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  • Russ Ramsey

The Reason for Andy Warhol

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at works from Andy Warhol, and talk a little bit about the fascinating and intentionally confusing world of Pop Art.

Warhol, Camouflage Self Portrait, 1986

Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator. He opened a New York studio called The Factory, which became a gathering place for artists, musicians, celebrities, and cultural misfits. He died in 1987 at 58.

Warhol, Race Riot, 1964

In the 50’s, Warhol pioneered Pop Art, which presented common images from popular culture as works of art. The movement took an ironic view of what people value, blurring the line between fine art and advertising.

Warhol, Triple Elvis, 1963

A few years ago I was at The MET in New York City, and I noticed that in the Dutch Renaissance Room, with Rembrandt and Vermeer, people looked at the art in silence. But in the Modern Art room with artists like Warhol, Dali, Picasso, and Pollock, strangers talked to each other. A docent explained that the classics intended to make statements to the viewer while much of modern art was designed to raise questions and start discussions.

Warhol, Mao, 1972

As a kid, I saw Warhol’s Campbells Soup Cans in my art class and shrugged. What’s the big deal? But I’ve come to understand that this was his question: what makes something a “big deal?” Warhol is an artist whose greatest work is his cumulative catalog. We need to take it as a whole to understand it—sound advice we might apply broadly in life.

Warhol, Campbells Soup Cans, 1962

Warhol’s collection of colorful screen prints of common household goods, religious and political symbols, dictators, celebrities, and places where people have died come together to ask if anything is sacred.

Warhol, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1963. Sold for 105.4 million in 2013.

In 1968, Warhol was shot in his studio. He was gravely wounded, and came close to death. Though he survived, he struggled with effects of the assassination attempt for the rest of his life.

Warhol, Electric Chair, 1967

Warhol said, “Before I was shot, I always suspected I was watching TV instead of living life. People say the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal.”

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962

I hope this Art Wednesday about Andy Warhol has been helpful. Regardless of what you may think of his work, there’s no denying that his contribution has been prophetic. The lines between celebrity and the sacred are as culturally blurred as ever.

Warhol, The Last Supper, 1986




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