RAUSCHENBERG, Robert. Canyon. 1959
Combine on canvas 81 3/4 x 70 x 24 in.
Collection Mr and Mrs Sonabend, Paris
|Form: A collage created with found objects, paint, and pictures.
Iconography: A paper written by Mark Robinson, at the Baltimore Museum of Art states that...."A work that epitomizes Rauschenberg's combine theory is Canyon. Created in 1959, this piece combines fabric, cardboard, paper, photographs, metal, paint and other elements with collage work and several striking 3D elements -- namely, a stuffed bald eagle perched on a box and a suspended pillow. The most striking elements of this work are, obviously, the eagle and the pillow. Upon first seeing the work, the viewer is immediately drawn in it, his or her curiosity sparked by this odd inclusion of "non-artistic" elements. By attaching the eagle and pillow to the piece, Rauschenberg is making a statement about the acceptance of everyday objects as possible materials for art (he was no doubt influenced by Marcel Duchamp in this respect). The incorporation of the eagle, perched and ready to attack, makes a bold statement about the often-confrontational nature of Rauschenberg's work. The bald eagle itself is an already loaded image, as it is often seen as a symbol of patriotism. This eagle, however, is by no means patriotic -- it is a fierce creature, recontextualized by its surroundings. The pillow, on the other hand, places an emphasis on the more symbolic nature of Canyon. Visually, it seems to give weight to the piece, almost pulling it down off the wall. More importantly, however, it adds a sexual symbolism to the piece. It evokes images of male and female sexuality -- namely the male genitalia and the female breasts. Because it is a pillow, it is soft and comforting, a stark contrast to the confrontational eagle. While the three-dimensional objects dominate the lower part of the piece, the top is comprised primarily of a collage of many different types of media. This collage, in fact, takes up nearly two-thirds of the canvas. Although easily overlooked because of the visual dominance of the eagle and pillow, it provides both a background and a context for the lower part of the piece. For example, the photograph of the small child reaching upward is a direct reference to the perched eagle below. Many of the elements included in the work make references to popular culture -- a magazine spread, found domestic photographs and a picture of the statue of liberty, to name a few. This further emphasizes Rauschenberg's theory about everyday objects as art. This is probably the most important theme presented in Canyon and it is shown with both subtlety and excess." (wmbc.umbc.edu)
Context: "Robert Rauschenberg began creating his combines in the 1950s. These works have their origins in traditional paintings -- many of the early combines are presented on a canvas and are hung on a wall. What sets the combines apart from their painting brethren are their three-dimensionality. Eventually this focus was taken to the extreme and many of the combines moved off the wall altogether and became freestanding objects. Rauschenberg incorporated many elements other than canvas and paint into these pieces. Elements of collage (which had been present in his earlier works) were incorporated, as well as found objects. He called this process "assemblage" (1). Rauschenberg "broke down barriers between painting and sculpture by incorporating [these] everyday objects such as Coca-Cola bottles, clothing, newspaper clippings, taxidermied animals, and photographs" (2). In addition to breaking down barriers between painting and sculpture, he was also breaking down barriers between the art world and the outside world. By including objects like Coca-Cola bottles and newspaper clippings, he was making references to popular culture. This pop culture referencing would later explode into the "pop-art" movement of the 1960s." (wmbc.umbc.edu)
Rauschenberg’s Combines, now at the Met, are rich and dense in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
* By Mark Stevens
* Published Dec 18, 2005
Rauschenberg's Canyon (1959), at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Early in the twentieth century, artists began jumping out art’s window. The Russian modernists soared into the revolutionary sky. The Dadaists, arching an eyebrow, admired the cracked glass. The Cubists couldn’t stop blinking, beautifully agog. At mid-century, Robert Rauschenberg went through the window with American gusto. He had an appetite for the churning street outside, and he seemed full of jazzy slang. He was rude—vitally and impishly rude—in a way no American painter (except the de Kooning of Woman I) had ever been before him. He’d put anything in art: postcards, socks, street junk, paint, neckties, wire, cartoons, even stuffed animals. Especially stuffed animals. The absurdist taxidermy was funny as well as provocative. The goat-and-rooster shtick made wicked fun of both the macho posturing of the fifties and the holy pomposities then gathering around painting. Sometimes, art needs a good rooster squawk.
