University of Trieste Bachelorâ€™s degree in Historical and Cultural Heritage and Conservation of Cultural Assets
STEVE KAUFMAN AND POP ART
Degree Thesis Student: Serena Bobbo Thesis coordinator and supervisor : Prof. Massimo Degrassi Thesis advisor : Prof. Maurizio Lorber Academic year 2013/2014
Contents Introduction Chapter 1: Pop Art Origins English forerunners The sign and the myth of consumerism Serialization
Chapter 2: Andy Warhol and The Factory Theory Standardization Eroticism Transgression and destruction Symbols
Chapter 3: the “second Factory” and the Second Generation (new Pop Art) Art and characters “What is left to say?”
Chapter 4: Steve Kaufman Born in South Bronx Graffiti art Andy Warhol’s studio Social commitment Goodbye New York: success, portraiture and Hollywood Quotes from famous His last years and heritage
Summary Appendix: the (leading) spokespeople of Pop Art Bibliography
Introduction « Pop Art seeks to destroy art (or at least to do without it), but art rejoins it: art is the countersubject of our fugue » (Roland Barthes)1. « Besides, at the time, I didn’t give the word Pop Art the same meaning we give today. I used this word, and the term “pop culture”, to label the products of mass media. I did not refer to the works of art
Roland Barthes, New Critical Essays, University of California Press: Berkeley, 1990
which highlighted the elements of this “popular culture”. Anyway the term Pop Art became popular in an imprecise moment between winter 1954 and 1957 » (Lawrence Alloway)2. « There was a moment, halfway through the twentieth century, when the same world where people lived became art »3. This engaging definition reveals why Pop Art has been so successful and keeps being so (perhaps only Surrealism can compete with Pop Art for extent and power of influence). From the early fifties in Great Britain to the explosion of popularity in America, Pop Art also spread overseas and in Europe, up to Australia and Japan, thanks to the artists of the second generation. Steve Kaufman, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman and others reinterpreted the ideas and the aesthetics which Andy Warhol made famous and they contextualized them in the historical moment that was – and is still – changing. An international art movement that is so long-lasting and uses all kinds of well-known instruments, genres and medias like this (while also producing new styles and forms of expression) cannot be briefly summed up or simply excluded. Great artists have always talked clearly and simply about their works and the ideas that these contained, but they have rarely been listened to.
Special thanks to: Prof. Massimo Degrassi; Prof. Maurizio Lorber. For the help they have given me in finding books, sources, statistics and instruments I have used in my thesis and for their contribution to my work and research, I wish to thank: Diana Vachier – president of “Steve Kaufman Art Licensing, LLC” and “American Pop Art, Inc.” Alberto Panizzoli – co-president of “Steve Kaufman Art Licensing, LLC” and director of “American Pop Art, Inc.” Leslie Gonzalez – Media Relations, communication and strategy of “Steve Kaufman Art Licensing, LLC” and “American Pop Art, Inc.” I also wish to thank Roberto Srlez, journalist and writer, director of “centoParole Magazine”, for believing in me. Finally, I would like to thank my loved ones, Elena, Lorenzo and Marco – my family.
To Steve Kaufman.
Lucy R. Lippard, Pop Art, 1967 Wayne Radcliffe, former administrator of the Contemporary Art section and now Australian Art Section of the Art Gallery NSW – Australia – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/
Chapter 1: Pop Art Origins What is Pop Art? The meaning of this term goes far beyond the simple definition “popular art”. Andy Warhol said: «Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again... Once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again»4. (It is important to note, in Warhol’s words, the use of the word got. It implies a real transformation in the way of feeling, watching and recognizing the signs). Roy Lichtenstein said: « Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn't look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself »5. The great masters of this art movement and its definitions often look like synonymous of “America” (United States above all) to the viewers and the public. And yet, Pop Art was born in the Old (as for traditions and school) Continent, in the cultured London of 1950. The term Pop Art was introduced during the debate of the artist union known as “Independent Group”, at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts. One of these “independent artists” was Richard Hamilton, widely recognized as the first Pop artist. His definition of the term Pop Art was disjointed and complex: « Popular (meaning “intended for the mass”); transient (meaning “solution over the short term” and immediately usable); expendable (easily forgettable art); low-cost (no colossal or expensive works); mass-produced (through the application of industrial techniques which are now very common); young (first and foremost intended for young people); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and... Big Business »6. Hamilton is often remembered for having created the first Pop Art work, the collage: Just what is it that makes today’s home so different, so appealing? (1956). In the work, in an imaginary and captivating domestic scene full of consumer goods, a man and a woman (iconified) discuss about what makes their home “so different from usual”. The answer is the enormous red popsicle the man is holding in his hand. The word “Pop” (that particular kind of popsicle, filled with chocolate or liquor, was first produced in the thirties and is called “Tootsie Pop”) literally “comes out” of its frame ( “Pop” meaning in this case “explosion”, like in “Pop corn”, not “popular”). First of all, in his work, Hamilton puts together movie pictures, posters, magazines and history of art. He mixes representation techniques, raw materials and subjects, which are all immediately usable. In the middle of the room there is a man who looks like he is moving towards the viewer, but he is out of range if compared with the objects surrounding him. His representation is not realistic. There is also a naked woman sitting on the sofa. She looks like she is offering her breast as if it was an object between other objects. Like the man, she is not realistic, she is out of range and out of proportion. At first sight, the space we see looks comfortable, because it is full of the same objects we are surrounded by, the objects that belong to our everyday life as well. And yet, the lack of proportion between the man and his room makes us perceive a sense of claustrophobia. It makes us perceive a cluttered space full of charms, with the red popsicle standing out and becoming the most important element in the scene. It is the object we will consume, the object that will change our day at home and that represents an important allusion. « You cannot understand one of Richard Hamilton’s collages by simply drawing upon Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. You must also remember that the author could watch the Arnolfini portrait on a wall at the National Gallery in London »7. The work was first showed on 9th August 1956, during the famous exhibition This is tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The exhibition was organized by the “Independent Group” and it was dedicated to subjects like the city, mass culture idols and new technologies. 4
Andy Warhol, POPism: The Warhol’ 60s, 1980 Roland Barthes, That old thing Art 6 Richard Hamilton, Collected Words, Thames & Hudson, London 1982 7 Alessandro del Puppo, L’arte contemporanea. Il secondo Novecento, Einaudi Editore. Torino 2013 5
Meanwhile, in the United States, artists were starting to build a bridge towards Pop. They were strongly influenced by Dada and its strong interest in appropriation and everyday objects. They worked more and more often with collage, consumer goods and a lot of irony. Dadaism (“Dada”) is an art movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916, in a very dramatic historical moment, the First World War. It began thanks to a group of intellectuals who had hidden in Zurich to escape the war. The group was essentially made of: Hans Arp, French painter, sculptor and poet; Tristan Tzara, Romanian poet and essayist who spoke both Romanian and French; Richard Huelsenbeck, German writer, and Hans Richter, German director and painter. In 1924, Dadaism was replaced by another art movement, Surrealism. That year, the French writer André Breton published the first Surrealist manifesto and defined Surrealism as « psychic Automatism in its pure state »8. Among the members of this movement there are: Hans Arp (who had already been a Dadaist); Joan Mirò, Spanish painter, sculptor and potter; René Magritte, Belgian painter, and Salvador Dalì, Spanish painter, sculptor, writer, film-maker, designer and scriptwriter. The artist Emmanuel Radnitzky (1890 -1976), known as Man Ray, is too considered to be a bridge between Dadaism and the following art movements because of the time in which he worked. From the artistic point of view, though, he cannot be included in a specific category or in a particular movement. Man Ray stays unclassifiable. He is not Dada, he is not Pop, he does not take part in any precise movement. He was an engraver, a designer and a map maker who had studied in New York. He knew expressive freedom and he escaped the academic techniques by ceaselessly experimenting and studying avant-garde. Man Ray was a photographer. Later in the chapters it will be explained how photography has always been important for both Pop Art and the following generations. The two movements, Dada and Surrealism, shared the research of a new way of producing art. This included an ironic, desecrating and aggravating attitude. They claimed the « lack of any control exercised by reason »9. Dadaists fought against the usual meanings attributed to words. Dadaist poetry was something “arbitrary”, as a form of polemic against official poetry. Surrealists, instead, analyzed the relationship between language and image (just think about Magritte’s famous “pipe”10 with the notice “this is not a pipe” under the picture of the pipe itself). Surrealism mirrored the surrounding reality and its representation, especially the not so clear boundary between the two of these. Marcel Duchamp, Dadaist, was the sharpest personality for future Pop artists, particularly with his “Readymades”. Marcel Duchamp went from Switzerland to New York, where he settled permanently during the Second World War (1942). He created the famous bicycle wheel upside-down, the first Readymade, which is considered to be the great theoretical revolution of the twentieth century and the symbol of contemporary age. Bicycle Wheel (1913) is a first logical paradox, as it represent both movement – the wheel – and stasis, the stool. With a mix between industry and craftsmanship, everyday life joins art. This is a Readymade. It consists in taking common objects out of their context of use and show them provocatively, raising them at the level of works of art. Some years later, in 1917, he created the Fountain sculpture. It was a white majolica male urinal that Duchamp turned upside down and put on a wooden stand. Duchamp turned an object, an urinal, into a work of art with just a few adjustments (the overturning, the signature, the date). He also defended and publicly framed it as so. Finally he had it photographed by a famous photographer and art collector, Alfred Stieglitz. Reproduced this way, the work was then analyzed in a special issue. It was a scandal that would surely be rejected. Duchamp, who had used the pseudonym Richard Mutt, resoundingly resigned from the organizing committee. That time he gave a very clear definition of his way of thinking: « Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made this fountain or not has no importance. He chose it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view, created a new thought for that object »11. Is this the redemption of the banal objects of our ordinary life? That idea was shocking, art would never be the same again. It was a point of no return in its history. Some fragments of real life joined art.
André Breton, Surrealist Manifesto, 1924 André Breton, Surrealist Manifesto, 1924 10 René Magritte, Ceci n’est pas une pipe, 1926 11 Marcel Duchamp, The Richard Mutt Case, 1917 9
Another idea that Pop art later resumed was mentioning famous works, like Duchamp’s work L.H.O.O.Q., that was a Readymade of 1919. It was the photographic copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work La Gioconda. It is art mentioning art, not ordinary art, but rather the painting masterpiece per excellence, the icon of world art. What Duchamp did was choose a complex strategy of communication and meta-communication which aimed at talking ambiguously about art from several points of view: « This way I am telling you that it is enough to define an ordinary object as a work of art to make it become an effective work of art, but maybe what I am telling you is a joke ». How was contemporaneity born? The decisive event which turned the avant-gardes into what they still are today was, paradoxically, their dissolution, caused by the European crisis that resulted in the Second World War. As they were forced to move to the United States, Expressionists and Surrealists recreated a sort of Bohemianism in New York and Los Angeles. They became a model for an artistic culture that was stuck on social realism and had nothing to do with the European modernist developments. The exile of the avant-gardes in the United States moved the core of the artistic scene to New York permanently. This was the decisive turning point for contemporary art. Critique acquired a leading role. It proved to be able to create artists out of nothing, link them to a movement and present them as the expression of the movement itself. American critique was the one that substantially brought Abstract Expressionism to success. It made figures like De Kooning, Kline, Rothko and above all Pollock the authentic successors of European avant-gardes. The theoretical operation of replacement of the artists carried out by critics like Alfred Barr, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg and others took place in two moments. The first one was imposing to the American public opinion the historical European avant-gardes as true modern art. The second one consisted in making the new American painters the only one who would outdo the masters. The invention of Abstract Expressionism and its legend was not just the result of a complex critical operation (of both ideas and promotion). This promotion had to meet the taste of the public. This is why the alliance between artists and gallerists was promoted and the social relationship between customers and artists was reformulated. The critic was now the author, while the merchant offered the physical media space where the artistic action would take place. Of course the artist had to be there, but his role was becoming less important. In the same way the role of the public was merely apparent, as the public was now the passive consumer of a product that had been created without considering their opinion.
