Just saw the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York.

Warhol's work was a window into another era. An era defined by three things:

1. Mass media
2. Mass production
3. Mass consumption

Some reflections on the exhibit...
/ Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup painting reminded me of Henry Ford’s famous line: "You can have any color as long as it's black.”

In pursuit of mass production, we let go of personalization. Millions of Americans paid the same prices for the same products and the same stores.
/ Instead of making art for advertisements, Warhol made advertisements as art.

He studied our obsession of fame, questioned the rise of commercialism, and highlighted the uniformity of most areas of American life.
/ Marshall McLuhan called advertising the greatest art form of the 20th century.

"Advertising in the 20th century did what religious art had done in the 13th century: it used its imagery and authority to create images that helped focus mass desires and beliefs."
I was surprised to see Coca-Cola featured so prominently.

But one elderly woman said to me: “Back in my day, drinking a Coke was a real treat. It was always special. A surprise or a celebration. Today, it’s a cheap commodity, but back then, Coca-Cola was really special."
/ To Warhol, Coca-Cola represented the emerging American culture.

He once 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.”
Warhol made art from the news.

The work, from 1962, mirrors the technologies of the time.

The painting is made to look like a photograph. The early technology of wire services, where photographs were sent electronically, didn’t have the crispness of today’s photographs.
As we looked at the newspaper headline above — 129 DIE IN JET! — here's what another museum visitor told me...

“People used to be shocked when something big happened. Totally shocked. That doesn’t happen anymore. We’re desensitized now. The shared experience has disappeared."
The mass media age created celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, who replaced the saints of earlier centuries.

The packaging of Hollywood celebrities resembled the packaging of mass-produced objects and consumer goods for consumers.

Celebrities were the new gods.
Warhol was the king of the remix.

By cropping, unsealing, simplifying, blurring, distorting, obscuring, patterning, or mediating images, Warhol created multiple versions of the same images and reproduced them at scale.

Classic Warhol.

This painting was based on an image of Mao Tse-Tung, the leader of Communist China, on the cover of a collection of his aphorisms known as
"The Little Red Book."

At the time, that painting was believed to be the most-reproduced image in the ENTIRE WORLD.
By showing people “the now,” Warhol explored the essence of mass media and showed society the future.

As Marshall McLuhan wrote: “Art is a distant Early warning system to tell the old culture what’s beginning to happen to it.”
Warhol watched TV transform America and anticipated the commodification of everything.

As George Trow wrote: “On TV, he trivial is raised up to power. The powerful is lowered toward the trivial.”
Warhol was at the center of the New York City social scene.

Instead of standing outside of the world like the artists before him, Warhol stood in the middle of it. He became friends with famous people and became famous himself.
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