Once through the window, Rauschenberg had one of the great, decade-long runs in American art, which is now the subject of “Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Organized by Paul Schimmel of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles—Nan Rosenthal oversaw the installation at the Met—the exhibit includes 67 works created between 1954 and 1964. Among them are both famous works (the goatish Monogram) and rarely exhibited pieces. Rauschenberg himself invented the term “Combines” to describe a pungent style of mix-and-match collage. In his oeuvre, this early decade of the Combines, especially the first five years, matters the most. It anticipates much that came later, and it raises an important question: Are the Combines less than meets the eye, a slapdash everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style that ultimately just celebrates energy for energy’s sake?
They’re more than meets the eye. My first impression of the show—before looking at the imagery—was one of a controlled, formal richness. An artist in love with the hot and messy splash of inspiration, of course, but also one who’s knotty, thoughtful, and considered. Rauschenberg mostly worked with what Rosenthal calls a “syncopated grid,” a formal structure within which he weighted and composed lights, colors, and shapes. In an image like Canyon, for example, he calculated how the weight of the hanging bag sets off the strength of the eagle’s wings as it pulls upward into the image-laden sky. Reproductions don’t convey the tactile feeling of Rauschenberg’s color. His surfaces are rich, steeped, time-marinated.
As you draw closer to a Combine, its imagery begins to come into focus, and everything starts to connect and connect and connect. You find that not only do the blacks in Canyon rhyme with the bird’s wings; so does that ribbing in the upper right, which mirrors the tips of the outstretched feathers. (And there’s wt., the abbreviation for “weight,” within the same ribbed black.) Canyon takes its inspiration in part from a Rembrandt Ganymede that depicts an eagle pulling a heavy, bawling boy into the air, one who looks rather like the child in the snapshot in the Combine; the hanging bag evokes the boy’s buttocks. Connections zigzag across mental boundaries. Weight, for example, can be literal or illusory, a matter of words, images, colors, and shapes.
There’s an argument that art should probe deeply, that it should rigorously edit experience in order to reach some bedrock essence. Nothing wrong with that. Rauschenberg’s endless connections, some lighthearted and some not, do something else. He celebrates the floating textures of consciousness—the way the mind moves, wanders, and joins together. One of my favorite Combines, Hymnal, contains (among much else) a book, a piece of paisley that looks the way hymns sound, and some ill-tempered graffiti. It can be good to concentrate on the hymn alone. It can also be good, as you pick up the hymnal, to acknowledge the message scratched on the pew.
Robert Rauschenberg: Combines
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
December 20 through april 2.
Robert Rauschenberg. Rebus, 1955
Combine painting: oil, paper, fabric, pencil,
crayon, newspaper, and printed reproductions
on three canvases
8 feet x 10 feet 10 1/2 inches (243,8 x 331,5 cm.) overall
Private collection Courtesy Guggenheim Museum, New York
|Form: 'Assemblage' collage.
Iconography: At the Sir John Cass department of art, Kirk Lake
had this to write about this work done by Raushenberg, "It is worth looking
at one of Rauschenberg's "combine paintings" in more detail. In Rebus (1955)
Rauschenberg set out to realise "a concentration"
Context: A rebus is, by definition "A representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, often presented as a puzzle." We can see by the linear way in which Raushenberg had laid out this painting that it can be read from left to right, and with pictures forming a type of pictograph or cryptic language, it is up to the viewer to solve the puzzle.
Robert Bed 1955
6'2" x 31 1/2" x 6 1/2"
Mr and Mrs Leo Castelli,
|Form: Pillow, quilt, paint, wood, various other painting materials.
Iconography: According to Frazier Moore, Associated Press television writer in the South Coast Today Newspaper..."As a young artist, he awoke one morning with an urge to paint but no money for a canvas. Solution: He appropriated his own pillow and quilt caking them with paint, toothpaste and fingernail polish, then mounting this concoction on a frame. "Bed" set off fireworks in the art world." However, that would be too simplistic an explanation. It was widely known that Raushenberg was gay, and the lover of the equally well known Jasper Johns. His 'Bed' assemblage create controversy in Italy, where they refused to display it because it was 'shocking'. In the contemporary gay community this creation is thought to represent a bed shared b Raushenberg and Johns, and perhaps is reminiscent of the aftermath of their 'artistic lovemaking'. Whatever the true reason behind the piece, it has remained one of the more controversial pieces of his career, though by the standards of Modern Art today, it is not shocking at all.