English forerunners It was in the Sixties that Pop Art actually burst, mostly because of the period of strong cultural revolution that society was going through at all levels. Pop artists (all of them born or established in America) whose works were exhibited at Janis gallery in New York in 1962 were Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist and George Segal. The kind of art they proposed was wide open to the most popular forms of communication, from comic strips to advertising. Jasper Johns recreated the icons of ordinary people with “stars and stripes” (like the American flag). Robert Rauschenberg started to use silk-screen printing and put the most diverse objects, mass products, in his works. They are both considered to be the American forerunners of Pop (Warhol himself said: « Those styles were unique. It was not Abstract Expressionism and it was not Pop, they were in the middle »12). Duchamp, his thinking and what followed have a priceless value. They enabled to define what distinguishes contemporaneity from the previous forms of art, aside from the complex problem of periodization. Some of Andy Warhol’s works, following Duchamp, were objects that the artist would appropriate out of their context of use (for example Brillo Box, which is nothing but the imitation of a detergent bottle). Others instead were modifications of pictures, ordinary or not (like Mao Tse Tung and Marilyn Monroe silk screens, based on photographs, and the numerous Electric Chair). 12
Andy Warhol, POPism: the Warhol’ 60s, 1980
The sign and the myth of consumerism Conceiving art for one moment only, without any commitment of immortality and eternity, or at least an attempt to commit, would have been horrific. Ancient times had created their myths and idols by often using natural elements (like anthropomorphic rocks and sacred plants in ritual images) or had represented them by using symbolic images, both hidden in consciousness and deriving from beliefs and sensations. The current historical time, instead, creates its myths and idols by borrowing them from readymade objects, which are often mechanical or industrial, mass-produced and created by man but already dehumanized. These have become the simulacra of an artificial, though not less real, worldview. In 1964, during a conference, Roy Lichtenstein said that « Pop is the art of non-sensitivity »13: « Pop is a product of two tendencies of the twentieth century. One is exterior (the subject) and the other one is interior (aesthetic sensitivity). The subject is to be identified with mercantilism and popular art, but its contribution consists in isolating and highlighting the “thing”. Popular art is not our art. It is our subject. The aesthetic sensitivity I am talking about is a form of non-sensitivity »14. Lichtenstein used the “Ben-Day” dots printing process (invented by Henry Day in 1879. It is a technique that uses colored or black and white dots of the same size, either spaced or overlapping, to create the optical illusion of colors and halftones despite leaving some blank space) and comic strips graphic to create large size panels. Oldenburg specialized in objects. He would inflate hamburgers up to enormous dimensions and show sculptures that represented food and comfort products. Rosenquist would exploit his practice as a billboards painter to imagine smiling faces, bright cars or real advertising. It was the mirror of society. Pop art wanted to reproduce the social values and the environment in which it developed. It did not aim at overturning or destroying them (in those years there were not the slaughter atmosphere of the First or the Second World War and the resulting refusal of that kind of society. The war was still there – it had not disappeared and it would never do – but it was felt as more distant). This is why “Pop” artists focused on most Americans’ concerns: food, cars and sex. They did so by using strong and mainly satirical images. If criticized for doing this, they could take the freedom to answer they had just held a mirror in front of a situation they saw with their eyes (a mirror put in front of modern society – a whole world worried about seeking material satisfaction and interested in it only). Pop Art was, just like Pop artists, the accurate mirror of the situation of crisis, fetishism and great mythicization America was unconsciously subdued to. This goes beyond intellectuals’ will and the will of those who wanted to use their works from the off. Art cannot help being the mirror of the ethic and social situation of the country where it develops. However, it cannot be used and arranged for this purpose, otherwise it runs the risk of losing expressive freedom and becoming a mere product of political propaganda.
Serialization On 9th July 1962, Warhol showed his work Campbell’s Soup Cans at the Ferrus Gallery in Los Angeles. The piece consisted in a sequence of canvases – thirty-two – all representing the same subject, Campbell’s soup cans indeed. The way canvases were displayed reminded – perhaps intentionally – of the shelves of a supermarket. « When you think about it, department store are kind of like museums... »15. With this work, Warhol proposed again the old mimetic dilemma between copy and original. He showed the industrialization of aesthetics and the aestheticization of industrial products all at once. Marcel Duchamp commented on the work with this words: « If you take a Campbell soup can and repeat it fifty times, you are not interested in the retinal image. What interests you is the concept that wants to put fifty
Lichtenstein’s statement is in New York Renaissance’s catalogue. Lichtenstein’s statement is in New York Renaissance’s catalogue. 15 Andy Warhol, America, Harper & Row, New York 1985 14
Campbell soup cans on a canvas »16. Warhol would often return to this subject and create a new series: in Big Campbell’s Soup Can he enlarged the can, in Small Campbell’s Soup Can he made the can smaller and so on. He also produced 200 Campbell’s Soup Cans, Big Torn Campbell’s Soup Can and Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener. Some years later he would do the same with a Coca-Cola bottle, portrayed in the same variations as the Campbell’s can. It was repeated in series for unlimited times so that it would lose its real determination, its contact with reality, and its iconic role would be reinforced. Andy Warhol’s revolutionary Factory redefined the art of a whole age, casting light on ideas concerning fame, mass-production of pieces and the artist as a public celebrity. Warhol’s Factory set up silkscreen printing productions realized with industrial techniques, whereas musicians, actors and writers often wandered around the paintings in a cloud of narcotic smoke. The Factory produced the many Marilyn Monroe and Elvis (which are among the most famous works of art of the twentieth century). It was not just the triumph of the packaging, the box, the bottle, the can or the container that turned the consumer into the customer who was familiar with that object-merchandise. Another potentiality arouse, the emotional connection between the fan and the Star through the overexposure of his image. With Pop Art, the work of art became uniform to the object-system and the artist himself was a consumer, an “already consumed consumer” who stepped in again creating something aesthetic. His artistic operation also went through the taking back of ordinary objects. Artistic consumption of Pop Art was enhanced by the diffusion of consumption products within the movement itself. Everything was thrown into a dimension where everything had already happened and present kept going back to being past. Present innovation was drawn to the past again by the myth, everything had already happened and had been consumed – continuously, over and over again. Time did not exist anymore and the popularity of objects looked like the repetition of a sign. Quoting was the way Pop spread works of art and consumption objects, which recalled one another (like Coca-Cola, as famous as Gioconda). « The value of consumption objects lies entirely in the sign of consumption, not in its usage value »17.
Chapter 2: Andy Warhol and The Factory When Andy Warhol died, on 22nd February 1987, the artist Keith Haring said: « He was the first really popular artist worldwide and his art and life have changed the concept of “art and life” in the twentieth century »18.
Marcel Duchamp, interview for the New York Herald Tribune, 1964 Carolina Carriero, Il consumo della Pop Art. Esibizione dell’oggetto e crisi dell’oggettivazione, Jaka Book, Milan 2003 18 Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals, 2010 17
Andy Warhol, whose real name was Andrew Warhola, was born on 6th august 1928 in Pittsburgh, in a family of Slovakian immigrants. His father, Ondrej Warhola, worked in the United States and his wife and children joined him in 1921. In 1945, Andy entered the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he graduated in Advertising Art in 1949. Then he moved to New York, where, in the fifties, he stood out as one of the most valued illustrators and graphic designers for advertising and magazines. From the very beginning, his career looked like an endless series of achievements. In the early sixties, Andy seemed to draw inspiration for his works from comic strips, advertising and food industry products. However, one of his most famous works marked his entrance into Pop. On 9th July 1962, he presented the series Campbell’s Soup Cans to the world. There are many stories about Warhol and what we understand from them is that he was an artist who needed human contact. He always looked for something with his eyes and at almost every party he would show up with his camera and call it “his girlfriend”. With “his girlfriend” he created close-ups, photos with no background and strong direct portraits of the most famous people of his age. These photos are often considered, maybe erroneously, a preparation for his paintings: John Lennon, Sylvester Stallone, Dennis Hopper, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross. He portrayed New York transsexuals as well. He even portrayed himself. In his paintings, Warhol rarely included human beings, while he always sought them in his photos. Before Warhol, many artists had had their assistants outlining the works, preparing the background, working with no experience or even contributing to the creation of the work. However, at The Factory, the group expanded so as to look like a small firm. It was seen as a sort of entourage, but Warhol drove away that thought from his head and tried to do the same with the others as well: « They thought I was the one everybody at The Factory gravitated toward... but it is the opposite exactly. I gravitated toward the others. I just paid rent »19. Even if the idea of The Factory caught public imagination, Warhol would later redimension it. For him, that was the “studio”, an art society where he and the “others” worked. The Factory enabled him to create paintings and movies, to publish a short story and a philosophy book, to perform a play, to draw covers for musical albums, to organize TV and video advertising and to work with models.
Theory The multimedia dimension of Warhol’s aesthetic intuitions (painting, cinema, books, magazines, television) had one common denominator, his main iconic source, America. More than any other artist of that time, Warhol was interested in the old question of how art and surrounding reality were perceived: « Is what we see just reality or is it art as well? ». He overturned the classical concept, as if he wanted to say: « It is not its products, but its frames, that make art what it is »20. By the early sixties, Abstract Expressionism had wilted. In order to be incisive, the rebellion against orthodoxy had to take different forms. That rebellion had started with a series of artists who represented for Warhol some perfect models, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The first external source of inspiration that marked Warhol’s new direction was comic strip. Comic heroes brought Warhol back to his lonely and introverted childhood. At the same time, however, they directed him towards that cold and detached aesthetic theory he had seen in Johns’ and Rauschenberg’s “Dada” solutions (“New Dada” – characterized by the use of modern materials and weirdly combined subjects from popular imagination). In spite of their apparent banality, the comic characters Warhol chose reveal the strong psychological tension of the artist who is seeking his own identity. They are heroes who make transformation and the shift from oneself to someone else their symbolic center. Besides, Batman, Superman, Popeye and Dick Tracy are all men, they are the projection of homosexual physical desire at a higher level.
Pat Hackett, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Warner Books, New York, 1989 Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975
Standardization The possibility of reproducing a work endlessly was at the base of Pop Art, but it was Andy Warhol’s Factory that marked this change for good. Human beings and objects, especially from America, went through a mythicization process, a process which involved their state of being contemporary at all levels. Pop looked like the only possible reality: « For this new generation, Pop was not a problem or a choice anymore. It was the only thing we knew »21. Andy Warhol was the only one who did not show a defense attitude towards critics. He used to say: « I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else's »22. When some people, shocked, answered that doing this would have overturned the whole history of art, he would just nod and say: « It’s true ». By elevating Brillo Box and Campbell’s Soup Cans to unique objects and by presenting them as icons, Warhol let a whole group of new celebrities become icons through his art. In fact, they thought that if they had Warhol portraying them, their fleeting and temporary fame would have strengthened forever. The best example comes from Warhol’s painting The American Man. It is the portrait of an insurance director (Watson Powell), one of the first customers who commissioned Warhol a portrait.
In an interview he said: « The reason I’m painting this is that I want to be a machine ». « The reason I'm painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine- like is what I want to do ». « I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else's »23. Warhol concentrated the complex union between the contemporary world and subject in the surface. He started going spasmodically from one artistic instrument to another and hiding languages and subjects’ identities. Warhol was a pioneer in using photography for Pop Art and he turned advertising and press photographs into his famous silk screens. In a time when photographs were just considered something fleeting, not sealable 21
ibid ibid 23 Andy Warhol interview with Gene Swenson, Art News, 1963 22
and not worthy of attention in galleries, his photographs served as a point of departure for works of art. Cameras and movie cameras followed Warhol through all his career. Though usually little known, his snapshots mark an important stage in the history of photography. He was director and producer. He involved everyone around him and all the celebrities he knew of that cultural time in a sort of game. He took advantage of rules and situations of that cultural life for his own purposes.
Eroticism On 5th august 1962 Marilyn Monroe died, officially as a suicide victim. It was the death of a symbol, which would upset the world in a way we would not easily understand nowadays (and so did John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s death, even if in a different context and for a twist of fate). Pop artists started grieving with endless tributes and Warhol was the one who portrayed her most accurate picture. Warhol’s comparison with Marilyn’s icon is based on his social pessimism. According to Warhol’s beliefs and sensation, no human being could ever really know another human being. Nobody will ever get to know the real Marilyn, just her image and her being a sexual symbol, in the same way a product is known for its packaging and brand name. The core of the reflection consists in staying away from oneself and from the producibility of beauty through the real and tangible transformation of the self: name, hair, voice, image. What is perceivable is the image domination (of aestheticization) of contemporary world, where stars and celebrities are ideas and images, more than real, seductive, erotic, near but elusive people. Between 1962 and 1964, Warhol produced thirty silk screens with the same picture of Marilyn, the one taken by Frank Powolny and used as the promotional photo of the film Niagara. There is not “Marilyn as a person” in that photo. She is completely and well recognizable, but she is not herself, she is the icon. Warhol focuses on the actress’ face only, so as to draw attention to the symbol, not to the body. At a later stage, he further reduced the actress’ portrayal to one element only, her lips (Marilyn Monroe Lips). What mattered about them was not their kissability, but their photographability («People look the most kissable when they're not wearing makeup. Marilyn's lips weren't kissable, but they were very photographable»24). The erotic interest did not just turn to the actress’ face, but to her make-up above all, which is to say the appearance of that face. This is why he chose hundreds of chromatic variations that would turn that face into a mask whose features are barely noticeable and deformed by colors.
Marilyn represented for Warhol the two fundamental notions of his aesthetics, tightly bound to each other: Beauty and the Mask. « To me, Marilyn Monroe is just an ordinary person. And as for the matter of whether painting this actress in such vivid color shades is a symbolic gesture, I can only say I was interested in her beauty. And
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975
Marilyn Monroe is beautiful. Finally, for a beautiful subject it takes beautiful colors. That’s it. History acts more or less the same way »25.
