British pop art emerged in the mid 1950s with the “Independents” group, comprised of young artists, critics and architects who met regularly to discuss popular culture. American pop art emerged later that decade, but it was bolder and more abrasive, influenced by the most blatant and persuasive commercial environment in the world.
Andy Warhol, “Pope of Pop,” was a leading figure in the movement. Despite initial disdain for his pretentious and vulgar ways, he remains alongside Picasso, Duchamp, Pollock, Rothko and Bacon in terms of the great artists of the 20th century.
When Warhol rose to fame in the 1960s, champions of American abstract expressionism failed to understand how his lifestyle or art could be taken seriously; art critic Robert Hughes described him as “silent, homosexual, withdrawn, eminently visible but opaque and a bit malevolent.” Yet Warhol worked hard to find a niche that would allow him to be taken seriously by his critics and today, the cultural phenomenon of Warhol is irrefutable.
Through his use of garish colour and the repetition of fundamentally banal objects such as the Campbell’s Soup can, Warhol not only condemned old-fashioned and repetitive advertising which sought to saturate consumers’ minds, but also embraced and endorsed it.
Often Warhol would refuse to explain his work to the media and this demeanour shone through in his artistically and personally affectless style. In his last self-portrait in 1986, he famously declared, whilst sporting a camouflage façade, “if you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and film and me, and there I am. There is nothing behind it.”
I popped to the Gow Langsford Gallery last week during lunch to check out the small yet impressive exhibition of Warhol prints. These were my favourite –