Material World and Meaning Essay

Pages: 3 (1012 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Art can be used to express sociological meanings and worldviews. American artist Andy Warhol understood this aspect of art as a political and social tool, and applied that to his work. One of Warhol's most famous works of art is actually a series in which he painted Campbell's Soup cans in a colorful "pop art" kitch manner. One of the most notable of the soup can series is known as "100 Cans." In this painting, Warhol renders the labels of 100 Campell's Tomato Soup cans in a grid. There is great uniformity to the design, which stretches to fill the entire canvas. No space on the canvas is left blank because it is filled with the soup cans. Warhol paints the soup cans in a realistic manner. The labels are red and white with a touch of yellow. Although the cans appear to be identical, they are not, as "A close look reveals the fact that the cans are not identical, nor are they evenly spaced. The bottom row is cut off, suggesting that they continue beyond the confines of the canvas."

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The art historical context of the Warhol soup cans relates to the pop art phenomenon, in which artists were questioning the relevance of former categories of "high" versus "low" art. While Warhol's soup cans are considered to be fine art, they are also "low" art because they capitalize on imagery in popular culture. Therefore, there is some paradox and irony in the work, which also makes "100 Cans" quintessentially postmodern. When asked why he painted the soup cans, Warhol has stated, "Because I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again." He is expressing the monotony of eating soup every day in the painting.

TOPIC: Essay on Material World and Meaning Making Assignment

However, there are deeper layers to the painting and sociological meaning can be easily read into the Warhol design. For one, the painting communicates much about consumer culture in the United States. Second, the painting conveys elements of mass market foods and the big food conglomerates that control the American diet. Third, the Warhol painting symbolizes suburban America with its track housing and attempts to impose homogeneity and conformity on society. Just as Warhol admits to eating soup every day, he paints this to give America a mirror in which to see its own mundane and monotonous habits.

Ironically, the very essence of what Warhol was trying to convey about mass market mentality and consumer culture in America has come true as his painting of the soup cans has actually made its way onto the very soup can Warhol represented. News sources like the New York Times and CNN have featured the phenomenon, showing that the Warhol soup cans are now literally soup cans. Art and consumerism have completely fused together, in ways that Warhol predicted. Whether Warhol would have laughed or cried will never truly be known, but given his astute observations about American popular culture evidenced in his art, Warhol would… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Material World and Meaning" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Material World and Meaning.  (2013, May 6).  Retrieved October 21, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Material World and Meaning."  6 May 2013.  Web.  21 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Material World and Meaning."  May 6, 2013.  Accessed October 21, 2021.