Andy Warhol has to be one of my favorite artists of all time. As an artist he has inspired my work and artistic philosophy and not only to me but to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He was a filmmaker, photographer, painter, commercial illustrator, music producer and writer, creating an interdisciplinary platform for cultural production during the 20th Century. It is so exciting to see his work for the very first time in Africa, this month at the Wits Art Museum (WAM). A must see!
He is one of America’s most influential artists starting his career in advertising, designing packaging and producing adverts. It is no doubt that he would become so obsessed with consumerist society which was at its peak during the 1960’s and would continue to grow to today’s mass produced society. Later in his career he drew inspiration from his love for popular culture.
His well known use of bold, flat colour and commercial methods of making art lead him to develop his well known method of silk screening, which was not used to make art until Andy. A silkscreen print is made from a screen – a frame with a silky type fabric over it. A stencil of an image is applied to the screen – which allows for paint to pass through the area where there is no stencil. The screen is placed on a surface and paint is pulled through the screen. Allowing the artist to paint with one colour at a time in the form of layers.
Andy looked at the production of goods in his works and how this corresponds to the production of art. He questioned appropriation of art and what defined art and artist. He would employ assistants in his studio “The Factory” to make his prints for him. One would question who the original artist was, him or the assistant? Is the artist the person whose idea the work originated from or is it the artist the person whose hand made the work? These ideas in art production are still debated today.
Andy drew inspiration from the idea that anything could be art. He would use pop icons, greeting cards, mass produced products or even photographs as reference points to his work. For example in his Flowers series (on view at WAM), he made use of a magazine clipping from Patricia Caulfield from a magazine published in 1964, Modern Photography. She went on to sue him for the use of her work without permission.
“In the future everyone will be famous for at least fifteen minutes” Andy Warhol
Warhol Unscreened: Artworks from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection is on now at WAM until 8 October 2017 and was made possible by sponsor Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with assistance from Business Arts South Africa, Kaya FM, and Black Africa.
In 2013 the bank sponsored an exhibition of the works of African artist Gerard Sekoto in the Song For Sekoto – Gerard Sekoto 1913-2013 at WAM.