Transgression and destruction Warhol concentrated the complex symbiosis between the contemporary world and subject in the notion of “surface”. He started going spasmodically from one artistic instrument to another and hiding languages and subjects’ identities contained in these languages. Surface let Warhol attain Pop culture and create the common aesthetical sense of a whole decade, a sort of no-man’s-land where art immediately retrieved its mimetic dimension. Warhol reduced Marilyn to a symbol of the idol-body, thus embracing the public need for a popular myth of beauty and success. He reduced her body to an exterior sign, a brand, a mask, a make-up. Eyes and mouth were not less desirable. Her half-closed mouth evokes the seduction of the body-object and her eyes allude to an already consummated sexuality. Eyes and mouth hint at her consent and willingness and at the offer itself. Marilyn, instead, offers herself as an already wasted item, as being like her, being a star, means being wasted and reduced to a brand, a sign. With its paintings, Pop Art highlighted something incontrovertible. It will never be possible to meet the real Marilyn, just her image. There will never be Norma Jeane Mortenson again, for anyone or any reason in the world, just Marilyn Monroe. By reproducing Marilyn’s photos on canvas, Warhol established the stereotype of the star more than her magnificence, which was exactly what the viewer – the consumer – sought. In that product, the consumers – the users – found their reward, their psychological balance. The artist Andy Warhol always stated, up to insolence, the intimate connections between his art and the world of business and money. He was an advertising illustrator during his youth, then a painter, then an avant-garde director, a discoverer of artistic talents and a promoter of Rock groups, a transgressive photographer and a television celebrity. Warhol was much more than an artist, he was a sort of “protagonist of art” and art creator at all levels. He could cope with high and low culture, elite and underground people, gallery managers and graffiti makers, advertisers and disc jockeys. However we consider him, in contemporary culture he is a sort of artistic model. The inferences of avant-garde art with mass-culture and the inferences of the society symbolic dimension with the economic one arise more clearly in Warhol’s works than elsewhere. Before Warhol, it was artistically unconventional for a contemporary artist’s work to be immediately turned into an interactive media event and into money.
Symbols However much esteemed, as long as he worked as an advertising illustrator, contemporary art remained unknown to Warhol, as in the early sixties he was still strongly influenced by Abstract Expressionism. However, when he met Leo Castelli, the most important American gallerist of that time, his art changed. Warhol intentionally chose to reinvent his activity by becoming a “contemporary artist”. Of course some of the works that made him so famous (like Campbell’s Soup Cans) clearly quoted the advertising world where he came from. However, it was exhibiting them in New York galleries that made them true works of art, not the other way round. When he moved his work to a different public sphere, Warhol intentionally made a certain decision and became a celebrity. This change still makes him the leading spokesman of Pop Art, or at least the most famous one. There is a natural connection between the artist and the audience. In Warhol’s case, the existence of this connection certainly contributed to his transformation in celebrity and then icon of his age. Warhol knew the same things as his audience. The same things that moved him, moved his audience as well. Warhol said: « Nowadays, if you're a crook you're still considered up-there. You can write books, go on TV, give interviews — you're a big celebrity and nobody even looks down on you because you're a crook.
Klaus Honnef, Warhol, Taschen GmbH
You're still really up-there. This is because more than anything people just want stars »26. Viewers satisfied their need to mix up by circulating as products that everyone could recognize, but at the same time they wanted to hide the price of this circulation to themselves. « ... it is important to understand that if Pop Art did depersonalize, it did not make anonymous: nothing is more identifiable than Marilyn, the electric chair, a telegram, or a dress, as seen by Pop Art. They are in fact nothing but that. They are immediately and exhaustively identifiable, thereby teaching us that identity is not the person. The future world risks being a world of identities (by the computerized proliferation of police files), not of people »27. Lucid as he knew he was when he laid down his wig (his mask), Warhol removed the belief that art which had nothing to do with money or trade was to be considered absolutely superior. « Non-commercial art has given us Seurat’s Grande Jatte and Shakespeare’s sonnets, but also much that is esoteric to the point of incommunicability. Conversely, commercial art has given us much that is vulgar or snobbish (two aspects of the same thing) to the point of loathsomeness, but also Durer’s prints and Shakespeare’s plays »28. Warhol represented the bridge from one artistic age to the following.
Chapter 3: the “second Factory” and the Second Generation (new Pop Art) Pop Art did not end in the sixties. During the eighties, a new interest for Andy Warhol and his contemporaries arouse, it was the beginning of the Second Generation. It was not a new art movement. It consisted (and it still does) in a revisit of forerunners’ Pop Art, also defined New Pop Art. It was the recreation of works that were based on new recognizable objects and popular culture celebrities. These works contained icons and contemporary symbols which did not belong to the sixties, but to our everyday world.
Art and characters When talking about New Pop Art, we do not actually refer to an art movement, but to a useful way of classifying these new artists. They were inspired by Minimal At, Conceptual Art, Photorealism, Installation Art and Performance Art. The original Pop movement represented a break and it marked the beginning of a new avant-garde age. New Pop Art, instead, was not a new style, but the evolution of the previous generation, sometimes dramatic and controversial. During the first years of New Pop Art, it was common to draw upon animal world themes, particularly in Jeff Koons’, Keith Haring’s and Damien Hirst’s works. The obsession towards animal representation (or even use) in their works arises in Haring’s dogs, in Koons’ inflatable rabbits and dogs or in Hirst’s dissections in formaldehyde. Another feature of Second Pop Generation was that its works often contained a psychological analysis, either through the identification of the intentions (as in Koons’ enormous “Puffy”) or through the use of subjects that upset the viewer and the consumer of the work. An example is Hirst’s work, where the author openly stated his intentions through the use of pessimistic titles and disgusting subjects. Old Pop Art was not so provocative, even if Warhol had got that far with his pieces Death and Disaster, between 1962 and 1963. Keith Haring was born in 1958. He was considered a Pop artist as well, even if his works did not come on the scene before the late seventies and the early eighties. His murals drew fully from their forerunners’ legacy and revolution and his works were often very similar to Cartoons. Their typical flatness was filled up with social and political messages, which paved the way to a new form of popular expression, Street Art, made by “soldiers”. These “soldiers” were young artists who started painting on the walls of the 26
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975 Roland Barthes, That old thing Art 28 Erwin Panofsky, Still und medium im Film & Die ideologischen Vorlaufer, Frankfurt, 1999. First published in1936 27
streets and being on the street was a battle they were willing to fight. They learnt from pioneers and forerunners, who had become their masters, and combined Pop Art with the ideas of Graffiti. They aimed at gaining enough power of ideas by often repeating images with a social message. Their final purpose was to interact with people. Having their own works exhibited in a gallery was often just a dream.
“What is left to say?” New Pop Art developed, spreading more and more the idea of a Readymade as a base for the final product and drawing full from contemporary cultural icons (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, etc). New Pop artists used mass medias as an influence and a source of inspiration, but also to promote their work. New Pop Art tended to criticize western culture and question its values, relationships and interactions. What’s more, it often mocked celebrities and openly embraced controversial and provocative ideas. Thanks to Pop Art, for the first time popular culture (movies, television, comic strips, advertising) had not just been the subject of works of art, but also the aesthetics that artists sought after. In some cases, after 2000, New Pop Art of the Second Generation seemed to have developed in a sinister way, as it strongly criticized western lifestyle and appealed to its fears and obsessions.
Chapter 4: Steve Kaufman Born in South Bronx
« I’m Steve Kaufman. I grew up in the South Bronx. I was doing Graffiti art. I was arrested when I was fifteen and the judge sentenced me to clean nine subway cars... »29.
Steve Kaufman, Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio – 2009
« He was a very tall man, he was about two meters tall and he was stout. He was not so strong inside as he looked from the outside. Sometimes he liked to play the role of a giant who instills respect, but he was sweet and very generous. Deep within, he always kept something of the child he had been. Steve’s accent was terrible, as it was influenced by the way of speaking in Brooklyn and in the Bronx. He used to speak very colloquially and he wouldn’t pay much attention to his manners. He never changed – he never tried or wanted to. He never tried to be or look any different from who he was. He always thought outside the box. I met him in 2000 and I kept working in close contact with him until 2010, when he died »30. 1960 – Steve Alan Kaufman was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1960. Even if he is very much loved by his family, he has a difficult childhood because of their economic and social situation. He always keeps a good but extremely reserved relationship with his family. Steve Kaufman sort of follows in his family’s footsteps, as many of his family members are passionate in art, either figurative art (his mother), sculpture (his uncle) or music. « They taught me that to be an artist is to be always changing. So I tried all different forms of art and today I have 15 different styles that I work in. Art should always be about changing. A lot of artists will work in one medium their whole career, but I didn't want to ever get bored. I was taught that canvas is not the only thing to paint on »31. 1968 – Sponsored by the Jewish community and the Jewish temple in the Bronx, Steve Kaufman creates some Holocaust paintings. These will later be donated to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Brooklyn. « I was twenty-three or twenty-four years old. Steve was probably eight when I first met him. I was available to be with him every two weekends, I did so for two years32. I used to go up to the Bronx. He lived in the Bronx, in a small flat in Riverdale. It was a nice place. I would catch the subway up to the 231st street and walk through this wonderful hill up to his house. I can remember Johnson Avenue. I would see his mother, his sister, his brother and him. Then Steve and I would go away on our own. If I close my eyes, it feels like being there again. Many years have passed by, but when I think about it, I wonder where his mother and sister used to sleep. Maybe on a sofa or maybe there was another room I haven’t noticed. Steve and his brother shared a small bedroom. They were both very tall. Despite being young they were already very tall »33. 1972 – At twelve he works for Macy’s, a big American distribution chain, and he paints dogs and cats on Pet Rocks34.
Graffiti art 1975 – He participates in a group exhibition of Graffiti Art at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Graffiti Art is the first form of art through which he concretely expresses himself. He is fifteen years old. « I was arrested when I was fifteen and the judge sentenced me to clean nine subway cars. They took us chained and cuffed to this gallery where an old man would yell at us to build wooden frames for his artist. Well, from that day on, I realized what art was. I mean, I was creating art and just didn’t realize it »35. 30
Diana Vachier, President of the Steve Kaufman Art Licensing, LLC and American Pop Art, Inc.; www.americanpopartinc.com, November 2014 31 Steve Kaufman, Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio – 2009 32 Within the American Project of voluntary work and aid “Big Brother’s Big Sister’s” (this project was created to give an adult representative to whom has lost a parent, www.bbbs.org ) 33 Robert (Bob) Michelson, unpublished interview, edited with "American Pop Art". Bob Michelson – the “older brother” – was, like Bob Womack, one of the artist’s friends and assistants, and an artist in turn – the closest person to Steve Kaufman outside his family. 34 Consumption objects akin to Pop style. They were launched by Gary Dahl in 1970. They went very well at the time and now they have been proposed again. www.petrock.com 35 From: “Year 2000”, in Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio - 2009
Andy Warhol’s studio 1978-1981 – He enrolls in the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. Here he meets Andy Warhol and becomes his official assistant at The Factory. Andy Warhol nicknames him “SAK”, which he will later use as his signature. He designs theme parties in famous New York nightclubs, like Studio 54 and The Mud Club. He sells his works to important fashion brands like Calvin Klein and Steve Rubell. He meets Keith Haring at the School of Visual Arts and then he participates with him in an exhibition at Club 57. Steve and Keith become friends. At the time, they hang out very often and share many opinions36.
Steve Kaufman, Van Gogh & Andy
« I had my first show when I was eight years old, but I didn’t know what art was. I was just doing it for the one hundred bucks. I ended up working for a guy named Andy Warhol. I said, “Mr. Warhol”. He said, “Oh, ‘Mr. Warhol’. You finally found out who I am, huh?” I said, “Yes, I did. I am so sorry for giving you so much grief »37. « I knew he had worked for Andy Warhol. He arranged raw materials for Warhol’s silk screens and he prepared them for the printing. He was very fast and very good and Andy appreciated him very much for his speed in cutting and assembling raw materials [...]. Steve told me that at first he hadn’t quite realized who Andy was. Steve was very young, he was seventeen or eighteen years old and Andy was not very well-known at the time. Then things changed. It was a great experience for Steve and he learnt a lot about the silk-screen printing technique. He worked with Andy Warhol for two years, maybe more. He was always very proud of that time, of having worked side-by-side with Warhol. Much later, after Andy’s death, the Warhol society brought into question that Steve Kaufman had actually been Andy’s assistant, but Steve proved it. Many people could show it and there is an official document attesting it »38. 1982 – He creates graphics for the NBC TV show “Saturday Night Live”. He graduates from School of Visual Arts (SVA) with a BFA. He holds art shows at the Air Gallery in London. Following other masters’ (like Dalì) steps, he does window fitting of White Freud and Fiorucci in New York. 1983-1985 – He is arrested with other AIDS demonstrators for protesting against the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch. He holds the “Sex, Rock & Roll” show at the Off-Centre Gallery in London.