Context: In Rauschenberg's own words about his artwork, "A
pair of stockings isn't less suitable to create an artwork, than nails,
wood, turpentine, oil or cloth." and, "Rather I put my trust in the materials
that confront me, because they put me in touch with the
Johns. Field Painting. 1964
|Form: Asemblage of painting and objects on canvas.
Iconography: "Field Painting, for example, pivots references
both to art-making and Johns’ own career. The primary colors red,
yellow, and blue are spelled out in letters hinged perpendicularly to the
canvas, where they also appear in stencil-like doubles. Attached to them
are various studio tools. The Savarin coffee tin and Ballantine beer can
both allude to Johns' studio paraphernalia and to his appropriation
of them as motifs in his work. Passages of smeared and dripped paint, a
footprint, light switch, and a neon “R” collude with other visual codes
to multiply the possibility of associations." ( www.nga.gov)
Context: 'Field Painting' as an art form was made most popular by Mark Rothko. It is a technique by which large 'fields' of color are painted on a canvas, and they are supposed to either recede or move forward when stared out, depending on whether they are warm or cool colors, and what relation they are to each other. Johns' is playing a game, much like Raushenberg, by playing with the words and their meanings in context to the images.
Jasper Johns. Flag. 1955
wood, canvas, encaustic, and newspaper
|Form: Wood, canvas, encaustic, and newspaper
Iconography: "The story is 'I dreamt one night that I painted
the flag of America. The next day I did it.' This sounds like an episode
in the life of a biblical prophet. At least one great painter of our time,
Francis Bacon, seems to have seen himself as that: 'I don't think
I'm gifted; I just think I'm receptive ... I think I have this peculiar
kind of sensibility as a painter where things are handed to me and I just
use them . . . I suppose I'm lucky in that images just drop in as if they
were handed down to me.' Johns might well have felt that images were
being handed down to him not only when he first did the flag in 1954 but
also when he first did targets and the figure 5 in 1955 and alphabets in
1956 and numbers and all-over grey brushstrokes in 1957 and sculpmetal
bulbs and flashlights in 1958 and 0 through 9 and polychromatic explosions
with superimposed stencilled words in 1959 and painted ale cans in 1960
and the map of the USA in 1961 and the Skin drawings in 1962. It was as
if for those nine years Johns was in a perpetual state of grace. And as
if a voice from above then said: 'Jasper, we've done enough for you; you're
on your own now.' Suddenly the boy genius had to become a man. Hitherto
the struggle had been confined to the realisation of the image; from now
on Johns was going to have to hunt the image down. It is true that the
legendary passing encounters while out on drives with the prototypes of
the pavingstones and the cross-hatching are about finds rather than hunts
- but they were still finds, not revelations. (By the way, it was
in 1963 that Johns first consented to give a serious interview, as if he
were now responsible for what he did.)" (Take from www.artchive.com)
Context: Johns may or may not be playing another visual game with the viewers, it can be hard to tell with a piece as straightforward in imagery and meaning. There are no other indicators to suggest that he had an alternate agenda or political goal in creating the art. With the artists cryptic explanation that he had dreamt of painting the flag, the message becomes yet more obscure, simplified down to a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, the answer to why? is simply, 'because.'
Jasper Johns. Target with Four Faces. 1955
wood, canvas, encaustic, newspaper and plaster
|Form: Plaster molds, paint, canvas.
Iconography: "....Something akin to this game of hide-and-seek
with public symbols happened with his target paintings. Everyone "knows"
what a target is--a test of a marksman's skill. But beneath its muteness
a target is supercharged with an imagery of aggression: every target implies
a weapon and someone aiming. This had an inescapable point in the mid-'50s,
when politicians and all the American media were pounding into the collective
imagination, like a 10-in. spike, the message that the whole nation was
a target for Russian thermonuclear weapons. This is part of the background
to Johns' targets, and a little further back is another form of "targeting"--the
virulent hatred and distrust of homosexuals as deviants and possible spies
that the right encouraged. Johns was a reserved, closeted gay, and a work
like Target with Four Faces, 1955, is all about threat and concealment.
