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Andy Warhol and Consumerism: Analytical Essay

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Born in 1928, Andy Warhol made a big impact on the art world. In 1949, he graduated from Carnegie Mellon School of Art, where he studied Pictorial Design. By the late 1950s, he was living in New York, working as a highly in demand commercial artist and later on went on to work in the fine arts as a strong believer of the pop art movement. This paper will compare and contrast two of Andy Warhol’s works of art from commercial illustrations to fine arts, with a quick look at the pop art movement.

Andy Warhol’s early career really started with commercial art. He was known to focus on a few main themes, including women, shoes and cars. His I.Miller shoe illustrations are among his more well known illustrations. LINK From 1955 to 1957 Warhol worked alone as the illustrator for I.Miller Shoes where he would release a new drawing every week as an ad in the New York Times.

These designs were all made using offset lithography process, which was used for mass-production printing. His illustrations were nothing like the other advertising and design work out there. Rather than trying to focus on realism he developed a more avant-garde personal style for an imperfect drawn look. His style was made to stand out. His original style worked in his favour because between 1953-1959, Warhol was in high demand for commercial art. Moreover, during this time he self-published multiple portfolios, books, and individual prints. With the help of his assistant and some friends, he coloured the illustrations by hand and most of these illustrations included some sort of quirky quote with the lettering done by his mother Julia Warhola. For example,“You can lead a shoe to water but you can't make it drink,” “Shoe of the evening, beautiful show,” and “My shoe is your shoe”. He did not know it yet, but the stigma of being a commercial artist was working against him at the time.

When Andy Warhol finally decided to end his advertisement illustration work and dive into the fine arts world, many of his pieces still revolved around consumerism, but he wasn’t completely accepted into the fine arts world right away. Andy Warhol played a big role in the pop art movement which helped his case. The pop art movement really started with the idea that art subjects did not have to revolve around those of tradition and elitism. The artists that were a part of this movement would use images surrounding popular culture and celebrated every day items, just as Andy Warhol did. He wanted to make something that represented who Americans were and Coca-cola was the perfect way to do that. The theme itself was chosen to be the most ordinary of objects, something everyone, rich or poor, could identify with. We can see that Andy Warhol’s philosophy is unlike any other in the way that he spoke his mind and represented what he believed in his art. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975).

He demonstrated everyday subjects such as clothes, food or a higher member of society to prove that we are all alike, we all wanted the same things, we all liked the same things. The pop art movement blurred the boundaries between 'high' and 'low' art culture. There is no hierarchy of culture and that art may borrow from any source is a big part of the movement.

He continuously represented that through the theme of consumerism. But it was not meant in a negative way. “Once is usually enough. Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day, it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.”

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Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was excited by every day norm, anything ordinary was a big deal, that is what the pop art movement was about and he made his art accessible. He made the ordinary into something exceptional and powerful. At this point, we start looking at the coke bottle differently.

When Andy Warhol finally decided to end his advertisement illustration work and dive into the fine arts world, one of his first pieces was Coca-Cola 3 done in 1962.

Coca-Cola 3 got a lot of attention because of how it was made. It was painted by hand but mimics a print and at 6 feet tall, you can see all the imperfections of it, unlike most art in circulation at the time. This piece was about the removal of the artist’s hand, also unlike his previously mentioned commercial illustrations in which he purposely used a hand drawn style. By getting rid of the “handmade”, he created a new level of symbolism representing machinery over handmade goods and the consumerist society that is America. And as he progressed in his career, we see more and more repetition in his painting like of the 100 cans (1962), Martison Coffee (1962) and Front and Back (1962) which can be related to the repeating actions of factory workers.

In 1962, Warhol switched to silkscreen printing very soon after turning to fine arts. This switch facilitated the process of repeating images. And finally, the artist's hand almost completely removed from the piece. The power of a symbol in consumerism was and still is so prevalent that eventually Andy Warhol becomes his own symbol.

We see a return of the imperfection in his art in his portrait prints. Art should not be about beauty as it had been for such a long time - exactly what Warhol is getting away from.

This is not by me, Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol’s style shifted dramatically with his interest in Graphic design to the fine arts. He started out as a young successful illustrator in New York developing a sketchy style that looks organic and real and later decided to turn to fine art, taking a part of the pop art movement and practicing a painting style that looked printed, before turning to actual printing. He focused on representing society in its entirety with particular products of mass consumption and later turning to elite members of society such as Elvis Presley, Meryline Monroe, Prince and Elizabeth Taylor.

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