From the interviews with Diana Vachier, “American Pop Art”, and Robert (Bob) www.americanpopartinc.com, December 2014 37 From: “Year 2000”, in Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio - 2009 38 Interview with Bob Womack, Steve Kaufman’s partner and assistant, www.americanpopartinc.com
1986-1988 – The SAK Studio opens. He begins an awareness campaign for AIDS. Condom Art shows are held at the Main Fine Art in Glasgow, at the Edinburgh College of Art, at the Smith Gallery in Sacramento, just to mention a few events connected with this initiative. « Just because he hadn’t attended a particular school, he did not feel left out from the artist community. He never thought about that and he had no doubt. Keith Haring’s friendship had been very important, yet he didn’t talk about it very much. Steve was passionate and cheerful, but he was also very reserved when it came to personal issues. He was very simple and absolutely not presumptuous – he was the kind of man who liked dressing with the same kind of white t-shirt every day. He had a loving bright smile. I can’t tell what would have happened if he had moved to Europe to promote his art in French or German museums. Probably they wouldn’t have understood him. They would have liked him as a person, it was impossible not to be captivated, but maybe they wouldn’t have taken him seriously – they would have considered him too eccentric. For sure they would have never questioned his worth as an artist, but they would have looked down on him oddly all the time. That’s what I think »39. 1989-1990 – He hires some New York homeless in his studio, carrying on his social commitment as he had done from the beginning. He paints the portraits of three homeless people and these are later shown on bus billboards in over forty American cities. He completes some of Andy Warhol’s unfinished portraits for his customers. He paints the first Racial Harmony Mural in Harlem to bring awareness to the public opinion. He holds a show at the White Gallery, where all the works are covered in a black cloth in memory of those who died of AIDS. He also holds a show at the Loft Gallery in Tokyo.
Steve Kaufman, Double Crying Girl Gets Married
1991-1992 – He uses four abandoned New York subway cars, the walls of some abandoned building and their perimeter walls and he paints fifty-five Racial Harmony Murals in New York with Malcolm X images. He appears on Fox TV, MTV and many other radio stations. He is awarded Underground Artist of the Year. He creates the AIDS Memorial in New York. He works with many celebrities from American TV, music and cinema, like Eddy Murphy and Larry Mullen of U2.
Diana Vachier, www.americanpopartinc.com, October 2014
1993-1994 – Steve Kaufman moves his Art Studio to Los Angeles. He starts a new style called Comic Book Pop Art, whose icons are Superheroes paintings featuring Superman, Batman and Spiderman. He hires over 100 kids who belonged to Los Angeles gangs in his studio. He supports many charitable organizations and he is later awarded by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.
Social commitment « I moved to Los Angeles fifteen years ago40. And, when I first moved here, I noticed the sunshine and everything. And we were hiring at that time kids from South Central, whatever, East LA. So they had an attitude and I had an attitude, and they realized I wasn’t bugging. After that, they chilled out. This is pretty much the last stop for these kids. They’ve been in and out of jail once or twice. So when the parole officers drop them by, or their moms or whoever drops them by, or their cousins bring them in, this is really the last stop. I have kids that come up to me that no one would ever hire. Because the reality is, to me, that’s the only reason I hire them. [...] I get to paint. [...] You give, you get. I mean, it’s kind of like what we do with the kids. You get, they give you a little drama. They test you. You put them to work. And that’s what it’s all about: just giving. Just being there and doing it. What we want to do is set up locations in Vegas, Chicago, similar to what we do here in LA where we hire the kids, we put them to work. If I die tomorrow, I’m definitely blessed. That’s what’s it’s all about, just giving back »41. « We had many kids in our studio in North Hollywood. They were problem kids and they were also ragged kids with no house or family. Steve always worried about the kids. We had a basket in the yard, Steve put some notices on the road, “If you go to school, you play basket!” – and things like this, so as to encourage these kids to study and then come to our place if they wanted. The kids liked that very much »42. Steve Kaufman committed to social activities through all his career and artist life. He created denouncing pieces (like Condom Art, to bring awareness about AIDS, racial tolerance campaigns and a piece inspired to September 11th) and strived for young kids who had been in prison and had difficulty reintegrating. During exhibitions and art events, he never missed the chance to show his spontaneous generosity. « I remember that once we had agreed to sell one of his hand-painted jackets – it was one of the forms of art he would promote, a form of expression he liked and used to promote himself (imagine a big two-meter tall man going around in an art show with a white jacket totally painted in Pop style). I had found a good customer for this jacket and, as agreed, I had called Steve for the details about the sale. He answered: “You’ll kill me... I don’t have that jacket anymore. I’ve given it to a kid. He didn’t ask for it, but he liked it so much”. Steve had taken part in a charity event for kids with physical problems, he had figured that kid’s wish and had given him the jacket. This was Steve. He would keep asking you if you were fine, if you had money and if you needed anything »43.
In 1993-1994 From: “Year 2000”, in Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio - 2009 42 Interview with Bob Womack, Steve Kaufman’s partner and assistant, www.americanpopartinc.com 43 Diana Vachier, www.americanpopartinc.com, October 2014 41
Steve Kaufman launched and kept alive “Give Kids a Break”, a charitable organization that took gang kids off the street or right out of jail and gave them a job in his studio. These kids would do his framing, cut the canvases, mix the paints. They were Kaufman “young assistants”. Over a period of about fifteen years, “Give Kids a Break” has helped more than a thousand kids44.
Goodbye New York: success, portraiture and Hollywood 1995 – He publishes works for Martin Lawrence Limited Editions. These are limited edition hand paints giving a new meaning to hand-embellishment. He creates limited editions of Beethoven and Marilyn Monroe. He also portraits Muhammad Ali and John Travolta. He works with Stan Lee45.
1996 – Steve Kaufman contacts the Sinatra family in order to paint Frank Sinatra’s portrait. Campbell’s asks Steve to paint a limited edition to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Campbell’s Soup, made famous by Andy Warhol. He paints Muhammad Ali’s face on five hundred boxing gloves, showing that art does not have to be on canvas. He creates Ali’s portrait for Atlanta 1996 Olympics. For the first time, Ali autographes the edition with both his Muslim name, Muhammad Ali, and his birth name, Cassius Clay, to mark his reconciliation and belonging with both cultures46.
Jimi Hendrix, Collage 46
« And I’ve done paintings of Picasso, Superman and Batman. These days I’m doing paintings of rock and roll – Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon – and actually putting my art on couches, even, as well as electric guitars. [...] I had a show when I was twelve, at Macy’s, doing paintings on pet rocks. Imagine me being twelve years old, people bringing me photographs of their doggies – or their dogs – and I would draw out their dog or cat on a pet rock. I mean, when I was a young kid, I would go to auto shops and get broken windshields and paint my friends’ faces like they hit the broken windshield. Or I would paint on garbage can lids. Or I would paint on tree trunks. My first show was on tree trunks. It was my uncle that really helped me. I sounded like a genius, being eight years old and saying that I painted the Jewish Holocaust on this circle that represented the year of the Jewish Holocaust, explaining this to an adult. I sounded like a genius, but I really didn’t know what I was talking about. I was eight years old »47.
www.americanpopartinc.com, November 2014 Cartoonist, editor, American film and TV producer. He was president of the comic strips publishing house Marvel Comics 46 It has to be said that Ali, sport celebrity and most famous living boxer in the Heavyweight weight class, had refused to enlist in the US Army because of his religious beliefs. He had been arrested for saying that “he would go to war if Allah had asked him to”. His position of conscientious objector turned him into a counterculture icon of that generation. 47 From: “Year 2007”, in Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio - 2009 45
1996 – Steve Kaufman pays tribute to Beethoven and Mozart, creating a limited edition of hand paintings with the oil on canvas technique. One of these paintings, Mozart, is shown at the Reiss-Hengelorn Museum in Mannheim (Germany). Another version of Mozart, State II (1997) forms part of the permanent collection of Mozart Wohnhaus in Salzburg (Austria). « And, why not? I grew up in the South Bronx with nothing. I’m still that kid. I met Picasso when I was a very young kid. I must have been eleven. He was hitting on my mom at that time. And then there were many different phases. I mean, I painted like Van Gogh when I was in the Van Gogh Museum in Europe. They have a restaurant in Amsterdam – it’s a very strange place, but they paint the walls white every two days. Artists come in there and challenge each other to see who paints the most outrageous painting. And your meal is free if you’re the best artist. And whenever I walk in, they go, “Oh, the American’s back”. And I’d be painting Marilyn Monroe or Albert Einstein. With food, not even with paint. I’d be rubbing the food into the walls. And people would be freaking out. And I’ve never had to pay for a meal there »48. 2000 – Steve Kaufman suddenly suffers a heart attack. As soon as he feels better, he is back to work at full time, almost ignoring what happened. He releases many pieces: Rat Pack’s and Sinatra’s portraits, Al Pacino as The Godfather and Scarface, Howard Stern, Barbie and two new Marilyn Monroe’s editions49. He releases Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s editions in a new style, they are totally hand-painted.
Steve Kaufman, Marilyn Monroe
Ibidem He created and signed a nude painting of Marilyn Monroe for Hugh Hefner (“Playboy” tycoon). The American TV show “The Girls Next Door” showed the “Playboy Mansion”, Hefner’s house, where seventy-six of Steve Kaufman’s works were exhibited. Hefner had chosen them because of their colors and for the power and cheerfulness they gave to the house. 49
2001 – As for the number of styles he uses, Steve Kaufman can be compared to few artists only. In 2001 he creates other works using his fourteenth and fifteenth style, which are respectively Portrait Collage and Museum Art. Portrait Collage style consists in adding a collage of images to the main portrait. This style is emphasised in Rat Rack, Hollywood Marilyn, Van Gogh and Jackie Kennedy’s portraits.
Museum Art includes a September 11th Memorial Painting, which was a tribute to the heroes of the World Trade Center Attacks. He also creates a six-meter by one-hundred-fifty-three-meter series of paintings to commemorate the thirty-five-year history of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas50. « Until just recently, those [architecture] eras were considered the height of kitsch, but now they have become history. Collections of fetishes and “memorabilia” can be seen in hotel-casinos, such as a series of murals, by the artist Steve Kaufman, which decorate the inside of Caesars Palace »51.
2002 – He donates Princess Diana’s portrait to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. He also starts a new project, he places paintings of his icons in public places around the country so that everyone can enjoy them. These include paintings portraying Muhammad Ali, Sinatra at the Hofstra University and Marilyn Monroe at the Foundation Fighting Blindness in Columbia.
The works are shown within Caesar’s Palace – a famous casino in Las Vegas – so that everyone can admire them. It is not just art on canvas or panel. He creates a three-meter tall Fender guitar for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland 51 Giovanna Franci, The Myth of the Grand Tour and Contemporary Mass Tourism Imagination: the Example of Las Vegas – University of Bologna
« I had a stroke three years ago. [...] You know what? Each day you wake up and you sit there and go, “It’s a good day”. [...] I’m having so much fun. I mean, you don’t go in there and say, “Okay, this sells, I’m going to make ten more of that”. I’m not into that. [...] I capture icons. I paint people. [...] I’ve done paintings of September 11th. And had all the names of people that passed away from September 11th. It’s not always doing something that’s popular. It’s doing something from the heart. [...] A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits »52.
2003 – Steve Kaufman suffers a major stroke following Art Expo New York. Once again, as soon as he recovers he holds a new show in Las Vegas, hosted by Robin Leach. He is honored by Mayor Oscar Goodman, who announces Steve Kaufman’s day on 31st May 2003. He meets President Clinton during a party for those artists whose works are displayed in the President’s private office collection.
2004 – He creates and releases President Clinton’s portrait. He donates many works and all the proceeds from his sales to “Give kids a break”, the charity organization he has created. Feeling ill again, Steve Kaufman is then forced to curtail his work and show schedule. 2005 – He introduces Uniques, a series of originals of his most famous icons: Marilyn, Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Einstein and others. Pope John Paul II accepts a painting of himself to hang in his private office at The Vatican. He creates limited edition paintings to raise money for the victims of hurricane Katrina. He also creates largesize paintings of Mercedes SLR McLaren to honor the hundredth anniversary of Mercedes Benz.
« I create one-of-a-kind, special images of my favourite icons from Marilyn to Frank Sinatra to The Beatles to Las Vegas, etc. I never like to create an original by using the same image and simply varying the size. Instead, I try to combine as many of my different styles as possible to create an image that is truly an original. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to step out of the box and create things that are different: 52
Steve Kaufman, Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio - 2009
paintings on boxing gloves, hand-painted motorcycles, on original wooden screen doors, jets, office buildings, casino walls, cigar boxes, mini coaches, cars and jackets »53.
2006 – Feeling healthier, Steve Kaufman drastically increases his exhibition schedule in New York, Las Vegas, Washington. He gives Mini-Heart Paintings to all of the kids who attend his shows and free framed plates for anyone who purchases a piece.
2007 – Steve Kaufman continues his exhibition schedule in New York, Washington, Denver, Maui, Toronto and Europe. He creates a series of Uniques, original paintings of Red Bull, presenting the most famous energy drink in the world.