Its impassive, identical plaster casts of faces are contained in a box
with a hinged door, a "closet" above the ominous target. Your gaze, in
looking at them, is assimilated to the eye of the inquisitor, hunting out
what is concealed. It is a pessimistic and, above all, defensive image."
Taken from an article in Time magazine (www.time.com)
Context: This work seems to be closer to Johns' personality and inner feelings rather than just a word game or commentary. In it, he is expressing some of his own feelings and issues in the most comfortable way he knows how, through his art.
Jim Dine. Green Suit. 1959
|Form: Suit with paint on it.
Iconography: (taken directly from, enquirer.com) The green suit
has been in Cincinnati before. Maybe Jim Dine wore it here before he left
in 1953 or perhaps when he came back to visit. The coat slathered with
green paint, trousers slashed with a knife in 1959, “Green Suit” appeared
in his first exhibition, Dine/Kitaj, at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1973.
Now it is the earliest work in Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969, opening
today at the museum. It's been 40 years since Mr. Dine converted
the worn-out corduroy suit into fine art. But as he looks at it at the
museum, he's still pondering its meaning. It's important to him that it
is not a picture of a suit. It's a garment that he wore and wore out. Having
lost its first use, it became, with alterations, a work of art. But it
remained a suit. Dine is still pondering the meaning of "Green Suit." “Maybe,
in the next century, it will not be so important to have the physical object,”
Mr. Dine says, but “from where I sit it would be a shame if it were not
a physical object. A CD-ROM is not going to give me that much pleasure.”
There is the key to enjoying the eccentric art of Jim Dine, world class
artist with roots in Cincinnati. Each work is a physical object. Not a
picture. Not an icon. Not a symbol or a message. When the “Green Suit”
was shown in 1973, Cincinnatians may have interpreted it as an angry rejection
of their city and all it stood for. Mr. Dine was, or was reputed to be,
an angry young man fleeing a troubled youth to become one of a famed band
of artists about to throw the New York art world for a loop. Mellowed at
64, he's amused his former reputation. “I left here when I was 18.
I left here because I wanted to paint and I didn't feel that this was a
place where I could paint. There was nothing terrible about Cincinnati.
My young life growing up here certainly made me, as everyone's childhood
Context:The artist is clearly influenced by Marquise de Sade's philosophy of assault of the pleasures of the body. Jim Dine's creations make the viewer feel uncomfortable and repressed, tied up with the ropes of his work; assaulted by a demented ego and polluted by a "Rent-an-Artist from Hell, Inc." After Dine's many years of psychotherapy, we still experience his pathological impulses of self-flagellation. In a video interview for WNET, the artist says, "I don't want to be avant garde. I want to be nasty ... ugly ... sloppy ... excessive ... useless ... unpleasant ... and most of all, persona non-grata." And so he succeeds with incredible commercial results. (http://nyartsmagazine.com/30/42.html)
Robert Indiana. The Figure 5. 1963
Robert Indiana. The American Dream. 1963
|Form: Oil paintings, with an abstract, cubist, futurist and
pop influence on the subject matter.
