“Andy Mouse – New Coke” by Keith Haring, A Tribute to Andy Warhol, Mickey Mouse & Coca-Cola

“When I want to Keith Haring’s studio, I saw genius. I saw someone with a signature style – a style he seemed to be born with. Haring seemed to me to be like Andy Warhol, someone who knew that what he was doing was important, and he didn’t care if he worked fourteen or sixteen hours a day. His work was his entire world”.
(Henry Geldzahler about Keith Haring; “Keith Haring – The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991).

Pop artist and icon Keith Haring, much like his artistic idol Andy Warhol, used bright colors, bold lines and simple subject matters. He developed a unique visual lexicon. Essential concepts (birth, death, love, and war) were conveyed by the simplest of symbols: energy, waves, hearts, glowing babies (his most famous life giving symbol), barking dogs, and antic “everyman” figures.

Urban street culture became a defining influence on art, fashion, and music of the 1980’s, in particular in New York. Keith Haring was preeminent among the young artists, filmmakers, performers, and musicians whose work responded to these impulses and helped shape the culture of that decade.
Haring’s phenomenal rise from a talented graffiti artist, whose “radiant baby” became a worldwide symbol of 1980s pop culture, remains arguably as relevant today as when it was created despite being universally recognized as representative of that era. Painting with artistic and childlike exuberance, his talent was first recognized on subway platforms where he drew his trademark chalk figures and murals for all of New York to see. “When I did a drawing and went back a week later, the drawing was still there. It was neither smudged nor did anyone try to clean it off. I mean, it seemed to have this protective power that prevented people from destroying them. Another thing that I realized how many people were seeing these things. Within a week, when I’d be doing another drawing, people would come up to me and say, “So you’re the guy who did these drawings!” Because, see, there was never a signature. Nobody knew who was doing this stuff. And I started to realize the power and the potential of what I was doing.”

“It’s treating Warhol like he was part of American culture, like Mickey Mouse was.”
(Daniel Drenger, “Art and Life: An Interview with Keith Haring,” Columbia Art Review, Spring 1988).

Executed in 1985, and painted during an extremely fertile time for Keith Haring, Andy Mouse pays tribute to his close friend, hero and mentor, Andy Warhol, to whom Haring was introduced following his second exhibition in New York at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1984. This historic encounter between Warhol and Haring brought together their mutual fascination with an “Art for Everybody,” and an admiration for Walt Disney, a man who inspired both artists. A friendship that developed almost immediately, Haring often visited Andy at the Factory and would trade works with him. Drawing on Warhol’s legacy, and similar to Disney, Haring created a world for both adults and children, in which art became a visual vocabulary and one that could be shared with everyone, as seen here on the animated canvas of Andy Mouse. Believing that cartoon figures could be an component of fine art, and regarding Andy Warhol and Walt Disney as heroes, Haring’s exuberant and enchanting Andy Mouse bonded together the work of these three significant artists.

Adaptating of one the most internationally recognized and celebrated cartoon characters, Haring presents the viewer with his hybrid Andy Mouse cartoon against the backdrop of a New Coke label; the product introduced the same year Andy Mouse was executed. This large-scale piece, evoking his wall drawings and subway posters, skillfully combines three different symbols of commerce: Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse and Andy Warhol – with a deceptively simple palette of red, yellow, white and black, reintroducing the commercial colors of 1960s Pop Art.

Monumental in scale, Andy Mouse originated from a new body of work in which Haring focused on his passion for both drawing and mass production. Sharing with Warhol an understanding of the effect of mass media’s visual dynamics, Haring intuitively understood that good mass media imagery could be seen at any size and still make a strong visual impact. The use of scale that typifies mass media imagery is atypical of fine art, yet it runs through most of Haring’s art and appears as a common thread amongst his works.

Unlike the black line Haring frequently drew to define space in his work, the caricature of Andy Mouse is framed by the hard-edged white line of the New Coke label. By appropriating this brand logo and combining it with the repetitive use of the dollar sign, Haring brilliantly manipulates the concept of Pop into his own unique hand- drawn style.
Both Haring and Warhol liked Coca-Cola a lot. Warhol once described Coca-Cola, often served at Haring’s openings, as a highlight of democratic equality. Swept up into the Pop Art scene himself and endeavoring to present iconic images in a hand-crafted way, Haring blends this classic symbol of American mass culture into his own hand- painted canvas in a playful and energetic way.

Andy Mouse is a brilliant culmination of Haring’s entire oeuvre. Its bold graphic quality, complex composition and glorious color are high water marks for the artist. Andy Mouse’s large scale and brilliant postmodern referencing of Pop icons such as Coke and Mickey Mouse – by way of Andy Warhol – mark this as a seminal Haring work which remains relevant to contemporary art today.

