I him with photography and art. This was

I decided to write my essay
on the Andy Warhol exhibition because I was not only intrigued by his action
packed life history, but even more importantly by his outstanding work. I find
it very interesting to see the gradual development and variation of his work
that reflected on what was happening in his life and in the world at that time.
His work is very personal to his life but also to the American public, and I
believe and he finds a clear way to portray this through his work.

 He was born in Pennsylvania in 1928 to Slovakian
parents. The family maintained a lot of their heritage and culture while living
in America. At the age of 8, Warhol was diagnosed with a rare disease of the
nervous system, St. Vitus ‘ dance, which resulted in him often being bed bound.
He also became a hypochondriac after developing a large fear of hospitals. This
led him to become an outsider amongst his peers. He grew close with his mother,
who also had a creative and artistic nature, who introduced and encouraged him with
photography and art. This was a very important time in his life that helped his
personality and interests develop, to then create the world renowned artist he soon
grew up to be.

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 In 1949, after graduating from a Bachelor of
Fine Arts in pictorial design, he moved to New York and got his first job with
Glamour Magazine in illustration and advertising. Warhol then began to win
awards for his unique and playful style and techniques, becoming one of the
most successful commercial artists of the 1950’s. Towards the late 50’s was
when he devoted his time to printing and painting, he developed his famous “blotted
line” technique. He would apply ink to paper and then apply another piece on it
while the ink was still wet; this was the origin of his repeated techniques. At
this time Pop Art was born. It was first displayed on the backdrop of a window
display of American Department store, Bronwit Teller, in New York in April of
1961.

            In the 1960s was when he first began creating his famous
paintings on everyday American objects, for example: Coca cola bottles, soup cans,
and dollar bills. At this time he also created his famous paintings on
celebrities such as Marilyn Munroe, Elvis Presley, Mohammad Ali, Elizabeth
Taylor etc. Working with a very wide range of media, we can also catch sight of
his very inventive filmography from the 60s. His love of celebrities was
obvious as most of his work was based on them. He created many short black and
white ‘screen test’ films on people, mostly celebrities, who visited his
studio. I will be discussing these pieces of his work throughout the essay.

I
feel privileged to have viewed most of his work exhibited at Caixa Forum,
consisting of 352 paintings and sculptures, films, installations, magazine
designs etc. The exhibition opens with his large and striking painting “Self
Portrait,” which was created in 1986. It is an acrylic paint and print with a
strong blue colour scheme. There is no visible neck or shoulders included in
the portrait, just emphasis on his head floating with a black background. He
fiercely looks straight out at the viewer with his straight hair standing up,
sweeping diagonally across the canvas. I find this a powerful opening to the
exhibition. Following around the corner of the exhibition we come across one of
his most famous collections “Marilyn”. It is a series of screen prints that Andy
Warhol created in 1967; five years after the actress had passed away. It
consists of 10 prints of all different vibrant colours. Most of the focus and
attention draws to her platinum hair and lips. These features that are emphasised
in each print, represents what she was famous for. This is one of my favourite
pieces of his work, due to the playful colour choices. I believe, even though
the prints are all of the same figure, the colours can drastically change the
mood and ambience of each piece. The colours bring life to Marilyn Munroe’s
iconic and glamorous status. This is by far one of my favourite pieces and I am
extremely inspired by this work of art.

            Andy Warhol seemed to have a great interest and
fascination for celebrities. He gave America what they wanted to see. After the
death of the president John Frank Kennedy, he decided to depict that tragedy within
his work.  He focused on photographs of
the president’s wife Jackie Kennedy, in a series called “Jackie” in 1964. The
works that he based these photographs on were just as iconic as the Marilyn series,
though this time was different because Warhol was then making the portraits
from images in the newspapers and magazines. Two positive images that Warhol used
showed Jackie smiling, wearing a pink hat from an image with her husband. The
two other images he used came from photos that were taken later that day of a
troubled and afflicted Jackie, after the death of her husband. I was very intrigued
by this work as it captured such tragedy in a life changing moment in the world.
Black, white and blue colours were used to create these, which gave me as the
viewers a dark eerie sensation, which I believe Warhol cleverly intended. In
this series Warhol cropped the photos so each portrait was a close up, then he
repeated the close ups. This repetition portrayed a powerful sense of Jackie’s grief
and vulnerability.
            Another piece that stood out
for me was “Before and After.” This was created as an advertisement for plastic
surgery in April of 1961. This poster involves two monochromatic photos of the
same woman at a side profile. Firstly with a large a large oversized nose, and
the second with small nose which represents her before and after a nose job.
Across from this piece is the very well-known series of “Campbell’s Soup Cans.”
There are 30 paintings he created and each painting is different only by the
different flavour of soup written on the can. These Campbell’s condensed soup
cans had not changed their labels for over 50 years. He once admitted that
these are his favourite pieces of art, also saying that it was his favourite
food. These paintings became so famous that the American supermarkets used to then
sell these soup cans that were autographed by Warhol. The signed cans were sold
in the shops for more money than the traditional unsigned soup cans.

