Andy Warhol: a Pop Culture Icon

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Andy Warhol: A Pop Culture Icon

Henry Matisse once said, "The freedom of the artist is in reality the impossibility of following the path beaten by all others." In other words, the degree in which an artist interprets the world that is laid out before him is what makes him unique. Andy Warhol was a master at creating a distinctive account of what came before him and what presently surrounded him. It was this rare talent that made Andy Warhol into a pop culture icon with a profound influence on the world of modern art.

Andrew Warhola was born in 1928 to working class family of Forest City, Pennsylvania. His poor upbringing undoubtedly contributed to his future obsession with money and celebrity. In 1946, Andy enrolled in Carnegie Institute of Technology as a commercial art student. Upon graduation, he moved to New York City where he quickly became an accomplished art designer. He did graphic work for such establishments as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and advertising for I. Miller shoes. Although successful, Warhol eventually became disenchanted with his career and set out to be part of the new movement of pop art (Lucie-Smith 336).

In the early 1960s, Andy Warhol rattled the art world with his silk screens of Hollywood beauties and the now legendary, Campbell's Soup Cans. Society, up until that point, had never seen anything so literal be called art. In fact, the Campbell Soup Company forced Warhol to defend the paintings as legitimate works of art after they sued him for copyright infringement. They later dropped the lawsuit after deciding it was good advertisement (Pohland 157). The Soup Cans sparked something inside Warhol and he began to use everyday objects as his inspirations: Brillo soap-pad boxes, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Heinz 57, and Kellogg's, to name a few. He began painting these objects by hand, but eventually silk-screened them directly to the canvas. This process outraged the art world. One critic even said, "his work is just too silly to think about," (Russell). He became a constant irritant to fellow artists and museums, many of which refused to accept his creations as art.

This opposition did not stop Warhol from pursuing this creative outlet. His style became a statement to the world about his view of pop culture. "The reason I am painting this way is that I want to be a machine," said Warhol. He expanded this form to include famous Hollywood and political icons. From Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, to Jackie Kennedy and Mao, Warhol translated universal images in a unique and unprecedented way. He became obsessed with mass production and interchangeability. He even used the same image of the Mona Lisa and repeated it thirty times, entitling it as Thirty are Better Than One. Critics continued to reprimand Warhol for his art: "[Andy Warhol] from start to finish was a self-promoting trickster, a pseudo-artist who corrupted the young, fouled the very notion of high art, manipulated the market, went along with the media was triviality personified," (Russell).

Yet, within this opposition, Andy Warhol became a star. He used his art to reach the masses. His images became engrained in the minds of both the working class and the Hollywood starlets. Gianni Mercurio is quoted as saying, "What [Warhol] wanted was to communicate, to make art as popular as possible, to fascinate not only the rich and the famous but also ordinary people, such as students and workers. All his efforts were aimed in that direction" (Morera 20). Warhol did indeed steal art out of the hands of the rich and give it to the poor. Everyone recognized his art, and thus recognized him.

Andy Warhol became a fixture on the social scene throughout the sixties and seventies. He partied at Studio 54 and ate at Serendipity 3. He hung out with all the icons of that time, yet remained a mystery to most. His private life became synonymous with his art. He was one of the only people of that time to be publicly homosexual. He later documented...
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