« We travelled a lot together: England, Scotland, Japan, Switzerland, Holland, Germany. Steve had been in Paris, in Ireland and in Canada as well. He never travelled for pleasure trips, he would always go to exhibitions, to show his art. I went with him to Japan only once, but he went there at least five or six times. People saw me as Steve’s friend, his old friend, we were inseparable. We worked together and we travelled together. [...] It was always Steve and I »54. 2008 – All of Steve Kaufman’s works are displayed at the Eighth Annual Exhibition at Centaur Art Galleries in Las Vegas, alongside Neiman’s, Rockwell’s, Picasso’s, Chagall’s and Dali’s. The “Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority” holds one of his shows. In Las Vegas, during a ceremony on 4th July, the Independence Day, Kaufman unveils for the first time his stained glass works for the new Coca-Cola and Apple iPod advertising. 53 54
Ibidem Interview with Bob Womack, Steve Kaufman’s partner and assistant, www.americanpopartinc.com
2009 – Steve donates a series of Coca-Cola paintings to “The Pop Culture Gallery at the World of CocaCola” in Atlanta, Georgia. He takes part in a six-day art show at Stanfield Gallery After Hours during the Sundance Film Festival, where kids help paint the gallery floor with a pop art theme. The entire event is captured for an independent film for the Sundance Film Festival 2010. He holds a show for the art gallery in Tyson, Virginia. For the Academy Awards, Kaufman creates a series of paintings based on the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire. « Steve always signed his works on the back. I don’t know why, he told me: “What you want to see is art, not the artist’s signature”. He signed “SAK”, because these were the initials of his name – Steve Alan Kaufman – but also because this was the nickname Andy Warhol had given him. Sometimes he signed twice, because people wanted to see him signing in person »55. 2010 – On 12th February, Steve Kaufman suffers a fatal heart attack in Vail, Colorado, while preparing for another exhibition. His health had not allowed him to work alone for quite a long time and yet he could not stop and he kept trying to make it, to fight, laugh, enjoy life and create. Kaufman does not leave silently. Almost by chance, like Warhol, he consciously leaves a written message: « This is what I live for. I had a great life, so please don’t cry for me. I’ve had the life of a hundred men »56.
After his death, Steve Kaufman’s art was showed in an historical exhibition, “Writing as an Image, Writing within an Image”, at the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in northeastern Slovakia (where Andy Warhol was born) in May 2002. It is then included in “This is POP ART!”, a big exhibition with ninety works of Pop artists from all over the world at the Museum of Passion in Valladolid, Spain. In 2013, Steve Kaufman’s art is also included in “Pure Pop Art”, an exhibition featuring works of most famous artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana at the Marcos Valcárcel Cultural Center in Ourense, Galicia, Spain.
Interview with Bob Womack, Steve Kaufman’s partner and assistant, www.americanpopartinc.com Steve Kaufman, holographic will (American Pop Art, Inc)
In July 2014, Steve Kaufman’s painting Mozart State II, a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart created in 1997, was included in a permanent show at the International Mozarteum Foundation (Mozart’s official museum and residence in Salzburg, Austria). Steve Kaufman is the first American artist to ever gain this reward. In Trieste, Italy, Steve Kaufman’s painting “Rat Pack” was exhibited in the hall of Politeama Rossetti Theatre – Sala Assicurazioni Generali of Trieste – at the opening night of the music show “Christmas with the Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas” in 2013. The following year, the Municipality of Trieste, together with American Pop Art, Inc (owner of the artist’s rights) presented the exhibition “Pop Art in Trieste: Steve Kaufman, the former assistant to Andy Warhol” at Sala Veruda, Palazzo Costanzi. The exhibition displayed thirty works from famous collections. The art critic Vittorio Sgarbi held the opening.
In November 2014, the new show “Icons of Pop Art, Then and Now” is presented. The best vintage sport cars are showed with famous works from Steve Kaufman and other Pop artists at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena (Steve Kaufman painted his Ferrari series in 2006). The art critic Philippe Daverio presented and commented on the event.
In May 2014, Steve Kaufman’s Barbie 1997, one of his Uniques, is included in “Barbie Around the World”, an exhibition celebrating the most famous doll in the world at Barbara Frigerio Contemporary Art in Milan. During the summer of the same year, fifteen of Steve Kaufman’s original paintings celebrating music icons are exhibited by the Municipality of Grado at Casa della Musica, at the event “Icons of Music: Then and Now”.
Warhol then and Now, Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari
Quotes from famous pieces The main feature of Pop paintings was having subjects that were out of their time and context. They existed in an empty space where they indicated themselves only. The portrayed subject (attractive, interesting and, if it was a woman, always appealing) would become a symbol to idolize (again, an icon), to hang and watch every day. If it was an object, it would become the new icon to buy, as it was well-known and famous, a must-have. Kaufman humanizes these subjects. He puts them closer to the viewer through something – a graphic element, a color – which takes the subject away from the emptiness and drags it to real everyday life.
The painting Birth of Venus was created in Florence at the beginning of the fifth century. In the middle there is Venus rising from the sea foam (“Afros” in Greek meaning “sea foam”). Venus was the goddess of love and beauty. On the right there are two flying characters: Aeolus, ruler of the wind, and Borea, northern wind. These two winds blow on the goddess and push her gently to the shore with a big shell. On the left there is a nymph (probably one of the twelve Hours) taking a mantle to cover and hide the goddess’ nakedness. It is a classic, ancient and mythological theme. Steve Kaufman’s Venus is not naked. During Renaissance, nude usually represented separation from earthly goods. In this case, however, Venus hides her nakedness and pureness with some contemporary designer bags. She is a sophisticated designer Venus. It is easy to imagine what is inside the bags she is holding and on the shell. There are probably make-up products, a mobile phone, anything that a twentieth-century woman would keep in her bag.
Another important painting featuring Venus is the one created by William Adolphe Bouguereau, one of his most famous paintings. It does not feature the goddess’ birth, but her carriage through a shell from the high seas to the isle of Cyprus. There are some new elements here, such as the dolphin and Cupids in the sky. The colors are light and two of them stand out from the others, namely white, that highlights the purity and sensuality of Venus’ body (who is a goddess “in the flesh”) and the blue of the sky where Cupids fly. Steve Kaufman’s Venus is clearly a “quote”, an homage, but it takes away that air of mythology and deity. She introduces a new contemporary element, a symbol of modern age, namely Coca-Cola.
Steve Kaufman emphasizes the playful component of Bouguereau’s painting by including Coca-Cola bottles in the picture. Venus herself is holding one in her hand, not to drink it but just to show it. The bright red brand “Coca-Cola” dominates within the painting, where the balance between white and blue is definitely broken and harmony makes way for energy, for Pop.
« You made that? » « No, you did »57
Guernica, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, belongs to a different period, Cubism, and has a different subject. It is dedicated to the German bombing of the Basque town Guernica, on 26th April 1937, during the Spanish civil war. It is a pulsating, intense and violent painting. This piece testifies to Picasso’s passionate sharing of human sufferance and it inspires a reflection about man’s violence. During that air raid, one of the first in history, the town was flattened and about one thousand six hundred civilians died. Guernica features a disaster and it represents a social commitment which had never been seen in Picasso’s works. This piece belongs to Cubism, the art movement Picasso belonged to. The subject is presented and shown from many points of view at the same time, it is completely broken down. Even the perspective is broken down and Picasso makes this crisis perceivable.
Steve Kaufman produces a very accurate copy of Picasso’s painting. It is literally a quote from Picasso, it is meant to be an homage to Picasso. The subject and the colors are the same. Like Picasso, he only uses shades of grey and dull colors as in a black-and-white photo, just like the black-and-white photos featuring the
Picasso’s answer to the German ambassador visiting his studio, in front of a picture of Guernica
disaster. However, Steve Kaufman does not just quote another piece, he portraits it accurately within the painting, which is why he uses colors instead of black and white. This is an homage to an artist who surely captivated Steve Kaufman. It is an homage to those who died in that disaster, not to forget.
Mona Lisa is an homage to the author of this painting, Leonardo Da Vinci. It was often quoted by artists such as Duchamp, Dalì and, of course, Kaufman’s master, Andy Warhol. Mona Lisa dates from the Renaissance and is one of the most famous works of that time and of Italian art. The charm of this painting is enclosed in Lisa Gherardini’s smile, as “La Gioconda” turns to the viewer. She has the smile of a sphinx, a smile that hints at an untold secret. Steve Kaufman does nothing like this. As with Botticelli or Bouguereau’s paintings, he introduces new modern elements of his age. The woman is holding a Coca-Cola in her hands, but also an mp3 player, an iPod. His Gioconda drinks Coca-Cola and listens to modern music.
«The painting featured a landscape, near Port Lligat, whose rocks were illuminated by a transparent and gloomy sunset. In the foreground there were olive trees with no leaves and whose branches had been cut. I knew that the atmosphere I had created in that perspective would serve as a setting for some ideas, some surprising images, but I didn’t know what it would be. I was about to turn off the lights when I suddenly “saw” the solution. I saw two soft watches, one of them hanging painfully on the branches of the olive tree»58. The Persistence of Memory. A dream-picture.
Marco di Capua, Salvador Dalì, la vita e l’opera, Mondadori, 2002
In 1931, Salvador Dalì created this oil on canvas painting that was exhibited in January 1932. The painting represents the flow of time featured by three watches, unexpected objects that have been taken away from everyday life. Dalì’s painting represents the absurdity of our dreams and dreamlike dimension. In his world, absurd and disquieting things happen. It invites us not to look at things in an ordinary way and go beyond ordinary rules and perception. It invites us to look at things differently and see what cannot be seen. Sometimes things are not as they look like. The watch is not like a little bird on a branch, it is a melting watch. It is an invitation to look at things in a new way. As with Guernica, Steve uses this painting to pay tribute to a painter who fascinated, intrigued and inspired him and he includes him in the picture, as he had done with Picasso. However, the colors of Steve Kaufman’s painting are not the same as Dalì’s. They are stronger, sharper and more intense, red and blue are crazy and amazing like expressionist colors (they vaguely remind of the red sky and the blue fiord of Munch’s painting, The Scream). They are not realistic colors, they are not nature colors, they do not come from the outside but from the inside. They are not visual but visionary colors, they carry further symbols and meanings. Blue stands for cold and red stands for warmth. Life is seen as a contrast between opposite powers, Eros and Thanatos, desire of possession and desire of power. These drives effect the subconscious, the dark side of the self. These unsatisfied desires come to conscience, to signs, to memory and from memory and then they go back to dreams. To Pop Art as a dream.
« Knowledge is not just made of libraries full of ink and paper. It is also made of knowledge within men’s heart, shaped on human soul and affecting our spirit »59. From pictorial art to another form of art, Music. A great artist, Michael Jackson. A new technique, collage. Michael Jackson is one of the most successful artists of all time. He is the king of Pop, an icon of music. Steve chose to portrait him before the first transformation, before the operation. Steve shows his authentic side, the original Michael. He introduces him with two techniques, silk-screen printing and collage. To feature his jacket and hair, he creates a collage from the covers of some of his albums which stand out from the singer’s black-and-white photo. Music is color. Music is Pop. Pop Art.
Alanis E. Leona Kory, Michael Jackson Interviews
“There will always be many excuses not to fight at any time and in any occasion, but freedom will never be achieved without struggle”. (Fidel Castro)
Steve Kaufman painted a HarleyDavidson motorbike with “Cohiba” motifs. He later asked the leader to sign it, to prove that there was a cultural bridge between the two Americas, USA and Cuba, so distant at that time. Fidel Castro accepted. Kaufman was not interested in photography or in computer graphics. Despite having the instruments, he did not consider them suitable for his way of expressing himself.
Times Square Event, Steve Kaufman
« Nowadays, thanks to Internet, it will be possible to please and reach the next generation of art lovers with a keyboard. Internet undoubtedly revolutionizes the art world as well. The name “Andy Warhol” gives 24,100,000 correspondences on Google, “Steve Alan Kaufman” 765,000 , “Roy Lichtenstein” 940,000 , “Marcel Duchamp” 1,170,000 and “Salvador Dalì” 493,000 ». For his series of paintings on music idols, Kaufman drew inspiration from classic opera and historical figures, but also television, cinema and social events. Steve Kaufman portrayed Mozart, Beethoven, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra (like Leroy Neiman, he got from the Sinatra family the exclusive rights for some paintings of the unforgettable singer) and he presented them as if they were current celebrities.
