Andy Warhol, A Visual & Conceptual Multimedia Genius

When the young Andy Warhol graduated from college in June 1949, he immediately moved to New York. It took him only three months to begin a brilliant career as a commercial artist. Appropriately enough, Warhol’s first assignment was to illustrate an article in Glamour magazine, “Success is a Job in New York”.
Influenced by the early work of pop artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, Warhol quickly made the decision to take the leap into “real art”.
In the early sixties, Warhol had become a commercial artist with painterly ambitions – asked by a dealer why his works were smudged, he replied, “But you have to drip. Otherwise they think you’re not sensitive”.
To Warhol, it was a matter of no small interest that the avant-garde could come so close to his own world of commercial art.

Warhol’s early comic strip works were clearly inspired by the work of Roy Lichtenstein, but Warhol quickly found his own style. His iconic portraits of Dollar signs and postage stamps, Coca-Cola bottles, cans and signs; Campbell’s, Mott’s, Kellog’s and Del Monte’s packagings; celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy; tabloids and newspapers such as Daily News and New York Post as well as his recreations of violent imagery from race riots to car crashes, quickly earned the young artist a reputation. Warhol also moved into experimental filmmaking, publishing and multimedia ventures, all the while adding fuel to the Warhol myth.

In 1966, Warhol began presenting The Velvet Underground, the legendary underground band fronted by Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico as part of his traveling multimedia show called the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. A year later, he produced their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album cover designed by Warhol is so iconic that people often refer to it as the “Warhol LP” or the “Banana album”.

In art, even the recent past is another country. To experience a frisson of how it felt when Pop Art started to be made, felt and understood radically differently in the early 1960s, visit the current exposition “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, USA. Running from Sept 13, 2008 until Feb 15, 2009, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” (named for the Truman Capote novel of the same name) sheds a new light on the celebrated pop artist and focuses on the ideas at the heart of Warhol’s work from the 1950’s through to the 1980’s: embracing consumer culture, exploring sexual identity, challenging social conventions, and erasing distinctions between high and low culture.

This travelling show of ultimate Andy Warhol trivia, is organised by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Moderna Museet Stockholm in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum and presents Warhol’s films, screen-tests, videos and television programmes, which combined with extraordinary archive material, seminal paintings and installations, illuminates his creative process.

Besides Warhol’s film and video work, the exhibit focuses also on less known aspects of the artist by showing some miscellaneous extras. Warhol was obsessive about collecting and on display here are a few of the 600 time capsules that he made in the 1960s, self-consciously establishing a repository of the essential elements of the cultural Zeitgeist that swirled around him. These took the form of cardboard boxes full of old postcards, Christmas cards, telephone notes, photographs, cinema tickets and the odd T-shirt. There are covers of his magazine Interview. There are books, contact sheets, photomat strips and wonderful expanses of his wallpaper: Chairman Mao, cows and Warhol’s face repeated hundreds of times in bright colours.

Wexner Center director Sherri Geldin: “Upon visiting this astounding and ingenious exhibition in Amsterdam late last year, I immediately set the wheels in motion to bring it to the Wexner Center. It explores afresh the remarkable legacy of an artist who utterly transformed the cultural landscape of his own time, but also foretold with uncanny prescience today’s media-obsessed society”.

The mix of celebrity and the underground, reality and artifice, a culture without hierarchies of image or thought, the subtle eroticisation of almost anything he touched: Andy Warhol presented a visual and conceptual overload which emphasises that, inescapably and from all sides, Warhol is our contemporary. “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” illuminates his creative process, sheds new light on his work and explores his genius for discerning the way pop culture penetrates our lives.

You can find more info on the Wexner website.

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The Pop in Nu Pop Culture: A New Art Generation Inspired by Coca-Cola

More than 45 years ago, artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Mel Ramos and Andy Warhol started to use images of the Coca-Cola bottles or cans to create their pop art. The embrace of popular consumer goods such as Coca-Cola by these iconic artists had a great influence on pop culture, broke aesthetic barriers and touched a deep cultural nerve.

Today, a new generation of artists eager to focus on Coca-Cola’s artistic aura. Using centuries-old techniques as drawing and painting or state-of-the-art Photoshop or Illustrator skills (and sometimes a mix of old & new), they transform Coke’s iconic visual elements into original and captivating works of art.

