Homage to Andy Warhol (2000)
In 1960 Warhol began to replicate a range of mass-produced images, beginning with newspaper advertisements and comic strips before turning to packaging, dollar bills and more. He is probably the most famous member of the Pop Art movement. Virtually any image that was in the public domain was a prime target for the Warhol treatment. In 1962 he had his first one-man show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles and in the same year exhibited at the Stable Gallery in New York. This was the year of 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans (1961-1962). Soon after his sculptures of Brillo soap pad boxes, Coca-Cola bottles and replications of popular icons such as Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and most famously Marilyn Monroe were to appear and secure his reputation. The silk-screen process he favoured allowed for infinite replication, and he was opposed to the concept of a work of art as a piece of craftsmanship executed purely for the connoisseur; in Warhol’s own words, “I want everybody to think alike. I think everybody should be a machine.”
Thus Warhol’s work was intent on dehumanising his subjects whether they be images purloined from mass-culture or depictions of atrocities such as car crashes. He turned out his works/products like a manufacturer, going as far as naming his studio The Factory. As well as paintings, he published the long-running celebrity magazine Interview, managed the rock group The Velvet Underground and achieved great notoriety as an underground filmmaker with lengthy films such as Sleep (1963) and Empire (1964). In their silent and almost completely static images Warhol raised monotony to new heights, as he said at the time, “I like boring things.” Andy Warhol has become one of the icons of the 20th Century, putting as much effort into publicising himself as promoting his work. He was finely tuned to the tedium of modern mass-culture, conveying and indeed revelling in the banality of the images proliferating around him. His stance was on the one hand distant and voyeuristic and on the other totally immersed in the culture of spectacle. He was able to both comment upon and completely embrace the materialism of the Sixties. Bernard Levin sums up the essence of Andy Warhol perfectly, “[He was] one-man demonstration of the triumph of publicity over art.”
Warhol’s aesthetic turned up in a poem I wrote in the mid-1990’s:
Art is debasing and elitist say
many conservative critics pointing
fingers that never held a brush
at powdered wigs and highback chairs,
at icons drowning in tinted urine,
at showing the body to the public
but Warhol felt that one image
replicates another and puts distance
between creator and object via
machines. Use one model
for a statue then break the mold–
kill her like a pyramid attendant
then sketch the once removed marble
over and over until like endless
photocopies the original blurs
back to blankness. Anyone can
safely understand no statement
at all but art becomes little
more than a camera shooting stills for
a docudrama and in the process
the source is lost. Aesthetics are easy
as paint by numbers then. My curator
is a senator from a new school:
expansive minimalism. Obtain
perspective from a computer poser
and crunch canvases like a series of zeros
and ones. The null set will seldom
offend when the paintings in every
museum are supplanted with mirrors.
Listen to the tour guide and leave your
clothes on. Never look at yourself.
The idea of mass image replication should resonate with fractal artists — especially those who pass around parameter files — although such sharing is more of a “numbers don’t lie” construct than a cultural comment about dehumanization.
I’ve never found making fractal art banal or boring (even when I’m disappointed with my efforts and destroy an image).
And, of course, replication is not reiteration. We all know the dehumanized cannot be tweaked.