Boundary of Art Andy Warhol Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1512 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

¶ … Master of Mixing Art and Design

Over the course of the 20th century, commercial design emerged as a vital and highly influential aspect of both design and art. And key to the rise in importance of commercial design was Andy Warhol, whose art was influenced by commercial work and in turn proved to be a substantial influence on commerce. While many artists and critics consider Andy Warhol to be nothing more than a commercial designer sans artistry, others argue that Warhol's Pop Art was as much art as "simply" design, and an enterprise that enriched both traditions. In this paper I examine one of the key questions that Warhol's work (and philosophy) raise: Can design (or an amalgam of art and design) that has as its main goal making money also be defined as art? Warhol's work can be seen at the heart of the debate on where to draw the line between commercial design and fine art and so an examination of his work will help us understand how exactly we should define art that brings in the money (Davies 119).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Boundary of Art Andy Warhol Assignment

Before beginning to examine the aesthetic and philosophical questions raised by Warhol's art, I would like to summarize briefly the moment in art history that gave rise to this style of art. In some sense all art can be seen as a response to the art that came before it and so any discussion of style should properly begin with the Neolithic artists who painted their visions on the walls of the Lascaux caves (Davies 74). However, for the sake of brevity and focus, I will begin with Abstract Expressionism. Abstract Expressionism rose in the years after World War II, becoming the dominant form of painting in the early 1960s before fading away rather abruptly. The artists of this movement were rather loosely connected, but they were united in two important ideas -- that art should be nonrepresentational and that the process of making art should be essentially improvisational (Sandler 17). Art should come directly from the heart and soul of the artist who should not (at least ideally, of course) be concerned with anything monetary. Their art was a distinct -- and arguably even violent -- break from the representational work that had dominated the artworld in the years leading up to World War II.

Pop Art was at least as aesthetically and philosophically violent a break in the opposite direction, bringing the representative form very firmly back to the center of the artistic enterprise. While Abstract Expressionism can look like little more than splatters and smears (to either the uneducated eye or the eye that looks for art with a different narrative), Pop Art is rooted absolutely in the centrality of the image (Madoff 17). Pop Art -- and there are no more archetypical representations of this style than Warhol's Campbell soup cans and Marilyn Monroe images -- used as its building blocks scenes from everyday life and the most common of objects (such as Warhol's choice of a Brillo pad).

Pop Artists like Warhol used both traditional artistic techniques to bring these mundane images to life as well as using techniques such as silkscreening that were at the time considered to be more properly the realm of commercial enterprise. Pop Artists often used images from the most common and indeed popular (and arguably populist) forms of expression, including comic books, the movies, and television (Warhol 81). While Abstract Expressionists tended to style themselves very much in the mode of the heroic artist, Pop Artists allied themselves as much with the creators of mass entertainment (and mass production) as they did with "The Artist" (Sandler 128).

But why did Pop Artists do this? Why did they essentially split their loyalty (or hedge their bets) between High and Low Culture, between art and commerce? Both cynics and conservatives are inclined to answer because that was where the money was, and it was true that Warhol did not suffer financially because of his artistic choices (Madoff 268). But the truth about what drew Warhol and other Pop Artists to incorporate the mundane image and the slickness of Madison Avenue is a much more complicated one. While it is no doubt true that Pop Artists wanted to make money, they also wanted to make art, and their choices of subject as well as medium, technique, and style were calculated to allow them to do both at the same time.

Warhol and other Pop Artists were attracted to the representational in no small measure because (like so many artists in the post-Renaissance West), they wanted to rebel against what had come before them (Madoff 279). Just as Abstract Expressionists had rejected the ordinary images so beloved by the Dadaists, Pop Artists gleefully rejected the Abstract Expressionists' rejection of the ordinary and representational. This impetus had nothing (or at least very little) to do with making money but rather arose out of a long artistic tradition though which each generation defined itself and matured through the process of opposition to what had come directly before it.

This is an essential point. If Warhol and other Pop Artists had been interested solely in making the most money possible (and thereby aligning themselves exclusively with the world of commercial design), I believe that they would have picked prettier and more sentimental images, which are so very easy to sell. But there are no puppies, no softly lit maidens, no flights of birds at dawn. Instead, Warhol and his contemporaries chose to incorporate images that almost necessarily had a more limited audience. This is primarily an artistic choice, not primarily a commercial one (Madoff 61).

Pop Art rejected the abstract, non-representational nature of the art that had come before them, they also rejected in many ways the concept of the artist that had been championed by Abstract Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock. Pollock's work -- like that of his co-Abstract Expressionists -- is almost intentionally inaccessible. While there is nothing inherently wrong in creating art that few people will be able to appreciate or to enjoy, there is nothing inherently wrong in doing the opposite of this (Davies 24). However, Warhol and other Pop Artists were engaged in a task that was actually more complicated than either the anti-aestheticism of Abstract Expressionism or the lucid, lambent beauty of Impressionism. Warhol used images that were easily recognized (and therefore easy to "read" in some senses) but then asked (even arguably required) that their audiences reinterpret these images neither as pop culture nor as commerce but rather as art.

This brings us to a question so far (in this paper) both unasked and unanswered: What is art? Like pornography, art tends to be something that we cannot define but recognize when we see it. Warhol and other Pop Artists made it very difficult to define their work as either art or not-art (a category that obviously includes commercial design among other genres). When we look at a piece like Warhol's Brillo Pads (especially if we see them in a museum), we are forced to ask ourselves not simply if this piece of work is art, but more generally what is art at all? Warhol's Brillo boxes fail what is the most common definition of art, which is an object that is beautiful. They also (at least arguably) fail the artistic test of being appealing. But they do ask us to reexamine our relationship between ourselves, a particular object, and the material world in general (as well as to the history of the art object). It is by this last definition, or understanding, of art that qualifies Pop Art as art and Warhol as an artist. Pop Art brings out both passion and philosophy in its viewers, and thus must (I argue) be defined… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Boundary of Art Andy Warhol.  (2009, December 1).  Retrieved September 18, 2021, from

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"Boundary of Art Andy Warhol."  December 1, 2009.  Accessed September 18, 2021.