Iconography: According to an article on the Smithsonian American Art Museum web site "Street signs and house numbers, phone numbers and initials…you use important numbers and letters everyday. When your backpack gets lost in the locker room, a tag with your name on it tells everyone that it is yours. If your best friend has a secret to tell, she knows she can talk to you by dialing your telephone number. On a busy street, a crossing sign lets you know where it's safe to cross. Words and numbers are important to Robert Indiana, too. He has turned them into a language of his own. He uses them to tell you what he's seen, what he's done, and what he thinks. His artwork looks like road signs you might see along the highway. Sometimes they tell you about his life—the roads he's traveled and what's happened to him along the way. Sometimes they show what he enjoys, like poems and surprising stories. And sometimes they encourage us to do what he thinks we should—like "EAT" and "LOVE." "Some people like to paint trees," he said. "I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than painting trees." Many people must agree with him....... In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service put Robert Indiana's design on the very first "LOVE" stamp. Over three hundred and twenty million of these stamps were printed. Mail trucks carried letters with this small "LOVE" sign on them along highways all across the country." (http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/)
Context: "Robert Indiana is, by his own admission, a painter of signs. His signs are more intrinsically signals than signs. Donald Goodall writes that "in the end Indiana's signals, all matter-of-fact and plainspoken at first, become elusive and suggestive of personal and public history. . . . We look again, hard. And think about what the shapes have said." Indiana's "words . . . circles, squares and rectangles, and colors which begin in the sign-painter's kit" assume "unexpected brilliance or sensitivity, as these are put in their new universe." They possess "the authority of the irreducible. The most familiar images change character as we inspect this symbiosis of reality and remembered experiences, of the prosaic and speculative." Goodall suggests that Indiana's forms seem autobiographical, recalling "visual experiences as a child which are alive in his mind," experience that the artist "equates with that optimistic illusion of hopeful generations, the American Dream." Nevertheless, the painting's "symbolic implication is not available to fast-transit comprehension. The sign says what it is. Well and good. But the inner-content of Indiana's signals, carefully planned and executed with artisan's skills, is sibylline."1" 1. Donald B. Goodall, "Robert Indiana," exhibition catalog (Austin, TX: University of Texas Art Museum, 1977), 7. (sheldon.unl.edu)
Charles Demuth 1883-1963
The Figure 5 in Gold, 1928
|Form: Oil on canvas.
Iconography: "Born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Charles Demuth studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia intermittently between 1905 and 1908. It was in Philadelphia that the artist first met the American poet and physician William Carlos Williams, the subject of this painting. Demuth continued his art training during trips to Europe between 1907 and 1921. In 1925 he was included in a group exhibition organized by Alfred Stieglitz, who later gave him a few one-man shows at his galleries. When Demuth died at age fifty-one, after suffering from diabetes for much of his life, an important and prolific career was cut short after only twenty years. Demuth, a versatile artist, tailored his style to his subject matter. His delicate, loosely handled watercolors of fruits and flowers pulsate with subtle, exquisitely balanced color. His paintings of the modern urban and industrial landscape, on the other hand, are tightly controlled, hard, and exact — in a style aptly called Precisionism. Although these works show the influence of Cubism and Futurism, their sense of scale and directness of expression seem entirely American. "The Figure 5 in Gold" is one of a series of eight abstract portraits of friends, inspired by Gertrude Stein's word-portraits, that Demuth made between 1924 and 1929. This painting pays homage to a poem by William Carlos Williams. Like Marsden Hartley's "Portrait of a German Officer" and Arthur Dove's "Ralph Dusenberry," this portrait consists not of a physical likeness of the artist's friend but of an accumulation of images associated with him — the poet's initials and the names "Bill" and "Carlos" that together form a portrait. Williams' poem "The Great Figure" describes the experience of seeing a red fire engine with the number 5 painted on it racing through the city streets. While Demuth's painting is not an illustration of Williams's poem, we can certainly sense its "rain/and lights" and the "gong clangs/siren howls/and wheels rumbling." The bold 5 both rapidly recedes and races forward in space, and the round forms of the number, the lights, the street lamp, and the arcs at the lower left and upper right are played against the straight lines of the fire engine, the buildings, and the rays of light, infusing the picture with a rushing energy that perfectly expresses the spirit of the poem." (www.metmuseum.org)
Context: To understand more about Demuth and why and how
he painted what he did, it is important to delve a bit more deeply into
his personal life. "Blessed with a private income from his parents in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania coddled in childhood, lame, diabetic, vain, insecure, and
brilliantly talented, Demuth lacked neither admirers nor colleagues. He
was well read (and had a small talent as a writer, in the Symbolist vein)
and his tastes were formed by Pater, Huysmans, Maeterlinck, and The Yellow
Book; he gravitated to Greenwich Village as a Cafe Royal dandy-in-embryo.
