Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9 - 32 Campbell Soup Cans

On July 9, 1962, artist Andy Warhol had his first one-man gallery show when his “32 Campbell Soup Cans” were exhibited at a gallery in Los Angeles. It was the West Coast debut of Pop Art, which had already appeared in New York. Warhol’s subversive critique of consumerism and mass production set him apart from both Abstract Expressionists (such as Rothko) and traditional, painterly “fine” artists. The works are 20"×16” screen-printed canvases, intended as a unit, one for each of the 32 soup varieties Campbell sold at the time. They were shown in a line, resting on a shelf mounted on the wall, to mimic a grocery store shopping experience. Warhol’s printing method was semi-mechanized: he repeated the basic soup can image on each canvas, then hand-painted or stenciled the names of each soup. Some observers bemoaned the exhibit’s denigration of art, its draining away of meaning. But Warhol ironically celebrated “things” and reveled in popular culture, even as he delivered a message about mass consumption.

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