When you think about American Pop Art, whose name comes to mind? For most people Andy Warhol is perhaps the only name they associate with this style. His influence of the movement was enormous, so much so that even today, over 20 years after his death, many people decorate their living spaces with his work, watch his films, read his books, listen to his music and visit exhibits displaying his art. As the media referred to him at the time, he truly is the "Prince of Pop."
Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in 1928 to working-class parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At an early age he showed artistic talent and ended up studying commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institutes of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). In 1949 he moved to New York City, where he started working as an illustrator for magazines and advertising agencies. He developed his unique drawing style during the 1950s and was rewarded with his first solo exhibit in 1962.
During the '60s Warhol began using various American icons as the subject for his work. Campbell's soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, American currency and Marilyn Monroe were all famously depicted in Warhol's artwork. As controversial as he was, he also sparked a revolution in the art world. His popularity - and fame - sored with each new painting or illustration of a famous person or brand name product.
When asked about the appeal of simply showing a colorful bottle of Coke as pop art, Warhol said, "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the president drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Cola Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the president knows it, but bum knows it and you know it."
Warhol also began collaborating with a wide range of experimental artists in the 1960s and founded "The Factory" as a place where talented individuals interested in pop art could meet and work. Much of the colorful, geometric art associated with Andy Warhol is a result of these often contemptuous collaborations. As his fame soared so did his popularity, and Warhol became an entrepreneur of pop art and culture like no one preceding him.
Sadly his life ended in 1987 following complications from gall bladder surgery. Over 2000 people attended his memorial mass.
Warhol's life and work are celebrated by the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Opened in 1994, the museum features several permanent collections of art and archives on what it calls "one of the most influential American artists of the twentieth century."
Another major source of information about the artist is available through the The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which was founded shortly after his death in accordance with his will. The foundation provides a wide variety of grants to artists and researchers who seek to create and promote experimental visual arts. It also holds the copyrights to all of Andy Warhol's works and provides authentication services to insure art purported to be by Warhol are truly originals.
In 2004, one of America's premier area-rug manufacturing companies, Sphinx by Oriental Weavers, reached an agreement to begin creation of a line of rugs featuring designs and patterns inspired by Andy Warhol. Today it is one of the most popular and best-selling collections in the company's catalog.
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