Free of market worries, he did a lot of work that was private in nature,
for the amusement and stimulation of himself and his gay friends, and much
of it was unexhibitable - at least until the 1980s. "Demuth was not a flaming
queen, in fact he was rather a discreet gay, but if he could not place
his deepest sexual predilections in the open, he could still make art
from them. Seen from our distance, that of a pornocratic culture so drenched
in genital imagery that sly hints about forbidden sex hardly compel attention,
the skill with which he did this might seem almost quaint. But in the teens
and twenties the public atmosphere was of course very different, and Demuth,
like other artists in the avant-garde circle that formed around the collectors
Loulse and Walter Arensberg - especially Marcel Duchamp, whose recondite
sexual allegory The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even Demuth called
"the greatest picture of our time" - took a special delight in sowing his
work with sexual hints. To create a secret subject matter, to disport oneself
with codes, was to enjoy one's distance from (and rise above) "straight"
life. The handlebar of a vaudeville trick-rider's bicycle turns into a
penis, aimed at his crotch; sailors dance with girls in a cabaret but ogle
one another. "If these scenes of Greenwich Village bohemia were all that
Demuth did, he would be remembered as a minor American esthete, somewhere
between Aubrey Beardsley and Jules Pascin. But Demuth was an exceptional
watercolorist and his still-lifes and figure paintings, with their wiry
contours and exquisite sense of color, the tones discreetly manipulated
by blotting, are among the best things done in that medium by an American.
They quickly rise above the anecdotal and the "amusing." (culled from www.artchive.com)
Pop Art II, Warhol, Hamilton, and Licthenstein.
Richard Hamilton. Just What Is It That Makes
Today's Home So Different, So Appealing?
1956, Collage 10"x9"
(Kunsthalle Museum, Tübingen, Germany)
Iconography: richard hamilton is a British PopArt painter who was influenced greatly by the abundance of images found in American media and advertising. According to stokstad, because of his own brief stint into an advertising career, and his association with the artist Marcel Duchamp, Hamilton wanted to make a statement about the images people are bombarded with and the superficial ideals they represent. When one looks closely at this collage, many double entendres and visual games become apparent rather quickly. First, there is he question asked by the title, "What is it that makes this home so different, so appealing?" The fast answer would be the physically perfect couple that reside there, the 'beefcake' man and the woman with her stripper-pasties and a lampshade on her head, suggestive of a mindless party animal, a warm body. Obviously, this is a commentary by the media on how people should look, if they are to be considered attractive and successful. Of course, very few people in American society will ever fit this ideal, thanks to the wonders of genetics, but the image is a standard nonetheless. Next is the hugely disproportionate Tootsie Roll Lollipop, strategically held by the man. It is in color, unlike his body, and suggests an enormous phallic object, pointing towards the woman who is seated on the couch. There is also a canned ham on the table, suggestive perhaps of women's place in advertising of being 'meat'. Ironically, the poster in the background is an advertisement for a pulp romance novel entitled 'Young Romance' , commenting on the actual lack of any real romance between the two people in the collage. There are a myriad of other symbols of the trappings of what would be considered 'wealth' in a consumerist society, a Ford emblem lays draped across the lampshade, a maid is vacuuming the stairs with the latest model cleaner, a framed painting done in the Old Master style hangs from the wall. There is a television with a woman talking on the telephone, a reel-to-reel on the ground, a newspaper on the chair and a new rug on the floor. All of these things are what was considered necessary for the comfort and luxury of a 'modern' household. Because of the heavy sarcasm found throughout the collage, it is evident how ridiculous and arrogant Hamilton considered these 'necessities' of suburban life to be, and how deeply ingrained in the minds of society that the media had planted these images as a blueprint for a perfect life.
