A controversial genius and one of the most famous American artists in the past century, Andy Warhol’s name is synonymous with modern art and ingenuity. Born in 1928 in Pittsburgh to Slovakian immigrants, Andy Warhol would rise to become the leading figure in the artistic movement Pop Art. His artistic career began while a student of commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology, which ultimately led him to New York City, landing a job in illustration for a magazine. Yet, office life was no place for a man such as Warhol, bursting with new ideas and unique views of objects that any “ordinary” individual would consider typical and boring. It was his obsession with commercial products, however, that would propel Warhol to international fame. With his interpretation of these consumer products as combining commercial and art, Warhol would further complicate the ongoing question that continues to baffle not only art critics, but viewers and artists alike: What, exactly, is art?
Working out of a studio dubbed The Factory, this former magazine illustrator had his first solo show in New York in 1962, where he exhibited the famous 100 Soup Cans and 100 Coke Bottles. As he moved deeper into the ‘60s, Warhol’s works began revealing themes synonymous with midcentury America, not only popular consumer products such as Campbell’s and Coke, but individuals as well, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. Though critics began slamming Warhol as glorifying America’s habit of consumerism, in 1968, Warhol participated in the New York exhibit, The American Supermarket, where the setting was a traditional American grocery store, the only difference that its products were created by Warhol and other similar artists.
During this successful period, Warhol groomed his “Superstars”—eccentric nonconformists handpicked by the artist—but also experienced the rage of one of his peers and suffered a bullet wound. Though he would recover, but not fully, Warhol would go on to paint another one of his iconic portraits, this time of Michael Jackson. A splash of neon color in a room of black and white, Andy Warhol’s work is now on display in The Andy Warhol museum in his hometown of Pittsburgh. This museum includes Warhol’s working materials and source materials— photographs, newspapers and magazines—his personal collection of works, along with diaries and correspondence. Film screenings, live music, lectures, and workshops are also offered. — Nicole Ellul
The Andy Warhol Museum
117 Sandusky Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
image: The Andy Warhol Museum – front facade, 1994, photo by Paul Rocheleau. Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum