Andy Warhol's Silk Screens Essay

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Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Andy Warhol was raised in the Roman Catholic church, and to a certain extent his major silkscreens of the 1960s like the legendary "Campbell's Soup Cans" partake (somewhat paradoxically) of the nature of Catholic religious or devotional art. This does not mean Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans" are meant to be compared to (say) Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: instead, the pattern they follow is that of the repeated imagery of icons. Catholic religious art has always had this running tendency, in which mass-produced religious art could be made available to believers to assist their prayers -- to the extent that Warhol was mimicking the tendency of sacred art, it was because he was imitating the anonymous but predictable craftsmen who sell statues of little Bernadette at Lourdes, or who sculpt the Virgin Mary in plaster of paris for people to place on their front lawns, or who illustrate holy cards and scapulars and other illustrated elements of Catholic religious practice that would have been familiar to Warhol as a young Catholic altar boy. But of course repetition is a large part of Catholic religious practice as well. The highly repetitive activity of praying on rosary beads -- in which the same pattern of eleven prayers is repeated, with miniscule changes of intent on each cycle -- is not unlike the highly repetitive, sheet-of-postage-stamps visual presentation of the thirty-two different Campbell's Soup Cans in Warhol's original 1962 silk screens.
Indeed the whole process of silk-screening is one in which miniscule differences are what give the work its individual character within an identical mass-produced feeling, and of course this is the larger implication of Warhol's paintings in this fashion. Just as Warhol called his studio "the Factory" and engaged in the manufacture of all sorts of cultural products which bore his imprimatur (ranging from rock bands like the Velvet Underground, to avant-garde cinema), there was a way in which Warhol was intending his artistic process to be a parody of American….....

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