Pop art is a movement that occurred near the end of the 1950s. It was a reaction to the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop art emphasized contemporary social values, the sprawl of urban life, the vulgar, the superficial, and the flashy. Advertising provided a number of starting points for the subjects. A particular favorite advertisement form that Warhol likes to use was product labels. You will see quite a few examples of this in some of his work. (Grolier 1996) Warhol did most of his well-know works in a four year span from 1960 to 1964.
He started out by reproducing images such as comic strips on much larger canvases. Some examples of these would be Nancy, Dick Tracy, Superman, and Popeye. He later became much more interested in reproducing labels of products and some people. This became a standard procedure for Warhol during this period. He later began to make movies and photography. (Coplans pg 47-48) At the beginning of his work, he started out with the making comic strip reproductions. They really shouldnt be considered reproductions because they arent always an extremely accurate portrayal of the product.
Some of his pieces such as the thirty-two painting collection of Campbells Soup Cans, are almost identical to the models he used. While others have a looser quality and are merely starting points on which to begin. (Coplans pg 47) He accomplished the mass amounts of the same subject through many methods. Sometimes he would just paint each of the subjects by hand, one by one. Other times he would use stamp molds and silk-screening. The silk-screening process is very similar to that of an intricate and sophisticated stencil.
There is a screen made of fine silk or similar material that is made impermeable to all places except that of the area wanted to be colored. This is done photomechanically, a process that makes photographs into silkscreen. The silk-screening process is fairly simple. You pour ink or paint into the silk-screen, and then you run a squeegee across it so it goes through the open pores of the screen. You repeat this procedure for each of the colors to be used. An advantage to this it that you can used them more than once.
To date, silk-screening is the cheapest and most effective means of reproducing many products of it type and quality. (Coplans pg 50) (Crone pg 11) The main focus of serial imagery is redundancy. (Coplans) There are many ways in which serial painting differs from traditional painting. Some of these differences include that of theme, uniqueness, and variation. It is not important for serial paintings to be unique, the structure and composition are meant to be similar to the other members of the series.
The objects of the serial paintings, like in the Campbell Soup series is show almost eternity or the feeling of never-ending. (Coplans pg 49) Some of the portraits that were done by Warhol began with Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and Elvis Presley. Then later on came Marilynn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. There was also a series of car crash pictures done around this time. The Jackie Kennedy portraits were done very shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy. They mirrored the mourning face of Jackie that was shown time and time again in the media.
There were eight different images that were all taken from different newspapers at the time. The number of works in this series is still unknown. (Crone pg 29) The car crash pictures had an extreme amount of variation. They ranged from having one picture to a canvas to having up to twenty on the same canvas at one time. There are many different colored pictures in this set. The most major change from one to another is the background color. It is difficult for critics to place the origination of the meaning of this set of works. (Crone pg 29)
The series involving the electric chairs has a very serious political statement. It is a symbol of misuse of governmental sovereignty; it has also been considered and open confession of a deficiency in cultural development. (Crone) About the same time as the electric chair pictures were being shown there were many other quite disturbing sets of pictures being shown. They were of race riots and many were taken directly from newspaper articles of the Nazi Germany and Castros revolution in Cuba. (Crone pg 29) One of the last serial sets that Warhol created before moving on from painting was of flowers.
The flowers were produced in an extreme variety of sizes and quantities. These were on display in 1964. The original flowers were taken from a women magazine. Unlike most of his earlier works, these reproductions were touched up by hand on the screen. These are also different in that they do not represent anything to Warhol. They are strictly decorative. The colors used in the painting arent used to symbolize anything but just to bring out color in decoration. In all there were about nine hundred of the flower painting made in Warhols studio, The Factory.
These were among the very last of Warhols paintings, in the remainder of his life he concentrated on movie making. (Crone pg 30) During Warhols life his work has been controversial. He has become more recognized and famous after his death in 1987. I think that his purpose for being an artist seemed to be different from that of other artists. Im not convinced he painted and filmed for the love of the art or so much for his purpose in doing it. I think he had a message he wanted to get across and this was the medium through which he chose to express himself.