of that time, such as: Rona Page, Brigid Berlin, Ed Wood, Edie Sedgwick, Patrick Flemming and many others. The style employed to make this movie is rather eclectic and definitely out-of-the-box, amassing several unexpected features: alternating soundtracks for each scene, a split screen presentation, black and white alternating with color photography. The public’s and critics’ reaction to “Chelsea Girls” was mixed, to say the least.
5. The “Death and Disaster” Series
Andy Warhol’s fascination with death and the process of dying is perfectly depicted in the series of paintings he entitled “Death and Disaster”. Actually, the three paintings included in this series – Red Car Crash, Purple Jumping Man, and Orange Disaster – were originally photographs that Warhol had taken, and then reproduced using the silk screening process. Interestingly enough, this series confirms Warhol’s theory that “everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame” because he actually made some unknown people he randomly photographed worldwide famous.
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