The Art Wall: A Look at Andy Warhol
The world is full of artists - thankfully, as we as a species so clearly need art to express ourselves and just to survive day to day. But revolutionaries are fewer and further between. They command attention with new ideas and thoughts that shake up what the world was before them, and change the future after them. They shine brightly but sadly, eventually must fade away into the firmament as inspiration for a new generation of artists. They change the world.
Andy Warhol challenged the notion of art, experimented with it, criticized its failings and then reinvented it. He was a renegade and ultimately, the pop culture icon that would really define what pop culture was.
Warhol, who studied at Carnegie, pursued a career and was successful as a commercial illustrator, netting big name companies like Tiffany and Co and Columbia Records, and his work appeared in renowned publications like Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times and Vogue throughout the 1950s. But Warhol wanted more, and decide to pursue a career in the fine arts.
His work in advertising had frequently brought him in front of the mundanities of everyday life, and much of his commercial work was based on photos and other source images. After a trip around the world in the late 50s, he began painting. His fascination with Hollywood lead him to celebrity portraits, though his work also had a touch of the macabre with things like his acclaimed ‘death and disaster’ series. Not only a painter, Warhol experimented with art in all forms, including silkscreen, photography, sculpture, performance art and film-making, and has been credited with being the first to exhibit video as art.
Simply put, Warhol was never satisfied with one vision of what art was, or how to make it. He was vastly influenced by the world around him, and pioneered new techniques. He didn’t just observe pop culture, he was a part of it, throwing legendary parties at his studio, making frequent appearances at Studio 54, and creating his own travelling art show “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.”
He may even have pioneered the selfie, as the artist was a frequent fan of self portraits across mediums. Warhol even owned a dance club called the Gymnasium in Manhattan that had gym equipment on the dance floor. No matter what happened to him or around him, Warhol could create art from it.
He retired from painting in 1965, with his iconic flower paintings, but came back to the art world the very next year and began a foray into performance art, with exhibits like Cow Wallpaper and Silver Clouds. On June 3, 1968, the artist was near fatally shot after an altercation with writer Valerie Solanas, and would spend the rest of his life requiring a surgical corset. But Warhol persisted until his death in the ‘80s, eventually even adding two MTV shows to his credit - Andy Warhol’s TV and Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes.
Andy Warhol’s contributions to our ideas of art and culture are monumental. He challenged and changed the boundaries of art and remains relevant as not only a pioneer of his time, but a challenge to the future of art, constantly questioning what can and should be considered art.
If you, like me, were inspired by the artist, consider checking out (virtually or in person) the new Warhol exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, IL. For more on the exhibit, click here.