« For example, he used to reproduce a subject on fifty silk screens and then he would hand paint some details or add some particulars on each one. This way every one of those fifty works was different from the others. It became an original. He didn’t do so with every creation. Some of his editions are mere reproductions of the original, silk screens without handwork. In other cases, instead, he selected the ones he worked on. It is still not clear what his criteria of choice were. Steve Kaufman had perfectly learnt the silkscreen printing technique from Andy Warhol, but he had refined it a lot through the use of more levels and landscapes. He wanted to be different, grow and improve – and this enhancement is evident from the photos of his works. He would also keep the flawed silk screens which were clearly handmade and were therefore more valuable »60. For sure Kaufman was always impressed by the way celebrities and music stars effect society, which is why he turned this feeling into a central theme of his art. At a certain point, however, he felt the need to reflect, before going on, about celebrity and look back with humility at those who had left their mark. Even Steve Kaufman’s music icons are included in the “myth” context. Confronting himself with those past (and present) idols (Michael Jackson – despite his early death – John Lennon and Elvis Presley are still often mentioned) was a natural process for Kaufman. Warhol hah moved from objects to people, from Campbell Soup (which Kaufman also recreated, at the request of Campbell) to the idol Marilyn (no other artist could express like Warhol the emotion of what Marilyn said during an interview with “Marie Claire” in 1960, « I’m an artificial product »). Kaufman carried on Warhol’s work, but he felt the need for a closer contact with those music, cinema and TV celebrities who had fascinated him. He felt the need for a new personalization. Pessimism did not rule Kaufman’s life at all. On the contrary, life itself was a continuous pursuit of new incentives. He kept searching for the soul of the images he had in front of him (such as Frank Sinatra’s portrait, in front of which the old singer filled up). 6162
His last years and heritage « I’m truly blessed to be doing what I’ve always wanted – to create. I have found a freedom that is hard to put into words. I always wondered about my projects – which artists are working on what and which directions should I take? I don’t even think of those things now. I passionately go into my studio and ask myself: what would I like to create today? »61. « He was unique. He was a big man with a big smile, sometimes he acted a bit like a child – sometimes he was insecure and naive, but he was always nice and friendly with everyone. He would always smile. Steve Kaufman had a great imagination and an extraordinary creativity, he would constantly look for something new. He was incredibly smart and maybe this brought him to death because he couldn’t take a break, he couldn’t help working and creating new things. Working for him was one of the most challenging tasks of my life. I would often think, “Oh my God, this man is crazy, he’s driving me mad”. But in the end it was the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had and I’ve loved those years. Steve was always there, always. And he still is »62.
Diana Vachier, President of Steve Kaufman Art Licensing, LLC and American Pop Art, Inc. Steve Kaufman, Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio – 2009 62 Diana Vachier , President of Steve Kaufman Art Licensing, LLC and American Pop Art, Inc. 61
« The Steve Kaufman paintings of me, I just stood there and touched the paintings and felt the power and energy. I’ve never seen anything like that before »63 [Al Pacino. Behind the picture, the actor’s biography].
Warhol’s most important heritage is represented by Steve Kaufman and the way following generations adopted Warhol’s promotion strategies. In his book of 1975, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & back again)”, Warhol coined the first of his famous phrases on the relationship between art and business. He wrote: « During the hippie era, people put down the idea of business — they'd say, "Money is bad," and "Working is bad," but making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art »64. It was a provocation (Warhol would never stop provoking, his interviews and quotes are unique), especially if related to its context and time, but provoking had been Warhol’s peculiarity since the early sixties. Warhol, who was artist and advertising illustrator, figured out that lonely artists like him were old-time creatures.
From that moment on, Corporate world would look for a Corporate artist, Corporate culture was an aspect of the world and it would be so more and more – why not, what was (and what is) bad in business? The real surprise and mystery in Andy Warhol’s art coincide with everyday discoveries – without facing or doing anything more. Steve Kaufman both wanted to look back and grow, go on. But this path was interrupted by his early death in 2010. Steve Kaufman is remembered as a great activist and philanthropist. Within Pop Art (New Pop Art would be more correct, but – as already seen – this is a useful subdivision to classify artists for age and period more than an actual artistic difference), Steve Kaufman is yet to be discovered and known. His pieces are strongly bound to painting and they connect to everyday work with no pauses or interruptions, the same kind of work that marked his career, weakened his health and led him to death due to the hectic pace and the artist’s character. Kaufman perceived, internalized and transmitted art with positive feelings that usually created happiness. In his works, edges and clear-cut color contrasts are softened. The result is often a vivid allegory of contemporary world, either on canvas or on one or more huge panels. Idols and celebrities were taken back to present, childhood moments were awaken to lead the viewer on a captivating journey through history and culture. The polemic side and cynicism of Pop Art and the unclear feelings of the second generation of Pop Art were absent from Kaufman’s works. He described his time and icons without criticizing them, which is what distinguished him and made him different. The charming aspect of goods and the endless obsolescence of technological products hide the process of production and artistic creation. Representing an object with its brand (Coca-Cola) or its picture (photograph of a star) according to Pop style is very different from recycling a product or from Duchamp’s Readymades. This was evident in Steve Kaufman. The New York artist always modified the original model, even marginally, to make its multiple copies valuable (scaling-up remains a very important and common method). Technology did not just get into Pop Art at the level of consumer goods offered as models within works. Most of all, it took on the model of its public, spread by technological medias. 63 64
Steve Kaufman, Coffee Table Book , Steve Kaufman Art Studio – 2009 Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975
« The technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions, it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind »65. Steve Kaufman was a cheerful artist, maybe the only one among Pop artists, but the apparent positivity of his art in accepting consumer goods is often mistaken for optimism. What he did, instead, was study the duration of optimism. Pop Art is often appreciated because of its easy enjoyment, in contrast with other more cryptic (and thus less popular) artistic trends. At the same time, however, Pop Art is often hidden in the ambiguity of this immediacy and because of it. Steve Kaufman’s Pop Art seems to exemplify this union better than any other. Steve Kaufman was not understood immediately. Dorfles wrote: « He always prefers the old (over the new) or something new which can be understood as easily as the old, where Facility is integral and does not require any Difficulty to be deciphered. That being sad, it is easy to notice the importance of talking about incomprehension of modern art and the oscillations of taste that define it. And by “incomprehension” I mean the instinctive skepticism towards the most interesting and dynamic events of modern art »66. In Kaufman – and not only him – this skepticism towards Pop originated from the “facility” of its artistic “new”, whose enjoyment involved the viewer directly. The “sublimation” of the object and the subject in Kaufman’s pictures created a simulation effect, similar to the overturning of perception and memory. «It is like the two sides of a mirror, only what is on one side has no resemblance to what is on the other (“all the rest was as different as possible”). To pass to the other side of the mirror is to pass from denotation to expression – without pausing at intermediaries, manifestation and signification. It is to reach a region where language no longer has any relationship with what it denotes, but only with what it expresses, that is, to sense»67. In Carroll’s Through the looking-glass, Alice passes through her image by crossing a mirror, it is a jump in the other’s dream. Reality beyond the mirror is not the image of what is reflected. It is its double, modified so that it is not recognizable anymore. In his works, Kaufman and Pop Art give the viewers the chance to look at themselves at the same time. Through the persuasions of advertising and fashion, the subject reflects itself in the image of the object, as if it were looked at by the Pop product. The gaze mirrored in the Pop object blocks the viewer through the image and prevents any kind of judgment by seducing the viewer himself. « Between the hidden cards, only one is the winner. At this point, though, the real winners are those who choose to get rid of it and not to play unhappy Narcissus with themselves »68. « The truth of happiness as a need is easily and immediately accountable for itself, seduction is made an easy game. Unsatisfied needs, together with the strength of unsatisfied desires, make us perceive seduction as the real source of happiness, we can feel its importance and positivity. If this need remained unsatisfied (the truth of the antagonist who throws a playing card), who would choose to embrace so much misery? »69.
Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1961 Gillo Dorfles, The Kitsch: Oscillations of Taste, 1958 67 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 1990 68 Carolina Carriero, Il consumo della Pop Art. Esibizione dell’oggetto e crisi dell’oggettivazione, Jaka Book, Milan 2003 69 Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, 1979 66
As long as we keep playing with these scenarios and desires, seduction overcomes freedom. The seduction of the image-object entertains the player, who cannot help thinking about the bet at stake. Who throws the card eludes the certainty that « to seduce is to die as reality and become an illusionistic game »70. Within artistic fetishization, the seduced player eventually finds fascination as an unexpected prize. It is not Pop Art that decides so, but the player himself, «who implodes in an overdose of simulacra and signs»71. « Pop icons (candies, cigarettes, clothes, detergents, the box of vegetable soup, the Coca-cola can) are not much valuable in the game, they let go through the established path. [...] Since the aesthetical value goes now beyond beauty and ugliness, as it lies in cheapness, and since the value of reality lies in the image, it becomes possible to win with the icon-card of the dollar »72. The expedient that keeps the game is the certainty that it is possible to believe in art without considering its existence. « Everyone searches for their look. As it is no longer possible to pull out any subject of one’s insecure existence (misery, virtue and work are not a proof anymore, we cannot see anymore, the seduction is over!), one can only be there without caring about being or being looked at. I do not exist, I am not here! But I can be seen, I am an image – look, look »73. Both the consumption of sign (Kaufman’s Venus) and the sign of consumption (Coca-Cola) resist to fashion nowadays. Investing in products advertising would not achieve resounding success now. « The popular consumption object has to be deprived of banality if it does aim at being parodied or undervalued »74. The amount of works that Steve left is huge. He would produce at a hectic pace, Kaufman worked endlessly, night and day. It took him many years to complete the catalogue of his works, especially to classify them by the exact time. The catalogue, which is now being edited by “American Pop Art”, is made of thousands of images (some of which already have a digital format, while others are still being catalogued).
Ibidem Carolina Carriero, Il consumo della Pop Art. Esibizione dell’oggetto e crisi dell’oggettivazione, Jaka Book, Milan 2003 72 Ibidem 73 Jean Baudrillard, The Disappearance of Art and Politics 74 Carolina Carriero, Il consumo della Pop Art. Esibizione dell’oggetto e crisi dell’oggettivazione, Jaka Book, Milan 2003 71
Summary « Art language is nowadays the world language »75.