By the time that Haring (1958-1990), a major supporter of good causes and Aids research and awareness, died at age 31, his work had moved from underground New York to the most prestigious galleries and museums around the world. Just like his hero Andy Warhol, Keith Haring has left a huge impact on the Pop Art culture world. Even though the master behind the creations has gone nearly two decades ago, Keith Haring’s art and messages are still alive.

Sources: Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Dexia Banque Int. à Luxembourg, 2007; Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Musée Art Contemporain Lyon, 2008; Christies auction catalogue, 2008; The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991.

Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: John Clem Clarke

During the second half of the twentieth century, popular culture and the mass media gained a huge significance in American culture. Pop art that was a sign of the times: a product, a tribute to art history and critique of the social situation.
In the sixties, the New York art scene was very diverse, with people coming from different places, backgrounds and art disciplines & movements. The young John Clem Clarke was always fascinated art & advertising. He moved to New York, started painting and quickly made a name in the NYC pop art scene. Art about art is a continuous thread through Clarke’s work. His series re-working the Old Masters, such as Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” are popular icons of the late 60’s.
Clarke’s works, a mix of photo-realism and comic style with a pop art imagery. hang today in major museums as NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art & Whitney Museum of American Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, LA’s County Museum and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum.

Clarke works in the pop art tradition of Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Roy Liechtenstein & Tom Wesselmann, drawn on the graphic vocabularies of commercial modernity: “I play back and forth using unique objects and a mass-produced presentation style. You might say that ideas I express are a lot more complex than the apparently simple style I use to express them”.
Speed is vital to the freshness of John Clem Clarke’s works, and animation is the key to his style. Every line is alive, no edge is ever straight. The large size of his artworks plays an important role in the transformation of Clarke’s illustration-based style into high art.
Working on big size canvasses, his work is quite technical. The last years he uses a computer for the design phase, but before he had to work out all specific details as a sketch, use an overhead projector to project this sketches on a canvas, drew the projected image and finally paint it.” His way of working is very similar to the work of illustrators of comics or how graphic designers work today in Photoshop. Clarke: “My first layer was always the black outline. Then I painted a colored layer underneath using the line drawing as an overlay. This is the same technique Disney cartoonists used years ago. Of course, when I was developing it as my own way of working, I didn’t know that. For the actual painting, I use large stencils. I lay them onto the canvas and sponge the paint on. This way there are no brush strokes. Sometimes, I overlay the stencils so that you get the sort of effect you see when a picture isn’t printed quite right -just a little offset. I like that irregular edge”. Just like the works by Andy Warhol or Jean-Michelle Basquiat, John Clem Clarke’s oeuvre is complete with imperfections: “Instead of painting out my “mistakes”, I let them stay on the canvas as alternative solutions to the painting and to show the thought process in making a painting. It bothers me when things look too good. I like to paint and paint and paint, until I get it wrong.”

On weekends, Clarke still roams around flea and antiques markets, looking for vintage retro objects, advertising material and photographs he can use as a point of departure for his artworks. The great ads from the fifties and early sixties are a big source of inspiration: “I try to make the paintings seem as commercially produced as possible. People grew up looking at commercial illustration and print advertising, so they are comfortable with it as a visual style. I make art in a way that people find it immediately accessible”.
Clarke found his future as an artist in his past through the subject matter, themes and styles of forties, fifties & sixties. But Clarke’s works also speak of the present, the moment he creates them, by his vision & the personal touch of his brushstroke.

In the 1910s, the Coca-Cola Company ran an ad of a gorgeous woman drinking a Coke. The copy read: “Nothing is so suggestive of Coca-Cola’s own pure deliciousness as the picture of a beautiful, sweet, wholesome, womanly woman.”
Associating itself with an ideal American girl, Coca-Cola made its appeal to the public. Clarke takes this advertising concept one step further and combines the “Coca-Cola girl” billboard with the all American theme of a police car chase. His painting “Police Behind Cola Billboard” is so filmesque, that we actually wonder what will happen next…

Alvin Richard, A Celebration of Realism

Alvin Richard is a self-taught classical-modern painter, with the hand & the eye of an old master. His exceptional “Realist” paintings are the product of natural artistic talent and heartfelt passion.
Living in New Brunswick, Canada, Richard is working full-time as a registered nurse and moonlighting as an artist. He has been painting with acrylics for more than 20 years. Richard’s work includes still lifes, street scenes and figure studies.

Corner Store no. 2

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed hardboard, 6 x 6″
“In July 2007, we spent a getaway week-end in Halifax, NS. Early that Sunday morning, I left the hotel for a run around Point Pleasant Park when I passed in front of this corner store at the other end of Barrington Street that was appropriately name Olympic Confectionery. It still surprises me that these type of corner store facade still exist today. Hopefully when the time has come, these will be restored instead of replaced.”