“Big
Electric Chair” was created by Warhol in 1964. In the exhibition in was
displayed in 6 screen printed canvases consisting of one vacant electric chair
in an empty room. The buckles straps and wires are all attached to the chair.
He began with hand printing the image on canvases then forwarding them onto
paper. The chair that has been depicted was from a photograph from the Sing Sing
prison in New York. It is part of his Death and Disaster series which portray
serious tragedies. The repetition of the image amplifies the tragedy even more.

            In a separate room divided by a door bead curtain, there
was an installation called “Silver Clouds.” The installation is composed of
silver floating metallic pillows. They are filled with both helium and normal
air which allows them to hover. The clouds are neither supposed to be lying on
the ground nor touching the ceiling but in between. This work was first
exhibited in Ney York in 1966 and is an interactive changing piece of art, as
the clouds constantly move in short amounts of time. Most of his work would
consist of flat and still canvases, in comparison to the silver clouds which have
much more movement and action. So this piece differs greatly to Warhol’s usual
pieces of work.

            In the exhibition we could see a selection of different types
of work that gave a very negative and deathly perception, for example “Skulls,”
and “Gun” .These pieces are thought to be created based on Warhol’s near death experience
of a fatal shooting in 1968. He created “Skulls” in 1976 as a series of 6
canvases each of one photographic image reproduced with different colours. The
painting “Gun” was painted in 1981 and represents the gun that he was shot
with. These pieces of art represent Warhol’s fear of death.

            From 1964 and 1966 Andy Warhol created short black and
white silent films in a Series called “Screen Tests”. Warhol requested a wide
range of people that visited his studio to sit and stare at the camera, with an
emotionless facial expression for approximately three minutes. These videos
were some of my favourite pieces at the exhibition. I found it extremely
interesting to see how each person dealt with the request differently. I saw
that many slightly unconfident people found it uncomfortable, knowing they were
being watched, and were unable to keep a gaze towards the camera. However,
others were able to keep the confident gaze, barely moving and barely blinking.

Warhol
also created a film in July of 1964 called “Empire”, which is eight hours and
five minutes long. It was taken from the Time of Life building in New York from
the forty fourth floor. The silent film was displayed from a projector on a
high large screen which captures the time going by from daylight into darkness.

A
section of the exhibition which I distinctly remember also was photographs
taken by Richard Avedon, in particular the one that was taken of the torso of Andy
Warhol. His head is not involved in the composition to give even more emphasis
to his torso. It consists of harsh scars on his skin from being seriously
wounded after the attempted assassination. This striking photo was taken on 30th
of October 1969, as part of a collection called “Andy Warhol and members of the
factory.” This photograph captures the workers at Warhol’s studio in full
frontal nudity, also including a nude transsexual. These images caused uproar
in the media due to the absurdity at the time. It was very rebellious for Warhol
and Avedon to release this.

Andy
Warhol shockingly died in February of 1987 at the age of 52, after complications
from a gall bladder surgery. He suffered for about 15 years of gall bladder
problems but refused acknowledge this. Ever since his health problems as a
child he had an immense fear of doctors and hospitals, so throughout those
years he never had those problems checked. It had appeared that Warhol had
suffered from many other health problems that all combined to eventually result
in death.

 Warhol, a leading figure in the pop art
movement, was one of the most influential artists of the 20th
Century. He is an outstanding example of a contemporary creator, with such a
wide range of talents I cannot help but describe him with sheer and utter brilliance.
From his celebrity prints to deathly prints, he is and always will dominate the
culture of popular art. With the artistic risks that he made, he has changed
the art and film world forever

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