A client came into our gallery the other day and asked us why Andy Warhol is considered so great. “I mean,” he said, “couldn’t anyone just take a picture of a soup can and put it on the wall?”
He raised a worthy question. In many other artists’ work, their remarkable talent is immediately evident. One can clearly see the artist’s hand in a sculpture such as one of our Naranjo bronzes; likewise, the artist’s thick brushstrokes and scratches into the encaustic are visible in a Waddell painting. Even in photography, the artist has to find the scene, wait for the right light, set exposure times, and go through a long developing process in the darkroom. However, Warhol is known mainly for his silkscreen prints, many of which he appropriated from various sources. So why is he one of the most famous and respected artists of all time?
Andy Warhol Artwork
Before he became widely known for his famous soup can imagery, Warhol was an artist with diverse talents. He began his career as a successful and highly paid commercial illustrator in New York, designing advertisements and album covers as well as illustrations for magazines. Throughout his career, he excelled at many different art forms, including video arts, sculpture, painting, and more obscure endeavors, such as his famous time capsules. Even his screenprints were designed beautifully, as Warhol had a very sophisticated eye for composition and color.
When Warhol trained his sharp eye on popular culture, his art rose to an iconic level and spoke volumes about America’s social climate. In this way, he was an ethnographer first, and King of Pop Art second. Warhol scrutinized everything that was going on in the 70s, from consumerism to the Marilyn Monroe obsession. Our favorite Warhol series at Valley Fine Art is “Cowboys and Indians.” In this series, he strategically placed images of General Custer, Annie Oakley, and Geronimo together to challenge and expose the controversy surrounding America’s perception of Cowboys and Indians
Andy Warhol led the pack. Although artists like Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein were doing similar work, Warhol dug deeper. Because of his process and style, his work became very mechanical so much so that almost every detail of his art and process reflected the machine-like world that surrounded him in New York.
Warhol’s social and political commentaries were astute, sharp, and often witty, and the medium he chose was accessible to a large audience. Extremely intelligent and overflowing with ideas, Warhol created the ultimate expression of the spirit of the 70s in America.