Context: A short biography of his life gives the viewer more
of an understanding of how and why his style developed along the lines
that it did, in the area that he was living n, (Taken from wwwPopArt, www.fi.muni.cz)"Born
in 1922 in London. In 1934 he attended evening classes in art. In 1936
he worked in the publicity department of an electrical company. He studied
at WestminsterTechnical College and St. Martin's School of Art. In 1937
he worked in the publicity department of the Reimann Studios. From 1983
to 1940 he studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools. He enrolled for
a course in technical drawing and worked as a draughtsman from 1941 to
1945. He was readmitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1946 but was expelled
in the same year as a result of apparently unsatisfactory work. He began
his National Service. In 1947 he married Terry O'Reilly. He
Andy Warhol. Brillo Boxes
Andy Warhol. Campbell's Soup.
silkscreen on canvas
|Form: Brillo boxes. Also, silkscreened images of Campbell soup
Iconography: Andy Warhol was enthralled with the simplicity and visual impact of labels. According to stokstad, Warhol had worked as a commercial illustrator in the 1950's, and left that field to pursue art as a full time occupation in the early 1960's. He knew, from working with advertising, how persuasive a simple design could be. There are many theories about the absolute reason for the soup cans, it has been said that he painted them because he ate Campbells soup for lunch everyday. It has also been said that he painted them because they were easy to do. Whatever the reason, they ended up being his most famous and instantly recognizable pieces. He was paid handsomely for his work by Campbells' when his paintings started to gain recognition. In one instance, they sent him a can of their new Won Ton soup to paint before it was released to the public.
Context: (From www.artchive.com) "Andy Warhol began as a commercial illustrator, and a very successful one, doing jobs like shoe ads for I. Miller in a stylish blotty line that derived from Ben Shahn. He first exhibited in an art gallery in 1962, when the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles showed his 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, 1961-62. From then on, most of Warhol's best work was done over a span of about six years, finishing in 1968, when he was shot. And it all flowed from one central insight: that in a culture glutted with information, where most people experience most things at second or third hand through TV and print, through images that become banal and disassociated by repeated again and again and again, there is role for affectless art. You no longer need to be hot and full of feeling. You can be supercool, like a slightly frosted mirror. Not that Warhol worked this out; he didn't have to. He felt it and embodied it. He was a conduit for a sort of collective American state of mind in which celebrity - the famous image of a person, the famous brand name - had completely replaced both sacredness and solidity. Earlier artists, like Monet, had painted the same motif in series in order to display minute discriminations of perception, the shift of light and color form hour to hour on a haystack, and how these could be recorded by the subtlety of eye and hand. Warhol's thirty-two soup cans are about nothing of the kind. They are about sameness (though with different labels): same brand, same size, same paint surface, same fame as product. They mimic the condition of mass advertising, out of which his sensibility had grown. They are much more deadpan than the object which may have partly inspired them, Jasper Johns's pair of bronze Ballantine ale cans. This affectlessness, this fascinated and yet indifferent take on the object, became the key to Warhol's work; it is there in the repetition of stars' faces (Liz, Jackie, Marilyn, Marlon, and the rest), and as a record of the condition of being an uninvolved spectator it speaks eloquently about the condition of image overload in a media saturated culture. Warhol extended it by using silk screen, and not bothering to clean up the imperfections of the print: those slips of the screen, uneven inkings of the roller, and general graininess. What they suggested was not the humanizing touch of the hand but the pervasiveness of routine error and of entropy..."- From "American Visions", by Robert Hughes
Andy Warhol. Marilyn Diptych. 1968
silkscreen on canvas
|Form: Silkscreened images of Marilyn Monroe, of varying sizes
Iconography: Andy warhol enjoyed doing silkcreend portraits of tragic American Icons. Secondary, they were most often icons in the gay male community, figures whom repressed gay men, such as Warhol, could easily identify with. Marylin Monroe is made to look like a drag queen in the Warhol prints, everything female about her is exaggerated almost comically. her hair is yellow, not blonde. Her lipstick and eyeshadow are shown as primary red and blue. She is almost surreal looking. The gay community could identify her because of the changes she went through physically in order to attain her star status, she changed her name from the midwestern Norma Jean, had plastic surgery, dyed her brown hair......in short, did everything she could to become the opposite of what she was in reality. And for Marylin, it worked. It is this kind of oppression to a male ideal that gay men felt, but the sort of triumph they yearned for.
