When you think of art and soup cans, you can’t help but think of Andy Warhol–and, obviously, for good reason! Warhol remains a mighty force in the art world, pop culture, and our everyday lives in ways we may take for granted. Breaking new ground and making art history is quite rare. Warhol did it. In the first phase of his career, he conquered commercial art. In the second phase, he conquered the art world. Someone who dismisses Warhol is terribly off the mark, perhaps working from some anti-intellectual motivation. But people really don’t want to be talked down to. It may seem comforting but it’s an inane act. People truly respond best when they’re lifted up and challenged. Warhol earned his place in art history. Just look at Warhol’s work. Warhol made us see our world differently. For example, Warhol’s screen prints invite us to scrutinize as well as find the poetry in pop stars and consumer culture. Now, as far as soup that I like, I think something less iconic and more organic suits me just fine. How about you?
This week we will consider Laurence King Publishing’s exciting new artist series in a graphic novel format. We begin with “This is Warhol.” We will continue with Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, and end the week with Paul Gauguin. How often have you started the week with Andy Warhol and ended the week with Paul Gauguin? Well, you lucky duck, this is your week. These are all iconoclasts and each of their work continues to reverberate. Among this group, we feel closest to Warhol, despite the fact he was personally quite distant. We think we know him. But, as this book clearly demonstrates, there is much more than meets the casual observer.
Catherine Ingram writes with great enthusiasm and confidence in her subject. She weaves a compelling narrative in such a concise manner, never wasting a word. As she’s describing Warhol’s childhood, she is deftly planting seeds that link us to the vision of the leading figure of Pop Art. Andy, the child, is gazing upon his neighborhood church’s icons. As a Catholic, the icons are powerful figures for Warhol. As an adult, he will take that same level of emotional attachment to his depictions of Campbell’s soup cans and Hollywood stars. But weren’t these repeated images from pop culture simply statements about an empty and shallow society? No, Ingram makes a case for much more being said.
For our Seattle readers, be sure to stop by and check out the boldly ironic paintings of one of Seattle’s favorite sons, Jeremy Eaton. He regularly graces the pages of our favorite alternative weekly, The Stranger. Jeremy Eaton is a published cartoonist, illustrator and painter living in Seattle. For his paintings he utilizes discarded plywood he finds in the shipyards of the city, applying acrylic paint in bold splashes of color and overlapping strokes of black in order to replicate the pulp printing of the comic books and magazines of his youth, often sublimating this with wider cultural themes and commentary. Be sure to visit Jeremy right here.
Max and Lucia come in for a safe landing at Seattle’s Art-obsessed Hotel Max after a visit to Popland.
During the “Pop Departures” exhibition at Seattle Art Museum, Hotel Max is displaying its own Pop Up Pop Art Show featuring Pop Art masters from the show at SAM. To book your own Pop Art Getaway, visit our friends at Hotel Max right here.
Seattle Art Museum is a veritable Popland for its show, POP DEPARTURES, OCT 9 2014 – JAN 11 2015. For more details, visit our friends at SAM right here.
What follows are field notes from the current show. Consider it a review, a guide, a friendly tour. When it comes to reviewing a show like SAM’s exploration of Pop Art, it’s a brave new world. Today, a handful of local art critics no longer command public opinion as much as make a noble contribution. No sooner have they done that, in a poetic, or quirky, or straightforward fashion, than a babble of reactions shoot out from below in the comment section. And that’s exactly what Andy Warhol would have wholeheartedly approved of!
As much as can be said for Pop Art shedding a light on a dead end, Pop Art is full of life. It’s our world, made up of mass media galore and celebrity worship. Let’s do something about it. Since it’s not going away, engage it. Make art. The babble in the comment section can rage on and on and on. Some of us learned how to love the bomb, so to speak. That is the overriding sensibility to be found here. There’s social commentary, critique, and satire, of course. But, ultimately, when Warhol suggested that everyone would get their fifteen minutes of fame, it wasn’t a barb but a realization.
SAM provides a refreshing look at Pop Art byway of where it came from and how it continues to reverberate to this very day. You may even see such familiar figures as Warhol and Lichtenstein in a new light. What this exhibit does so well is demonstrate how, as time progressed, and consumer culture became more complex, so did contemporary art. Layer upon layer, extended the bright and bold message of consumerism. As the landscape of pop culture evolved, and devolved, art responded and collaborated.
Art and its subject end up doing a dance together. And the most subversive work will find its way into the mainstream. Consider the cacophonous video on display by Ryan Trecartin. You may find that you got the joke and want to walk out as soon as you walked in. But stay a while. Wait a minute, something about these vacuous characters spouting gibberish and thinking themselves profound is very familiar. Compare this to the mainstream co-opting (or is it stealing?) by Saturday Night Live with their popular ongoing skit, “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.”
As we view the Warhols and Lichtensteins, we don’t need to see them as only a part of art history. They continue to breathe life. They continue to provide a road map (sorry, no GPS) for making sense of the landscape.
“Pop Departures” is on view from October 9, 2014 thru January 11, 2015. Visit our friends at SAM right here.