Pop Tent

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed MDF, 18 x 18″
“One thing that wakes you up in the morning when you are camping, is the bright sun. On one of those morning, I realized that the inside of a tent might be an unusual setting for a still life. Fast forward…. Jean-Luc, our then 11 year old son and I, had done some backyard camping and the tent was still up on the lawn, when I did this study.
My fascination with this subject is how the light filters through these bright colored drinks and become illuminated, almost as if they have their own power source.”

Empties

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed hardboard, 6 x 6″
“The Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognized commercial products, both for it’s famous logo created by the inventor’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson in 1885, and for it’s equally famous contour bottle of greenish tint glass. I have realized that the empty version is much more suitable to paint. There are areas that sparkles like tiny emeralds in the light.”

Are we there yet?

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed hardboard, 14 x 20″

You can find more about Alvin Richard’s credo of art & life on his personal blog.

Rubens LP, Drawings from the Soul

Brazilian-born Rubens LP remembers spending hours as a child drawing comic heroes like Wolverine, Superman, Batman and the X-men with his father. But even though he stopped drawing for a number of years after that, somehow that passion never left him, and by the time he was in college he was drawing all the time.
Exhibitions of Dali, Picasso, Miró and the Brazilian artist Aldemir Martins also made a strong impression on him. One glance at his works show that despite its contemporary outlook, there’s a traditional heart beating within.

For Rubens LP, creating artwork is about inspiring people, and true art has a unique kind of beauty. It’s never about the money, but it’s always about being true to yourself.
LP also loves to read, and feels he’s discovering the world through studying philosophy, socialism and religion. Perhaps tellingly, he explains: ” I don’t draw with my mind; I draw with the soul. And everything inspires my soul. Everything”.

Rubens LP’s clients include Smart, Brazilian model and actress Alinne Moraes, Absolut Vodka, Simyo, Borgata and Sony Ericsson. Here you can see the artworks Rubens LP designed for a Coca-Cola & MTV Brasil project.


Illustration for MTV Magazine


Billboard for Borgata Casino

You can check out more of the LP’s wonderful graphics on his personal website and on Fluxus Central, a portfolio of his commercial works.

Gil Elvgren, Top Image-Maker & Pin-Up Glamour Master

Born in 1914 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Gil Elvgren was a master painter and one of America’s first and best loved pin-up artists. He is possibly the foremost painter of sensuality through using models who possess a ‘girl-next-door’ quality. His heroines are often caught in humorous situations that cause their skirts to rise and our eyes to follow. His paintings are an excellent proof of the phrase, “A picture is worth one thousand words.”

Elvgren commenced studies at the Minneapolis Art Institute, and later studied (and even taught) at the Chicago Academy of Art. His parents first encouraged him to study architecture, but shortly after starting his studies he decided to pursue art instead. Some of Gil’s fellow students were Al Buell, Andrew Loomis, Coby Whitmore, Robert Skemp and Ben Stahl. Many of his academy friends would later also work for Coca Cola.

Elvgren graduated from the Academy during the depression at the age of twenty-two. Elvgren first job was one for one of the major US advertising agencies, Stevens and Gross. One of their most exciting clients was Coca-Cola. Elvgren contributed to several Coca-Cola ads. No artist working for Coke could sign his work, but Elvgren’s hand & style remain very recognizable.

Elvgren’s work also mirrors the sheer, nostalgic revery that the breathtaking illustrations of Haddon Sundblom’s “Coca-Cola” Santa’s evoke. No wonder, as Elvgren quickly became a protégé of the legendary Sundblom. The old master taught his star pupil the lush brush stroke technique that makes Elvgren’s girls such glowing wonders.

Elvgren conveys the ideal of real life, fun, beauty and sensuality in every of his paintings. Never sexual, always sensual, their style is the epitome of the age of elegance in which he lived.
He spent extreme amounts of time posing the models for the pre-painting photograph. Elvgren always looked for models with vitality and personality, and chose young girls who were new to the modeling business. He felt the ideal pin-up was a 15 year old face on a 20 year old body. In some cases, he combined the body of one girl and the face of another to achieve the desired result.

In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pin-ups for Louis Dow, one of America’s leading publishing companies. These artworks are easily recognizable because they are signed with a printed version of Elvgren’s name, as opposed to his later cursive signature. Dow paintings were often published first in one format, then painted over with different clothes and situations.