Obama – Shepard Fairey, artist and Street Art illustrator, born in 1970. He chose to use Pop style for some illegally affixed posters, in order to obtain attention from the medias during the political campaign, but also to evoke the ideas of Robert Indiana’s Uncle Sam and Hope. Obama (who is iconified in the poster) never officialized his collaboration with the artist, but he sent him a letter to thank him sincerely. Bearing in mind that Pop artists were willing to evoke everyday objects, it is interesting to notice how Fairey was the author who restyled the icon of the WEB browser “Mozilla” – well-known to the most advanced Internet users. Pop Art is an art movement concerned with the object and its set-up. The world offers itself as a “clot” within the depth of the object coming forward. The artist’s cognitive exploration of the framework retrieves everyday objects and a wide range of industrial products. The subject has nothing to do with nature anymore. The urban landscape contains a “vegetation of objects”, meant as the natural evolution of the self’s tension towards the world. Within Abstract Expressionism, the artistic action found its natural completion on the white canvas. Within Pop Art, instead, it makes way for the direct connection of the body with the system of signs-objects of human action. Figurative Pop Art claims that taste has to refer to objects from other sources, but this is just a hint of a wider aspect regarding the whole “consumption art”. Many scholars have shown interest in it. The refusal for consumption art products is much bigger than the celebration of art itself. In mass societies, people undergo a continuous homogenization to the prevailing cultural system through those communications media transmitting banal and alienating messages. The appealing effect of enlarged and decontextualized objects in Pop works erases the obviousness of banality, relegating it to its formal features. « There’s one aspect highlighting the artificiality of food which is reproduced in plastic materials, namely the continuity, up to indistinctness, between the poisonous artificial colorants of real food and the paint of the fake ones. [...] The claim of the historical avant-garde to go beyond the limits of consumption and production serialization through art turns out to be deconstructed. Consequently, art itself lines up with its own denial »76. The correspondence between art and life leads the artist to choose with no distinction the subjects for his works, namely those people and consumption objects whose confluence results in the seriality of the objectimages. 75 76
Alessandro del Puppo, L’arte contemporanea. Il secondo Novecento, Einaudi Editore. Torino 2013 Tommaso de Chiaro, Claes Oldenburg e l’iconografia del banale, Edicoop, Roma 1980
The consumption of the artistic fruition of Campbell’s cans is multiplied by the endless series of all similar cans on the market. « According to Pop attitude, a strange connection is established with everyday objects. On the one hand, these objects do not lose their concrete and material features, such as the rust of a meat tin, the polychromy of its label, the jagged edge of a bottle cap. On the other hand, these concrete features are guardedly accepted and idealized. The object is there and is “ready”, but at the same time it is not the same; it is not possible to keep one’s usual and spontaneous connection with it »77. A common mistake when considering these creative forms is not to understand that their temporary nature is one of their main features. Many of those who analyze a work claim to define and determine its “values” completely, depending on unchangeable settlements. However, this settlement is inconceivable, because Pop Art is characterized by an incredible flexibility. Popular perception of these products is thus direct and extremely flexible. « Quality, materials and consistency of those products definable as “works of art” have changed over the last fifty years more than in all the previous centuries »78. Artistic uniqueness had marked all the previous forms of art. Pop Art instead put copies and mechanical reproductions forward and replaced uniqueness with serialization. It took images and signs from the surrounding environment, the industrialized society, so as to make artistic and cultural hierarchy useless. Preexisting pictures were adjusted and raised to the level of works of art. Art itself was not meant as an individual act anymore, but as something shared and common. In the age of mechanical production, where repetitiveness seemed to be the only surplus value, repetition looked like the only possible way. This is how mass-produced pictures were created. Pop Art is art about signs and of the signs, side by side with the surrounding environment which it became part of. This environment was marked by endless signs (from commercial products to exhibitionism, to ordinary people who aimed at being both immortal and involved in the mythicization process). « A sort of cultural pluralism has spread since the last decade of the twentieth century. Maybe it’s true, as they write everywhere, that in that moment ideologies fell down. However, at least one of them seems to have remained well-founded. Like merchandise, production and worldwide trade, art has adjusted to the logic of international financial capitalism »79. It is difficult to acknowledge a situation of huge commercial exploitation and a constant increasing advertising tactic in popular (“mass”) culture. However, there has to be something authentic – authentically experienced, seen and felt – at the base. In Cose dell’altro mondo, Enrico Baj writes: « In a December 1962 cold night, at the Cedar Tavern in University Place, De Kooning said with undisguised grudge, “Give Leo two empty cans of beer and he will sell them to you”. [...] Jasper Johns took De Kooning’s words literally, cast two empty bronze Ballantine Ale cans and gave them to Castelli. Castelli immediately sold them to the collector Scull, an important art collector of New York, for nine hundred sixty dollars. Scull then resold it in an auction in 1973 for ninetynine thousand dollars »80. People are happy in the contemporary consumption land because nothing destructing or threatening ever happens. It is a land whose modern artistic object endures as trend of merchandise itself. And nowadays people are sure that its multiple and widespread copies in art galleries will not let their buyers down. « A new scene has been created by advertising around us, with panels and neon signs, printed material, television and so on. [...] The surrounding scene thus seems to have been created to sell more. And
Renato Barilli, Informale oggetto Contemporaneo Alessandro del Puppo, L’arte contemporanea. Il secondo Novecento, Einaudi Editore. Torino 2013 79 Ibidem 80 Enrico Baj, Cose dell’altro mondo, Elèuthera, 1990 78
it’s this scene that I want to portray. [...] I’m not the only one who’s interested in it. The same commercial scene interested others as well »81. In interviews and quotes, it is difficult to find a Pop artist of the Second Generation who plainly accepts to be identified as such. Many prefer other definitions, almost no one likes to be identified as “New-something”. Maybe this is more correct, because, even after Warhol, Lichtenstein, Indiana and Rosenquist, Pop Art has never disappeared. Belonging to the “Second Generation” is just a matter of age. In the cities of department stores, Internet, large buildings and monuments, visual perception undergoes strong solicitations, whereas imagination looks worthless due to the display of the images. When a work of art become so expensive that almost everyone mentions its price, it is not art anymore, it has become a symbol. People buy Koon’s works to prove to everyone they can afford it. The buyer is thus smart, talented and very, very rich. But even if people think it is just about money and business and those are not real works of art, the contradiction is illusory and they cannot live without those pieces. And the concern of those artists producing pieces in line with marketplace demands is silenced by the way artists themselves feel eventually, doing what has always been done. And yet, Banham says: « ... the live stream of contemporary culture is Pop, and that is one of the reasons why so many of the live manifestation of other branches of culture… derive from Pop. Pop is now so basic to the way we live, and the world we live in, that to be with it… does not commit anyone to left of right, nor protest or acceptance of the society we live in. It has become common language, music, visual and (increasingly) literary, by which members of the mechanized urban culture of the Western countries can communicate with one another in the most direct, lively, and meaningful manner »82. Almost thirty years after his death, Warhol certainly still is a leading artist for world art – and as much as this statement has been debated, it is not extreme to say this. Even the most ordinary people now know Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, which is why Warhol’s wig does not look out of place next to Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait. They are both universal, they have become icons. Warhol died before knowing what he would become as a celebrity. While alive, he looked like he was everywhere. He strove to make real and concrete that transformation from “artist” to “art made up of the artist himself” he had predicted and hoped for. His death did not halt this process. On the contrary, it made it stronger and did not reduce its popularity at all. It could actually be said that Warhol’s death was a good move for his own career. It let him realize his dream of having a personal exhibition at MOMA, which he had wished for and that took place in 1989. There have been many exhibitions since 1989, one after another. Was Warhol the first and only one to invent those self-advertising elements and attitudes that made him so famous? Probably not. Salvador Dalì (the famous Surrealist), who was almost twenty-five years older, was a master of advertising. He dared use his art and artist status to gain money through advertisement, by painting shop windows and selling white paper autographed by him. Warhol simply carried on this approach up to the next level, updating the strategies that both Dalì and Duchamp had used. This heritage is now carried on by Koons, Hirst, Murakami and many young artists. Nowadays, Warhol, Kaufman, the others and Pop Art are art movements that almost look like a creed. Their importance is evident in any exhibition, whether at Tate Modern or at the Mozarteum in Salzburg (where Mozart State II, painted by Steve Kaufman, became part of the permanent exhibition last year in August), in Florence, in Bologna or in the United States. Nowadays all kinds of art are for sale. The best defense for that kind of art that could be contested is that the artist accepts the evidence of this fact with honesty, without trying new levels of cultural depth as an explanation. Art means money, much money. Romeo Britto’s Merchandising, Murakami’s partnership with Louis Vuitton, who put Superflat floral images on designer bags, seem to confirm Warhol’s premonition that
Roy Lichtenstein, www.lichtensteinfoundation.org, 24th January 2015 Reyner Banham, Scenes in America Deserta. Thames and Hudson. 1982
consumers’ art and culture would be strongly connected. « Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art »83. In the age in which we are living, more than some contemporary artists could agree and more than some art critics could approve and share this. And maybe there is no scandal in it.
Appendix The leading spokespeople of Pop Art Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) – Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956). This painting (mentioned above) is considered by critics and art historians as the first piece of Pop Art. The piece involves human senses in different ways and it aims at “provoking the keen awareness of senses in an environment”.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) – Mmaybe (1965). Lichtenstein was a leading figure of the movement. His style was mainly inspired by comic strips and it reduced that trivialization of culture which he considered to be endemic in Americans’ life at that time. He would use bright and mismatched colors and comic techniques borrowed from press industry. This way, he could ironically combine mass emotions and the objects connected to them with cultured references to history of art. M-Maybe is perhaps the most famous between his pieces based on love comics. It portrays an attractive girl waiting for a man, in a vague, but definitely urban, setting. Her thought and look reflect her concerns and foresee the meeting. M-Maybe was produced on a hard satin surface using sharp pigment inks. It represents a clear, detailed, vivid image, which shows a great accuracy in the use of colors. Lichtenstein actualizes what the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called “the decisive moment”.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975
Allan D’Arcangelo (1930-1998) was an American artist and printmaker, best known for his paintings of highways and road sings. His reputation as a Pop artist was established in 1963, with his series of paintings of American highways, such as US Highway 1.
Jim Dine (born in 1935) is eclectic (painter, sculptor, printmaker, illustrator, designer and theatrical performer). In 1959 and 1960 he approached art world with his “Happenings” (performances where the drama was represented within an unstable and chaotic context created by the artist-actor). In his “Assemblages” he first used recyclable materials. At the same time, he refined his method, with which he would create his most famous pieces. These represent well-known images or ordinary objects such as clothes and ornaments (ties, shoes, dishes, toothbrushes and so on), but also professional instruments such as paint brushes and palettes (in drawings, paintings and sculptures). Dine’s method consists in repeating the same theme endlessly, often on different medias. Despite being associated with Pop Art, he has not been a leading figure within it. He has always been what would be defined as a “modern individualist”. He has later been described as a forerunner of Neo-Expressionism.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) is best known for his Combines of the fifties, in which non-traditional materials and objects found on the street (car tyres, cushions, etc.) were employed in innovative combinations. His Combines are a combination of painting and sculpture, but he also worked with photography, printmaking and performances. Bed is one of Rauschenberg’s first Combines. Legend has it he took his own pillow and sheet and used them to paint, as he could not afford to buy a canvas, with the same style as the Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. His bed, hanging on the wall just like a traditional picture, is a sort of intimate self-portrait.
Allen Jones (born in 1937) is a British painter, sculptor and printmaker. He has expressed his adhesion to Pop Art and its values by creating provocative fibreglass sculptures, but also paintings such as Perfect Match. He has used a very linear style and a physical channel so as to highlight the tactile aspect. He has later returned to pictorial style. Jones has been very prolific in producing lithographs as well.
Claes Oldenburg (born in 1929) is Swedish but he has become a naturalized citizen of the United States. He has shared Jim Dine and othersâ€™ passion for the Happenings (performance art of the late fifties in which the performer artists used acting, scripts and scenic design to create non-narrative situations meant as dynamic or dreamlike images). The use of everyday object and images in these performances has inspired Oldenburg for his future works â€“ sculptures of commercial goods or industry products. Examples are Dropped Cone and other giant sculptures, but also his plasterworks representing food (sandwiches, hamburgers, candies, steaks and so on).
Mel Ramos (born in 1935) is a painter and academic professor in retirement. Ramos specialized in female nude paintings (such as Velveeta and the like, in which provocative and sensual girls emerge from Martini glasses, Chiquita bananas and toffee wrappers). First (like Warhol) he used to portray superheroes and comic characters, without putting any barrier between commercial and non-commercial art. With his nude paintings, instead, he has looked for a new and more refined eroticism, after what he considered a long abstinence break due to Abstract Art. According to Ramos, the shape and perfect imitation of a product brand have the same aesthetical value as the womanâ€™s body. This strange mix of elements sends a cynical message, that happiness can only be found in consuming tasty industrial delicacies and... optional PinUps.
Peter Philips (born in 1939) is a British artist and Pop Art forerunner. He has produced many pieces with different techniques, from oil on canvas to multimedia compositions, to Collages, sculpture and architecture. His most famous work is perhaps For Men Only – Starring MM and BB (1961), which he created while he was still a student at Royal College, by using oil, wood and collage on canvas. Media icons and cultural symbols meet in a disparate and very contradictory way on a huge panel. In the same framework, Philips put Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe, stereotyped sex symbols of that time. Close to them, he portrayed the poses of a stripper of that time, but also traditional British symbols – such as a hare taken from a Victorian game and joined to the words “She’s a doll” and to the stripper’s name. This creation is analogous to Peter Blake’s works.
James Rosenquist (born in 1933) is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker. He started as a billboard painter while he was still studying. In 1960 he used the techniques he had learnt to create enormous paintings, such as President Elect. In this piece, two icons of that time, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and an elegant car, mix up with each other both in color and black and white, as in old pictures. Rosenquist has been inspired by Surrealism and has drawn inspiration from mass objects and movie or magazine celebrities, which have made him a leading figure in the development of Pop Art in America. However, the use of typical Pop subjects like sex and consumption had little to do with Warhol or Lichtenstein’s immediacy and direct manners. Rosenquist has aimed at destroying the figure and moving the character rather than duplicating his piece. He has also stood out for his political commitment and willingness to experiment.
Edward Ruscha (born in 1937) is the only Pop artist (together with Cindy Sherman, but she belongs to a different generation and context) to have used photography in its original form or in illustrated books, without exploiting it for other purposes. Ruscha (who is also illustrator and painter) portrays some aspects of American life by featuring wellknown brands, landscape archetypes, service stations and other images from popular culture. Then he adds sentences or laconic words he has carefully chosen, so as to focus the viewer’s attention on themes like existence and the vacuity of human life.
Peter Blake (born in 1932) is one of the most famous spokespeople of European Pop Art. He became famous in the late fifties. His pictures range from advertisement to entertainment, dance, music and fighters, often including collage elements. On the Balcony (1955-1957) is one of his most famous pieces and is considered to be one of the first icons of British Pop Art. This shows Blake’s interest in pulling together and combining Pop culture images to classical art. This piece looks like a collage but is actually painted. It also features a young boy holding Edouard Manet’s The Balcony, stickers and magazines. For this painting, Blake has drawn inspiration from a picture of the American artist Honoré Sharrer (1920-2009), in which some workers are holding famous paintings (Workers and Paintings – MOMA).
Jasper Johns (born in 1930) is best known for his painting Flag, portraying the American flag (1954.1955). His style is often described as “Neo-dadaist”, in contrast with Pop Art, even if his subjects often include objects and images taken from popular culture of his time. However, many catalogues include Jasper Johns among Pop artists due to his artistic use of classical iconography.
Wayne Thiebaud (born in 1920) is an American painter. Among his most famous paintings there are cakes (which is the title of the piece alongside), pastries, boots, toilets, toys and lipsticks. Once again, his connection to Pop Art is due to his interest in mass products (having worked in the sixties as well, he has sometimes drawn inspiration from his predecessors). Thiebaud is thus very interesting for the way he represents his subjects. He uses pigments and sharp, excessive colors, contrasting them to clear shadows, typical of advertising illustrations.
Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) is considered to be Pop Art most elegant artist and is sometimes compared to Matisse, as he carried on both modern and classical style (in his context). He focused on advertising collages featuring everyday objects, still-life paintings and Installation Art. In his works, he included real objects such as fake building facades, shelves, televisions, refrigerators and bottles â€“ paying particular attention to the balance of the spaces and the solidity of the compositions. Many of his pieces have strong sexual contents and he is best known for his Great American Nude (among the first successful Pop works) and for his Smokers. These were cold, deliberately impersonal, clean and bright, which makes them examples of an artistic interpretation of American popular consumption of that time. Remarkably, since the mid eighties the artist has chosen to use laser as an instrument to create his illustrations on aluminum sheets, cut and wrought with colored filigrees. In this aluminum pieces, Wesselmann remains very straightforward and frank, not artificial or affected.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was a leading figure of Pop Art. This artist has been dealt with separately and extensively in Chapter 2.
David Hockney (born in 1937) is best known for his paintings “at the poolside”. He is another important spokesman of Pop Art in Great Britain. He became most famous in the late sixties. As a further demonstration of the strong connection between art movement and other branches, industrial techniques and cultural movements of the twentieth century, Hockney is illustrator, scenographer, printmaker and photographer. His most famous piece is perhaps A Bigger Splash (1967). « I was drawn to California by the relaxed and sensual way of life. The climate is sunny, the people are less tense than in New York ... I had no idea if there was any kind of artistic life there and that was the least of my worries »84. In California « Everybody had a swimming pool. They could be used all year round and were not considered a luxury ». There are the swimming pool, which is thus an everyday object, and the sun. This groups Hockney in the Second Generation of Steve Kaufman (who moved to Los Angeles as well for similar reasons). 84
George Segal (1924-2000) was an American sculptor and painter. George Segal was connected to Pop movement in the late fifties. His sculptures are often characterized by commercial elements and everyday objects typical of this art movement. They stand out from other artists’ pieces for an agitation and a hinted anxiety recognizable on his figures’ faces, like in Bus Riders (alongside).
Robert Indiana (born in 1928) uses advertising illustration as his main technique, mixing it with existentialism. This combination has then gradually moved towards what Indiana defined “sculpted poems”. His works often consist in intense and simple icons made up of words like EAT, HUG and LOVE expressed peremptorily. One of his most famous pieces is Love (1964-1973), very iconographic, which was first created for a Christmas card for the MOMA and then became a stamp. It has become the symbol of American youth movements such as the Skaters and the Rappers, with social and protest implications as well. Love and similar pictures have often been copied and transformed in consumption objects (for example Romero Britto, Pop artist of the Second Generation, pushed objects merchandising to the extreme). They lead us to think about the authors’ rights issue.
From www.tate.org, 7th January 2015
One of the main components of Pop Art – namely, mass reproducibility – becomes now the main weak point of art itself, which is also printed and sold on toilet paper – and not for a cultural or breaking choice of the author. This raises many doubts about where the limit lies.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) first became popular as a Graffiti artist in New York and then as Neo-expressionist after 1980. He was in close contact with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. Basquiat’s paintings keep influencing modern artists and having high quotations on the market. His art focused on dichotomies like wealth and poverty, integration and segregation, feelings and sensations. He drew inspiration from past poetry and painting and he connected texts and pictures, abstract and figurative. Basquiat used the text like a board where to express what he considered the truth about individuals, class struggle elements or social and political critique. Many of his pieces do not have a title. He is well-known for his “skulls”. Basquiat died of a heroin overdose when he was twentyeight.
Keith Haring (1958-1990) was an artist and social activist who belonged to New Pop Art. His work was strongly connected with street art in New York and with the eighties. At the end of twentieth century, Haring’s pictures became a universally recognized visual language. He worked on the street and he could not live without it. He died very young of AIDS (he announced his disease publicly). He was pervaded by an endless agitation. He was close friend with Andy Warhol and Steve Kaufman. Haring immediately found his style and rapidly became popular, thanks to the strong interest of that time in contemporary art. He also opened some gadget stores where it was possible to see the artists at work. Haring’s “colored men” and “barking dogs” are unmistakable. They embellish many cities in the world though their many imitators and keep transmitting this artist’s feelings.
Damien Hirst (born in 1965) is a British artist, entrepreneur and art collector. He became popular in London in 1988, when he conceived and created “Freeze”, an exhibition in an abandoned warehouse. There he showed his works and the pieces of the students who collaborated with him at the Goldsmith College. In the following decade he became one of the leading figures and most influential artists of his generation. Hirst is a controversial artist, who has often been the center of attention and debate for his Installation Art pieces with dissected or dead animals. Works such as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which consists in a shark immersed in formaldehyde, or Mother and Child Divided, made up of dissected animals preserved in formaldehyde, are exhibited at Tate Modern.
He is associated with Pop Art due to his use of everyday objects like cigarettes and medicines in his works.
Steve Kaufman (1960-2010) was Andy Warholâ€™s assistant at The Factory. This artist has been dealt with separately and extensively in Chapter 4.
Other artists to be mentioned within New Pop Art:
Kevin Cherryâ€™s collages remind of the works of art of the sixties. However, in this case, there is a new level of advancement thanks to the use of digital art (which Warhol had started using in the eighties).
Sung-Ho Bae is a Korean artist. Interestingly, he has won a contest sponsored by an important producer of images creation softwares for PCs (Adobe Design Achievement Awards of 2007). The piece that brought him to victory is Nine inverse proportion problems we have.
Romero Britto (born in 1963) is a star of New Pop Cubism. Like Kaufman, he has followed in Warhol’s and Haring’s footsteps with a colored vivid style, reflecting optimism and a positive view of the world. Britto proposes vivid and bright colors, pop themes and compositions that immediately catch attention for their strong aesthetical and visual power. Like Steve Kaufman, many celebrities like Britto. Among his famous customers there are Michael Jordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Ronaldo, the Bush family and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Takashi Murakami (born in 1962) has drawn inspiration from mass iconography themes and styles. His pieces are monumental icons of contemporary Japanese culture and society. They focus on cultural dichotomies as well (tall/short, ancient/modern, eastern/western). Murakami sees the artist as someone that can understand the boundaries between different worlds and tries to recognize them. His “Superflat” style uses refined Japanese print techniques to represent a mix of Pop, Animé and Otaku on the same ground. With his markedly individual style, he moves within an expanding aesthetical field full of cultural inspirations. He also often includes religious references combined with frivolous objects.
Jeff Koons (born in 1955) is an American artist. He became popular in New York cultural scene of the eighties and the nineties. He has started from conceptual art and then carried on Duchamp’s concept of “readymade” up to unimaginable business goals (one of his sculptures, his “dogs”, has recently been sold for 58 millions of dollars). Koons is associated with New Pop Art because, like Pop artists, he uses his works to reflect upon the dynamics of society and contemporary world, which is in turn dominated by a wish for narcissistic pictures and an endless purchasing power. Puppy features his thirteen-meter tall terrier, made up of a “living” shell with seventy thousand flowers. It also contains a sprinkler system inside. It was produced in 1992 and then it was recreated and improved in 1995. Except for some tours, it has lied in front of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao since 1997.
Cindy Sherman (born in 1954) is a model, photographer and film director. She is considered one of the most important and influential artists of contemporary art. Throughout her career, she has eloquently and provocatively explored the building of contemporary identity and the source of representations, based on the endless availability of pictures from films, TV, magazines, Internet (the use of this new media is very meaningful) and history of art. She has been her own model in her works for thirty years, portraying herself as a funny, disgusting or provocative woman, in a wide range of costumes and situations. When producing these pieces (mainly photographs), she plays multiple roles, such as the photographer, the model, the makeup artist, the stylist and the fashion designer with plenty of wigs, costumes, masks and accessories. Cindy Sherman is considered to belong to the Pop Art movement as she herself is a character and she modifies her physical aspect and surrounding environment to join it. She creates a myriad of intriguing pictures and present or past icons plunged in the present, by serializing celebrities and putting them close to ordinary people like employees or homeless. In Italy:
Mimmo Rotella (1918-2006) studied at the Art School in Naples. He was nonconformist and he focused his attention on photography, collage and photomontage techniques. After a stay in America (which clearly influenced him, as his many Marilyn prove), his artistic path led him to imagine new forms of expression. He drew inspiration from ripping billboards he would tear apart and then paste again. He thus turned his informal pieces into large and easily understandable pictures, sometimes putting them on a plate. He broke the boundaries between twodimensional and flexible pictures by proposing pieces that were not classifiable as traditional paintings or sculptures.
Michelangelo Pistoletto (born in 1933) started incorporating photography in his paintings in the sixties. He has later built his fullsized figures on polished steel plates, trying to include the viewer in the picture. He also uses collage and his subjects often originate from everyday objects, which associates him with Pop Art. Venus of the Rags (1967) makes a contrast between a traditional nude and a pile of colored rags, thus creating an iconic piece which investigates the connections between tradition and what goes beyond it. He has later become a leading figure in the so-called “Arte Povera” (which uses “poor” but “real” materials to obtain a pure and simple result). His pieces have recently been exhibited at the Louvre and at the Tuileries Garden. He lives and works in Biella, where he was born and where he has created the “Cittadellarte” foundation to support creativity and innovative ideas.
Also to be mentioned: Alighiero Boetti, Piero Gilardi, Aldo Mondino and Ugo Nespolo. Italian critics tended to enclose their works within the boundaries of Arte Povera – since there is no doubt that all of them took part in it more or less intensively or still do. However, Italian artists have not always expressed themselves through the modes of Arte Povera. The critic Francesco Poli has highlighted how Italian artists are often closer to Pop Art than Arte Povera. Poli writes: « The multi-colored pictures of the various letters ordered in Boetti’s tapestries can lead to the artist even those people who ignore any other piece of his most ample and eclectic production »85. 85
He is very faithful to the canonical precept of Italian Pop of reporting things accurately. He exploits the inevitable distancing effect which consists in reproducing them with artificial materials and aggressive colors. Mondino is one of the most eclectic Italian artists. His art path moves from Pop Art to Arte Povera at the beginning and then to multiple tests of techniques and materials. Nespolo has Pop origins which he has kept away from theoretical aridity. Finally, as far as Pistoletto is concerned, art creates images even if it does not aim at being representative and the means of circulation relentlessly produce the transformation from whatever work to image.
Bibliography Alanis E. Leona Kory, Michael Jackson Interviews Alessandro dal Lago e Serena Giordano, Mercanti d’Aura- Logiche dell’arte contemporanea, Il Mulino, Bologna 2006 Alessandro del Puppo, L’arte contemporanea. Il secondo Novecento, Einaudi Editore. Torino 2013 Andy Warhol, America, Harper & Row, New York 1985 Andy Warhol, POPism: The Warhol’ 60s, 1980 Andrea Mecacci, Introduzione ad Andy Warhol, Editori Laterza, Bari 2008 André Breton, Surrealist Manifesto, 1924 Arthur C. Danto, Andy Warhol, Yale University Press, 2009 Carolina Carriero, Il consumo della Pop Art, Jaka Book, Milan 2003 Enrico Baj, Cose dell’altro mondo, Elèuthera, Milano 1990 Gillo Dorfles, The Kitsch: Oscillations of Taste, 1958 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 1990 Giovanna Franci, The Myth of the Grand Tour and Contemporary Mass Tourism Imagination: the Example of Las Vegas – University of Bologna Pat Hackett, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Warner Books, New York, 1989 Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, 1979
Insideart , www.insideart.eu, 10th December 2014
Jean Baudrillard, The Disappearance of Art and Politics, 1992 Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals, 2010 Klaus Honnef, Warhol, Taschen GmbH Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1975 Attilio Codognato, Pop Art: evoluzione di una generazione, catalogo, Electa, Milano 1980 Lea Vergine, L’arte in trincea: lessico delle tendenze artistiche 1960-1990, Schira Editore, 1996 Lucy Lucy R. Lippard, Pop Art, 1967 Marco di Capua, Salvador Dalì, la vita e l’opera, Mondadori, 2002 Octavio Paz, Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare, 1991 Renato Barilli, Informale oggetto Contemporaneo Reyner Banham, Scenes in America Deserta. Thames and Hudson. 1982 Richard Hamilton, Collected Words, Thames & Hudson, London 1982 Roland Barthes, New Critical Essays, University of California Press: Berkeley, 1990 Steve Kaufman, Coffee Table Book, Steve Kaufman Art Studio – 2009 Tommaso de Chiaro, Claes Oldenburg e l’iconografia del banale, Edicoop, Roma 1980 Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1961
Websites consulted www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au www.artnet.com www.arte.rai.it www.banksy.co.uk www.insideart.eu www.americanpopartinc.com www.basquiat.com www.cindysherman.com www.damienhirst.com www.gagosian.com www.guggenheim.org www.jasper-johns.org www.haring.com www.huffingtonpost.com www.lichtensteinfoundation.org www.moma.org www.museomaca.it www.oldenburgvanbruggen.com www.philippedaverio.it www.robertindiana.com www.stevekaufmanartlicensing.com www.tate.org www.tate.org.uk
www.mozarteum.at www.warholfoundation.org www.xavierhufkens.com
For Steve Kaufman’s pictures, all rights reserved to © Steve Kaufman Art Licensing LLC
Published on Oct 27, 2015
Serena Bobbo, a alumnus at the University of Trieste in Italy, presented her student thesis in February 2015 titled “Steve Kaufman E La Pop...