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Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World Hardcover – February 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The latest from cultural critic and author Indiana (Utopia's Debris) explores the legacy of Andy Warhol through his most famous and, arguably, groundbreaking work, 1962's Campbell's Soup Cans, a group of 32 20"x16" paintings of the ubiquitous red-and-white canned staple. Beginning with a brief look at Warhol's impoverished childhood, Indiana focuses in on the creation and impact of the famed Soup Cans, resulting is an exhaustive report on the Pop Art movement and its relationship to contemporary culture, featuring vibrant commentary on the way a single piece can stand in for an entire oeuvre. Indiana is highly knowledgeable regarding the art world and Warhol's work, and can assume a similarly sophisticated level of understanding in his reader; as such, he will probably leave casual fans behind with dashed-off discussion of the art scene at large. For those already fluent in the man or the movement, Indiana's in-depth look at Soup Cans is a welcome refresher on the power of a single vision not just to make a remarkable career, but to recast the world in a new light.
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Elegant and impressive [a] witty, smart, near-definitive consideration of Warhol.”
San Diego Tribune
Gary Indiana's Andy Warhol and the Can That Sold the World is a fresh portrait of the artist No one has dissected Warhol's complex personality better. And no one has written more concisely and accessibly about him.”
Lincoln Journal Star
Heartily recommend[ed] I've got a shelf of Warhol books biographies, essays, exhibition catalogs and I've seen dozens of exhibitions of his work. Indiana's book added something to my knowledge and understanding of Warhol, which is saying something.”
Baltimore City Paper
A thoughtful look at the late Pop artist's defining work in narrowing his focus, the author locates and captures Warhol's essence.”
Indiana is able to give a fresh and new perspective on one of America's most enigmatic 20th-century artistic figures, beyond any other biography heretofore.”
Top customer reviews
Gary Indiana's book on Warhol and this ubiquitous can attempts to make sense of its allure and place in history. It comes across as balanced but is largely in awe of its impact. Of course, to understand the can one must understand the man. The book begins with Warhol's challenging home life and what seems like a conscious manipulation using illnesses, shyness and talent to get his way. Over the years he deliberately confused his history with an "enigmatic quality, which made Warhol a celebrity, infused all of his work with a kind of an empty secret."
Indiana appears to suggest that timing was also on Warhol's side, "The ideologically gridlocked 1950s fairly begged for a thoroughgoing high colonic." Pop Art was long in the making but was missing the label and a colourful leader. Then came the can which "were produced by hand, using stencils and projected slides, and their handmade quality can be seen..." I love this line, "Warhol's technique invested the cheap manufactured object with the solemn dignity of portraiture."
It made such a thunderous impact in art circles that it scrambled the generally accepted categories that defined art. To paraphrase the author, the can drew the art gallery and supermarket closer together. For me the next part is the most interesting. I attribute this to my career as a brander and marketer. Warhol has been quoted as saying, "Business is the most fascinating kind of art." He took the awareness of the can and began mass producing it through a silk screening process multiplying output.
No two were exactly the same which satisfied those wanting the unique while, at the same, Warhol was able to create an assembly line. This was a time when mass production combined with mass advertising to turn people into consumers and products into brands and we have never been the same since. Warhol did not invent this but he undeniably saw it, leveraged it, and rode it. All of this fits with "Warhol's notion of democracy, which he defined as access to consumer goods of identical quality."
We will always wonder if Warhol was a good artist or a superior marketer or both. I view him as the Henry Ford and Ray Kroc of art. He spun out works of similar quality and people gobbled them up while media and hangers-on waited on his every word. In moments of lucidity I picture him laughing at this herd mentality, head scratching commercialism and benefits of personal branding.
There are some overstatements, such as Warhol's upbringing-visits to Greek Catholic church rituals and icons provided the inspiration for his portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe.
Warhol's lifestyle, his relationship with his mother, with whom he lived most of his life are covered. Comparisons are made of him and other modern artists such as Rauschenerg. Of course the main emphasis is on the significance of his soup cans; but the party and celebrity scene are covered as well.
The major shortcoming with the book and that was probably as a cost cutting measure is that there are absolutely no pictures. This could have been an extremely instructional and informative book if there would have been some illustrations. It seems hard to imagine an art book that lacks art.
This advertising man, Andy Warhol took hold of the establishment by using the Campbell Soup Can as a statement of our mass consumption global world of uniformity. He was making fun as most artist do.
Warhol also captured the imagination of the hipness of the 1960s and 70s, where he took on a celebrity status of his own. His diaries also became a haven for the frolic nature of the circles he ran around in.
What Gary Indiana does in his book Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World is share some insight into the significance of the Campbell Soup can iconography and a bit more depth of this man that created the pop art movement.