Andy Warhol was a leading American Pop artist who worked as a painter, graphic artist, filmmaker and producer. He was born in Pittsburgh to parents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Slovakia.
Warhol moved to New York City in 1949, after having studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and worked as a magazine illustrator and advertising draughtsman. He began showing his work in galleries in the early '50s. He went on to debut on the West Coast at Los Angeles’ Ferus Gallery in July 1962, followed by his first New York solo presentation at Stable Gallery in November that same year.
The Pop Art movement that Warhol pioneered can be seen as a reaction to the lofty and serious discourse embraced by Abstract Expressionism. Turning its back on Abstract Expressionism's emotional tenor, Warhol’s art favored a hard-edged realism that appropriated the ubiquitous imagery found in popular culture and the mass media.
Celebrity photos from magazines and tabloids, advertising collaterals made for mass consumer products, underground comics — all this was grist for Warhol’s roving, omnivorous imagination, which transmuted these images into art without altering much of its essential character as visual kitsch.
During the 60s, he also founded his legendary studio, The Factory, making paintings of iconic American objects and attracting a coterie of writers, musicians, artists, and starlets to surround him. A highlight from this period was the 1964 show “American Supermarket” at Paul Bianchini’s gallery, which presented an installation of objects fabricated by six Pop Art artists and put together to resemble a small supermarket, including Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup can paintings and several autographed cans.
Warhol was one of the first artists to adopt the silkscreen printmaking process as a technique of painting. He was social gadfly who haunted places like Max’s Kansas City and Studio 54, constantly mingling with the stars of both the New York underground art, music, and cinema worlds — a bohemian set that included Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Jackie Curtis, John Giorno, and Jack Smith.
Ever since Campbell's soup cans and Brillo boxes first attracted interest and criticism in the early '60s, art critics have remained stubbornly divided over the significance of Warhol's legacy. Of all the postwar artists, however, Warhol was the one whose work made the cleanest and most radical break with previous art — a rupture that demonstrates the single-mindedness of his conception and the way in which his themes and motifs resonated with the spirit of America’s postwar consumer society.
Warhol died in February 22, 1987 following a gallbladder operation.
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