Andy Warhol | Ads Series: Andipa, London
“What's great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.” Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol’s ‘Ads series’ is perhaps his most consumer-driven series ever made, created just 2 years before his death. This exhibition brings together the complete set of ten prints, all appropriating real advertisements at the time from brands that vary from powerful corporations to the most luxurious designers. Some iconic brands are included, such as a Chanel bottle, the Apple logo, and the Paramount logo. Warhol takes the gaudy colours from the adverts and makes them gaudier. He takes the intrusive nature of the adverts and makes them more intrusive. Somewhat mocking consumerist culture, Warhol elevates the visual language of consumerism, the lowest form of visual language, to that of high art. There is no arguing that this series is visually direct.
It could be said that the Ads series gives an insight into the character of Warhol himself. Many of the prints in this series hark back to a golden age of the 1950s and 1960s, for example in the Van Heusen print. It could be argued that there was a certain aspiration to be able to participate in the consumer culture of the 1950s and 1960s, when Warhol was a child. The eye-poppingly colourful and brash bold logos represent something to aspire to, the final stage of the American Dream. Perhaps it was this childhood experience of growing up without the disposable income to participate in consumerism that ignited his obsession with the consumer culture of his adulthood. In this series, Warhol breaks down the distinction between what is art and what is not, changing the course of art history forever through the visual language of commercialism. Ironically, companies now use the visual language of pop art as a way to sell their products, using the recognisable motifs of artists mocking consumer culture such as Warhol.
This exhibition brings together the most quintessential Warhol message; art depicting consumer icons to blur the line between art and the everyday. By transforming everyday consumerist imagery to the status of ‘high’ art, Warhol both critiques and celebrates the ubiquitous presence of commercial visual culture. He is holding a mirror up to America, saying this is who and what we are; we are Paramount films, we are Chanel perfume, we are Volkswagen cars, and we are Van Heusen ties.
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