Andy Warhol and the icons of consumerism
Andy Warhol, Green Coca-Cola Bottles
Museum of American Art, New York.
The main representative of the American Pop Art Movement, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is considered one of the most influential personalities in 20th century art. His reputation rests widely on his Pop Art paintings and screen printings. He chose familiar objects such as Coca-Cola bottles and soup cans, or famous people like Marylin Monroe, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor and painted them while exploiting the element of repetition, as happens in advertisements. The only variations lie in color and shape.
In this way he expressed the essence of a society dominated by consumer goods, but also removed the difference between fine art and the commercial art used in advertising, comic books or magazine illustrations.
In 1975 Warhol said:
"What is great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola and you can know that the President drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you
can drink Coke too. A Coke is and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it."
Pop Art (from popular art) was an art movement which started in Britain in the mid-fifties and soon boomed in the United States, with a big exhibition in New York in 1962. It was marked bu the tendency to use visual materials and objects taken or even copied from the world of advertising, television, cinema and also cartoons.
Andy Warhol, Triple Elvis
Andy Warhol, in this work of his, uses the serigraphy technique (typical of advertising) end even if the colors are limited, the image of the star, the rebellious myth, is of great impact, thanks to the uniformly spread colors, useful to identify particular details of the face or of the clothing. Thanks to the system of reproduction in a series, potentially unlimited in number, the image presented substitutes itself for the traditional images of art, as a new icon of consumerism. The subjectivity of the artist in the artwork has finally gone and the language used is that of the so-called mass-culture.
Andy Warhol decided to choose a figure who was very popular with young people, who
represented their rebellious and non-conformist attitudes, appealing to a vast public.
In the picture we can see that there are some elements which have been emphasized: Boots, Jeans, Big Belt, Shirt with pointed collar. But also the face, the eyes and the thick dark hair catches the observer’s attention. Elvis’s posture suggests some different points: Dancing steps, a moment of defiance, the gesture of a cowboy drawing his pistol and the wish of self-affirmation.
The cause behind his choice to repeat a subject many times in the same picture is that, in his
experimentation, he shows the potentialities of modern technology and he rejects the traditional
concept, according to which the work of the artist is unique and unrepeatable.