Context: It is well known that Andy Warhol was gay, and so repressed that at times he seemed almost asexual. He enjoyed surrounding himself with beautiful, young, athletic people, with the types of bodies and looks he himself could never have. It may also be said that he surrounded himself with the type of beautiful young men he could also never have. He was, in his personal life, exceedingly insecure about his own looks. He was short, balding, and had terrible skin. He knew he wasn't a 'beautiful' person in the outward way he wanted to be, and it tormented him. Thus, he became overly obsessed with moving in the 'right' crowd and being around all the 'right' people, a hobby that kept him able to conveniently ignore, or repress, his homosexuality.
Oh no! A Dinner party for twelve. c 1964
oil on magma on canvas
Roy Lichtenstein. Reclining Nude. 1977
|Form: Hand Painted Acrylic images on Canvas, meant to recreate
the color separation found in newspaper images.
Iconography: "In 1960 Lichtenstein was appointed Assistant Professor
at Douglas College at Rutgers University of New Jersey, which put him within
striking distance of New York. He met and had long discussions with Allan
Kaprow, and he also met Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Lucas Samaras and George
Segal. He attended a number of early 'Happenings', but did not participate
in them actively. These contacts revived his interest in Pop imagery, and
a more immediate stimulus was provided by a challenge from one of his sons,
who pointed to a Mickey Mouse comic book and said; 'I bet you can't paint
as good as that.' In 1961 Lichtenstein produced about six paintings showing
characters from comic-strip frames, with only minor changes of colour and
form from the original source material. It was at this time that he first
made use of devices which were to become signatures in his work - Ben-Day
dots, lettering and speech balloons......"Lichtenstein's development
as a mature painter was marked by his propensity for working in successive
series or thematic groups. The later groups tended to be interpretations
and to some extent parodies of earlier Modernist styles - Cubism, Futurism
and Surrealism. In the early 1980s Lichtenstein created sculptural
maquettes constructed from flat shapes as three-dimensional graphic imitations
of German Expressionist woodcuts. These, like his series of painted or
sculpted brushstrokes of the 1980s, painstakingly created an ironic suggestion
of spontaneity. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he returned to the use
of Ben-Day dots in a new and refined application of his earlier style.
Roy Lichtenstein died in September 1997." (Culled directly from www.artchive.com)
Context: Though it would be easy at first to think of Lichtensteins work as simplistic because of its' cartoon images and themes, his work is another aspect of Pop Art, one that was exceedingly appropriate for the times. He was making a statement about aspects of society, romantic relationships, war, even art, and putting it into an easily recognizable form. In the 1960's and 70's, Walt Disney was a huge company, cartoons did a booming business, both in film and in comic strips and books. It is little wonder then that Lichtenstein chose to capitalize on this form of expression as a fine art.
Reclining Figure1935-36 Elmwood
h. 19; l. 35; d. 15 in.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
|Form: The top sculpture is made from Elmood, and the bottom
sculpture from stone. They are both titled 'reclining figure,' as were
many of Moores' works, and both are modernist, abstracted representations
of a female form.
Iconography: Henry Moore is most commonly known as an English Abstract sculptor. according to www.wakefield.gov.uk, " His early sculptures of the 1920s, show the influences of Central American pre-Columbian art, and the massive figures of the Italian Renaissance (he particularly liked Michaelangelo's work). By the 1930s his works had become highly abstract, consisting of simplified, rounded pieces carved from wood, with numerous indentations and holes often spanned with veils of thin metal wires. His main themes include mother-and-child and family groups, fallen warriors, and, most characteristically, the reclining human figure. Although he endured much criticism of his early work, in 1948 he was awarded the International Prize for Sculpture and his reputation worldwide grew over the following decades." By just looking at the two pieces to the left, the viewer can tell that Moore had a firm grasp of the human figure, he was able to masterfully pare it down to its' most basic shape and still retain the very essence of humanness. The figures that he sculpts are sensual and flowing, a testament of his respect for the female form.
Context: "Henry Moore was born in Castleford, in small terraced
house in Roundhill Road on 30th July 1898. He attended Castleford Grammar
School on a scholarship and subsequently became a teacher there. His teaching
was interrupted by the First World War during which he fought in France
and was gassed.After the War he returned to his teaching post but knew
he wanted something better so he began studying at the Leeds School of
Art from which he progressed to the Royal College of Art in London. In
1924 He met Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the college, whom