• gerard van weyenbergh

Andy Warhol, a brilliant columnist

A/ In the land of materialism: consume to exist.

Who says Warhol necessarily thinks of Campbell's soup cans! Made of endless rows of tin cans, this legendary series ( Campbell's Soup Cans , 1962) graciously elevates simple industrial products, mass-produced, to the rank of works of art. One way for the artist, who maintains that "to buy is much more American than to think", to underline the Yankee cult of consumption, cement of the American Way of Life, international model of comfort and abundance after deprivation of the war. His stroke of genius? Instead of criticizing the phenomenon, Andy Warhol (1928–1987) glorified it by abolishing any hierarchy between art and advertising. "Department stores are a bit like museums", slips the provocateur, for whom the Mona Lisa would not be worth more than a bottle of Coke or a carton of soap!

© Andy Warhol foundation

B/ In the land of diversity: the place of all possibilities

In his legendary Manhattan studio, Warhol gives crazy parties where the jet-set of the 1960s rub shoulders with a crowd of marginalized and penniless drug addicts, witnesses to the failure of the American dream, and which the artist films on the go. He is painting a vivid portrait of underground New York wildlife.

In 1974, he produced a series of portraits of drag queens and Latino and black-American transsexuals, who remained unknown until their unveiling at the Tate in 2019. More or less despite himself, the artist points to the contradictions of the country of Uncle Sam, both a land of freedom and diversity, and a place of deep inequalities, where minorities and eccentricity still struggle to be accepted.

© Warhol foundation

C/ In the land of the dollar: the kingdom of money.

Lettering, bright colors, repetition of the image thanks to the mechanical process of screen printing. A trained advertising designer, Andy Warhol creates a new form of art that takes up the seductive visual codes of advertising, of which he witnesses the spectacular boom in the 1950s. In the service of economic development, advertising fascinated the son of a coal miner emigrated from Eastern Europe, who grew up in Pittsburgh's misery. Because in the United States, a paradise for self-made men, “earning money is an art”, proclaims the artist starting from nothing who does not hesitate to represent banknotes to infinity and the symbol of the dollar in XXL format!

© Warhol foundation

D/ In the land of the media: the cult of the image

A time illustrator for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, Warhol witnessed a turning point in the history of overseas media closely: it is the great era of magazines, where photography takes a growing place and the arrival of television, which is about to upset the whole of society. By using press photographs amplified by size, color, and multiplication effects, his works bear witness to the media's power and omnipresence. In his screenprint Nine Jackies (1964), the insistent repetition of the face of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, photographed a few minutes before the brutal assassination of her husband, talentedly mimics the public's obsession fueled by media hype.

© Warhol Foundation

E/ In the land of violence: a dog-eared dream.

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, Warhol reproduced portraits of his grieving widow. The pop artist has turned into a chronicler of American violence. Drowned in a mass of tragic information repeatedly relayed by the media, he signs the series Death and Disaster , exploring the way in which "a horrible image" ends, by dint of being reproduced endlessly, by "no longer doing effect ”. From one screenprint to another, car accidents, electric chairs, and atomic bombs document the dark side of America in images, up to Race Riots(1964), which uses a photograph of a police dog attacking a black man during a violently suppressed civil rights protest. Later, Warhol will represent firearms similar to how they attempted to assassinate him in his workshop in 1968. A powerful revealer of the demons hidden behind the tenacious fantasy of an ideal land ...

© Warhol Foundation

F/ In the land of fame: the lair of the star system

America is also the kingdom of stars made to measure to conquer the crowds. In 1962, Warhol signed his famous Diptych Marilyn , composed of 50 advertising portraits of the famous American actress. Directed just after his death by overdose, the work includes 25 colored images and 25 in black and white. The latter, blurry and erased, evoke the tragic end of the platinum blonde icon, a pure Hollywood product crushed by celebrity. "Notoriety is like eating peanuts: when you start you can't stop," said the artist, adding that "in the future, everyone will have their quarter of an hour of world fame." A visionary anticipation of the effects of reality TV and social networks born in America!


© Warhol Foundation

We did read this article in Beaux-Arts Magazine