Andy Warhol
Year, Birthplace 1928, United States
Year, Place of death 1987, United States
After studying graphic arts in his native city, Andy Warhol moved to New York, where he worked in illustration and advertising. In 1952 he won a best advertising award and began to achieve recognition. In the same year, he exhibited his drawings. In 1957 he set up a company for his advertising work and continued to exhibit his creations, which were reproduced in Vogue and The New York Times, establishing a dual vocation that he would maintain for the rest of his life. He created his own character, adorning himself with a grey wig. In 1960 he began to paint comic book characters, including Batman, Dick Tracy, and Superman. The following year he discovered the work of Roy Lichtenstein and was surprised to learn that another artist was also interested in comic books. In the early 1960s, he devoted himself to painting food tins, Coca-Cola bottles, drills, vacuum cleaners, shoes, telephones, water heaters and cars, using a graphic style characteristic of advertising, sometimes with repetition effects. In 1962 he created his first serigraph on canvas, paving the way for several series. In the same year he exhibited a series of Campbell's Soup Cans at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Later, using press photographs as his point of departure, Warhol worked on representations of electric chairs, road accidents, hospital scenes and racial disturbances, some of which he titled Catastrophe. He produced portraits of Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of her husband, Marilyn Monroe after her disappearance and also of Liz Taylor and Elvis Presley. He used all of the technical possibilities made available by serigraphy, working on black-and-white photographs, highlighting them with acrylic paints, playing with screen-mesh effects in enlargements or varying the solarization. The artist depicted American society through the big themes that characterise it: consumption, success and death. Social criticism is sometimes evident while at other times the artist's attitude is more ambiguous in that he too is participating in this ‘society of the spectacle’ and the event. Warhol rarely confronted power directly, as he did when, in 1964, he exhibited enlarged photographs of Thirteen Most Wanted Men at the New York State Pavilion during the city’s World’s Fair. The work was rejected and the artist was forced to paint over the images, although he went on to exhibit the covered portraits. Warhol played with multiplications of large-scale images, representing one or two dollar notes, Coca-Cola bottles, the Mona Lisa or portraits. He created genuine examples of ‘painted papers’, with which he exhibited self-portraits, silver clouds or cows’ heads. He also displayed the packaging of mass-consumer products directly on the floors of galleries and museums, including Brillo (boxes of soap-impregnated, steel-wool scouring pads), Del Monte (cans of peaches in syrup), Campbell’s (soup cans) and Heinz (ketchup bottles). His studio at 231 East 47th Street became the mythical Factory, Pop Art’s meeting point. There he shot several experimental and largely improvised films which were devoid of themes and settings (in 1965 he met Paul Morrissey, who would play an important role in his artistic life). The rock group Velvet Underground, of which Warhol was the producer, frequently recorded at the Factory. The grey wig was replaced by a platinum blonde one. In 1965 he announced his intention of abandoning painting to devote himself exclusively to the cinema although he would continue to produce or commission painted papers or other variations on old images. He accompanied the Velvet Underground on tour in 1966-67 and increasingly involved himself in films, lecture tours and exhibitions at museums around the world. He returned to painting in 1972, mainly focusing on serigraph portraits, the majority of which were commissioned (Truman Capote, Calvin Klein, Mick Jagger, the Shah of Iran, Princess Caroline, Joseph Beuys, Michael Jackson…). Some of these works caused a sensation, such as his portrait of Mao. He also encouraged the young generation of New York artists, collaborating with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente. In 1987 Andy Warhol died following surgery at the age of fifty-nine. AC