Around 1944, Gil was approached by Brown and Bigelow, a firm that still dominates the field in producing calendars and advertising specialties. They offered him $1000 per pin-up, which was substantially more than Dow was paying him. Elvgren signed on with B&B. Gil’s Brown and Bigelow images all contain his cursive signature. Elvgren painted twenty calendar girls each year, ranging from the girl next door letting her dog out, to brave rodeo heroines & water skiing action girls.

Besides a successful career in advertising, Gil Elvgren also did a lot of magazine illustrations. His pretty girls also appeared on many billboards, the same image sometimes modified a bit to sell more than one type of product.

According to Elvgren author & art collector Louis Meisel: “Between the mid-1930s and early 70s, Elvgren produced over 500 paintings of beautiful girls and women. As the decades progressed, the paintings just kept getting better and better. Elvgren continually surpassed himself, always improving in composition, ideas, color and technique.”

The beautiful Elvgren girls are never portrayed as a femme fatale. They are stylized ideals in which the realities and essentials of female form and expression are heightened and exalted artistically. Their charms are revealed in that fleeting instant when she’s been caught unaware in what might be a surprising, sometimes even embarrassing situation. She is intruded upon as she takes a bath. Her skirts get caught in elevator doors, hung up on faucets, and entangled with dog leashes. The elements conspire in divesting her of her clothing. The Elvgren girls, pictured in a variety of fun and clever contexts, are life-affirmative art of the highest order.

Elvgren died in 1980, at the age of 66. Lately, there’s a resurgent interest in his work and prints of his pictures are still bestsellers. Today, Elvgren is recognized as one of the top image makers & glamour artists of the 20th century.

Delicious & Refreshing

In this video, you can see a compilation of the early Coca-Cola artworks – always delicious & refreshing!

For over 120 years Coca-Cola has made it’s impression on the advertising profession. As a true pioneer, Coke has continued to stay a step above normal advertising, and has always seemed to be able to `key its advertising to the mood of society’.

The first marketing effort was made in 1892, with a budget around $11,000, which was a great amount to be spent on advertising in that age. With that money, Coca-Cola hired sales men to travel around the country to promote the product for Soda Fountain owners to buy. In order to do this, Coca-Cola offered the fountain owners free merchandise such as decorative clocks, porcelain fountain urns, prescription scales, prescription cabinets, and showcases, all of which displayed the Coca-Cola name. They also handed out sample coupons so that people could try Coca-Cola for free.
Some years later the Coca-Cola advertising budget reached $500,000. In 1909, Coca-Cola was considered the best advertised article of the year.

Source: AmeriCola (Susie Derkins)

Remix Art Gallery

For the Coke Side of Life Remix Art Gallery, RockAndRoll Agency creatively managed 15 artists/agencies/collectives from around the world: Idokungfoo, Japan // Vault49, USA // Caos CC, Spain // Adhemas, Brazil // 013a, Romania // Creative XL, India // Extraverage, Hungary // Buro Destruct, Swiss // Mienandi, Senegal // The Designers Republic, UK // Rex (South Africa) // Todd Alan Breland (USA) // Spinbalon, Venezuela // Pixecute, Indonesia // Armchair & Josh Boston, USA // Fung Wee Lim, Canada.
Here you can see their artworks exposed on the SouthBank, London, UK.

The work of the Remix artists reflects various styles, personalities and cultures and the project shows how vibrantly creative the collaboration of a design network can be.
The diverse backgrounds of the contributing artists have resulted in a multifaceted world of imagery that draws its freshness from the mixture of approaches. Their mission is to spread an optimistic look at the world and help people realize how contagious happiness is. By combining iconic Coca-Cola images with up-to-date illustration techniques and styles, the artists have given rise to a progressive style of visual expression.

Designed within the “Coke Side of Life” concept and format, the Remix artworks are colorful explosions of positive thinking.
The experimental, playful and humorous collages of historical Coca-Cola milestone images are a true tribute to the brands unique and undying creative spirit.

Photography by RWDave, Russell+, Slimmer_Jimmer, Simpson_eh, Bergs Eye View, Hallywoods, Owizard (Flickr). All Rights Reserved.

ABOUT ROCKANDROLL AGENCY

RockAndRoll Agency is a full-cycle communication agency offering marketing services, strategic development and art direction. RockAndRoll Agency was founded in 2003 by Jean-Philippe Noterman and Wouter De Coster. Jean-Philippe studied philosophy/anthropology, Wouter has a background as fashion designer. Before starting RockAndRoll Agency, they worked already together for 5 years in the publishing and communication business.

RockAndRoll Agency has worked for clients as various as The Coca-Cola Group, Nokia, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Schott NY, Motorola, Hugo Boss Fragrances…
RockAndRoll Agency is dedicated to the production of visual identity design, graphic animation and websites. As art buyers and curators, RRA is always looking for artists with strong ideas and an individual voice.