Above: A painting by Andy Warhol (detail). Credit: Commons/Fair use.

Do The Opposite

Andy Warhol appropriated popular ("pop") mainstream photo-images as the subject and content of his art. He copied the images using the half-tone process and then made up silkscreens by which he printed the images on to his art canvases (or his assistants did). Everyone knows the above.

However, it is not always understood that this way of working was not proactive but reactive. In the 1950s Warhol wanted to get into the visual art scene, at that time he was stuck in a career in illustration. He looked on at the Abstract Expressionist painters who were the leading artists of the day--Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, et al. Warhol found these men and their work deeply annoying, distasteful, and pretentious.

Having no particular thought about how he would become an artist he decided to simply do the opposite of what the Ab Ex painters were doing. So: where they were doing abstracts he would do figuration; they aimed to depict metaphysical presence so he would aim to depict ordinary banality; they were pompous and elitist so he would be inclusive and transparent; they were seeking to humanize so he would dehumanize; where they were impenetrable he would be obvious ... etc. My point is just to note to the student that, taking something you detest, and just doing the opposite, can be a vital creative strategy ...

(12 December 2018)