Ras de bol de Warhol! (Part 1)

My deeper instincts always made me strongly dislike Andy Warhol and his work. Not quite sure why, besides the poor aesthetic quality of his “paintings” and his blunt commercial approach. I recently read a book called ‘Ras de Bol Warhol et Cie – Contre la pauvreté des images*” written by philosopher Gérard Durozoi and all became clear! This post is a small anti-Warhol manifesto which also highlight what Ponyhof aims at doing. Making a small contribution to make up for the damages made to the art by M. Warhol.

* “Fed up with Warhol and co. – Against poor aesthetic quality of images”

The book examines how American “pop art” was, rather than a painting movement, a way of thinking whose consequences on art history are rather regrettable. The problem with M. Andy Warhol goes well beyond his work and his intentions. It is rather the fact that he made it to art history, and worse embodies a fundamental turn of art history. Exactly like M. Dali, Warhol got ahead not thanks to his artistic skills or thoughts, but through the scandalous deeds and gestures of his public figure.

What he made was “products”, not art.  People easily identify with the subject-matter of Warhol’s mono-series which do not need to be understood, mentally challenged or debated.  By using images that were already part of the collective conscience, he produced his factory brand which literally guaranteed him commercial success. What people acquire when they buy Warhol is not a canvas, but the branding “Warhol”.

Warhol used the serigraphy technique not in order to experiment or venture in some undiscovered paths but for solely decorative and practical purposes. His aim was never to produce something beyond the naïve and superficial, unlike the role artists have of sublimation. Every work of art should be a new experience, but with Warhol, they are all a repetition of a technique: he takes someone/something famous or fashionable, serigraphies it and makes it “art”. The result: artworks with no presence, easy meaning, decorative function and with a spectacular dimension in it proliferation.

Warhol always produced canvases in a series, going completely against the tradition of painting which is to produce a subjective and unique piece. I don’t know if Warhol alone can be held responsible for changing the art market into a market of merchandising artworks denied of intellectuality and subtlety. You would answer that if it wasn’t Warhol, someone else would have done this, and that this development of the art market is just the reflection of the consuming society. But he did change the course of art history. After Warhol, the narrative structure underpinning art history since its beginning shattered.

The problem with Warhol is his intention. Art is all about the intention. And Warhol intended to approve consuming society and not to denounce it. Other artists considered as pop artists such as Rauschenberg, ended up encompassed under this label, but none of them had such a clear intention as Warhol. Warhol won. He managed to redefine contemporary art as a permanent circulation of products, denied of signification, which does not generating any thoughts.

American pop art is immediate. In a blink of an eye, you grasp the meaning, whereas art involves looking for a long time, once, twice, three times before being able to read the piece.  And each time at a different level. Always questioning yourself, never being sure of what you see or hear. This is what art is about. And this is what Ponyhof aims at sparking off.

The rest tomorrow.

Liv Vaisberg

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2 responses to “Ras de bol de Warhol! (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Ral le bol de Warhol! (Part 2) | A Ponyhof blog on contemporary painting

  2. Very interesting reading. What I dont get is why Andy Warhol got/gets away with his business: he made no secret of his intentions and even announced publicly in many interviews that his goal in life was to get filthy rich and a super star as the ones he was portraying. He admitted making serographies rather than paintings because they were possible to produce on a mass scale (mostly by his assistants, but well, masters such as Rubens delegated too). He made his fortune on images of, among other, a woman that had become an icon by her own means before committing suicide, another one that was in a coma when he started to work on her serography (Elisabeth Taylor), a third whose president husband had been shot dead. Through multiple reproductions of these women’s faces, in addition by way of a very superficial technique (contrary to painting, serography can render a very small number of facial traits and only by accident), he made them into consumer products rather than human portraits.

    But the fact that these images are among the most distributed and recognisable in the world, is not the fault of Andy Warhol, but rather the responsibility of all those people that adorn their walls with images they dont understand …

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