“Coca-Colored” (detail) by Kofi Ansah aka De Godson (Italy/UK)

Kofi is a 19 year old artist with a goal and determination. He is originally from Ghana but has spent most of his life in Europe. His main residence is in Milan, but currently Kofi is studying 3D Animation at Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication, London. Kofi is also the webmaster and driving force of DigitalFlow, a dedicated site for young graphic talent.
http://degodson.com/

“Coca-Cola” illustration by Issam 991, Morocco

“Koi Cola” by Orticanoodles, Italy

Orticanoodles is a street artist from Milan, famous for his stencil art. Orticanoodles is making a name for himself since 2005, filling the city with his spray & brush images. The koi carps quickly became his signature design, being so colourful and suitable for different pictorial treatments.
http://www.orticanoodles.com/

“Diet Coca-Cola” by TrashCandy, Israel

“Coca-Cola Can” by MKitos, Portugal

“Coca-Cola Cup” by Kasia H4waiian, Poland

“Coca-Cola Can” by Thomas Pwgy, Romania

“Invisible Lines” by Hannouska (Hannah Maité), France

“This is a painting İ made to illustrate the invisible lines between the body and it’s environment. So as you can see, there are differents objects that appear thanks to the lines. Everything is connected to each other. Do you see the fox?”

“Feel the Love” by Go Green, Canada

“Coke, Cake & Cream” by Aya Takagi, UK
Sweet, sour, yummy and melting sensation expressed through delicious syrupy and rich, fresh and fruity colours in dynamic shapes and images. Screenprint with aquascreen ink on paper.

Aya Takagi was born in Tokyo in 1984. She graduated from University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts with BFA Printmaking in 2006. She is continuing her study in fine art at University of Canterbury in the BFA Honors Programme this year. She uses silkscreen as her main printing method, since her interest in printmaking was influenced by Pop Artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

“Cherry Coke” by Schimpansen

Andy Warhol – Supermarket of Styles

Today, more than 45 years have passed since Warhol started showing Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. Over the course of all these years, more and more people have understood that Warhol’s art opened up an undiscovered territory as large as the world itself; that this territory includes not only stars and soup cans, humor and wit, but also mysteries.

His clients soon included The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co. Andy removed the final a from his name and became Warhol. Apart from the purchase of a hairpiece early in the ‘50s and a nose job in 1957, this was about the biggest change he made in himself, as he went from poverty in Pittsburgh to success in New York.

By 1952, he’d received his first medal from the Art Directors Club and had been given his first solo exhibition, at the Hugo Gallery. Warhol exhibited drawings based on the writings of Truman Capote. By 1956, he was participating with a series of drawings of “personality shoes” in a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art: Recent Drawings USA.
That same year he also had two solo shows at the Bodley Gallery and went on a round-the-world tour. In 1957, he incorporated himself as Andy Warhol Enterprises to help manage his commercial work.

All this time, Warhol had continued to paint; he also kept abreast of the avant-garde. We know he was aware of Jasper Johns’s work and also of Robert Rauschenberg’s art. In defiance of the prestige then enjoyed by abstract painting, both of those artists incorporated immediately recognizable, images into their works. Jasper Johns painted the American flag, while Rauschenberg inserted objects such as Coca-Cola bottles and photographs of President Eisenhower into his paintings. To Warhol, it was a matter of no small interest that the avant-garde could come so close to his own world of commercial art.

In 1960, Warhol took up the dare and made his first paintings based on comic-strip characters. He exhibited them the following year, not in an art gallery, but in the window of Bonwit-Teller, as the background for a mannequin display. Then he visited the Leo Castelli Gallery and discovered, to his surprise, that Roy Lichtenstein was also making paintings based on comic strips. Apparently, Warhol was on to something. But if Lichtenstein had staked out the comics as a subject for art galleries, then Warhol would have to find something else.
What he found, beginning in 1962, was nothing less than the entire American scene. Whereas other artists like Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann where also working with Pop Art imagery in the early 1960s, Warhol quickly emerged as a leader, painting grass-roots brand names like Campbell’s, Mott’s, Kellog’s, Del Monte, Coca-Cola; American money, postage stamps, and bonus gift stamps, tabloids and his childhood comic idols Superman, Dick Tracy, Nancy and Popeye. He also portraited the most popular stars from James Dean, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor to Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.

But this was only the beginning of his art and vision. Warhol’s art is a visual anthology of consumer brands, headlines, personalities, mythic creatures, tragedies and even a tribute to his favorite artworks. Some of his first Pop pictures were made by hand, and to a knowing eye they gave evidence of great skill – for example the images of Campbell’s soup cans with peeling labels, which are marvels of illusionistic brushwork. But soon Warhol adopted the methods of mass production to make images of brands and celebrities who were themselves mass produced.