Modern Design for – Andy Warhol

It is a common conception that Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans paintings (stencil and silk-screen), 1962, were purely a cynical commentary on American commercialism. The truth is that Andy adored Campbell’s soup and ate it regularly as a child, served up by his doting mother. Born in 1928 of working class Ukrainian immigrant parents, Warhol was raised in Pittsburgh PA, and like many notable creative people was ill as a child and spent many hours in bed where he drew, listened to the radio, and studied the art and design of magazines of the late 1930s.

He began his career in commercial art and ad illustration, developing skills in printmaking and silk-screening techniques, and working in collaboration with his colleagues. This artistic collaboration continued throughout his career even as he became well known for his role in the Pop Art movement; he relied on teams and assistants to create his art. He opened “The Factory,” as his art studio was called, in New York in 1964. Fascinated by fame and celebrity, Warhol maintained an immigrant’s perspective on the commercialism he saw rising around him:

“What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking...”

His odd looks, and shy, hypochondriacal persona, coupled with obvious ambition only added to his mystique. Surrounded by a bohemian coterie, he explored a wide variety of art forms, including, filmmaking, performance art, video installations, music (The Velvet Underground) and writing. In 1968 he barely survived being shot by a mentally unbalanced writer, Valarie Solanas, who hung around The Factory. She confronted him in his studio, apparently enraged that he had not taken her work seriously.

He defended the exploitation of the trivial and crass as the subjects of art, inviting parallels with Jeff Koons. His early 1960’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, and Mao Zedong brought wealth, fame and controversy. The portrait Eight Elvises resold for $100 million in 2008, putting him in the top 25 most expensive artworks ever sold.

Understandably more reclusive after the attack, Warhol continued making art, most successfully portraits, until his death in 1987. From his The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,”…making money is art and working is art, and good business is the best art."

Photos: Andy Warhol $ (4), 1982; Two Hands Playing Piano 1954, Eight Elvises 1963; Warhol in 1975