Andy Warhol was an artist who undoubtedly put his finger on the
pulse of modern culture. Through pioneering a variety of
techniques, but principally by means of the visual isolation of
imagery, its repetition and enforced similarity to printed images,
and the use of garish colour to denote the visual garishness that
is often encountered in mass culture, he threw much direct or
indirect light upon modern anomie or world-weariness, nihilism,
materialism, political manipulation, economic exploitation,
conspicuous consumption, media hero-worship, and the creation of
artificially-induced needs and aspirations. Moreover, in his best
paintings and prints he was a very fine creator of images, with a
superb colour sense and a brilliant feel for the visual rhythm of a
picture which resulted from his intense awareness of the pictorial
potentialities inherent in forms. Initially, his images might
appear rather simple. Yet because of that very simplicity they not
only enjoy a high degree of immediate visual impact, but also
possess the rare power of projecting huge implications through the
mental associations they set in motion. For example, the visual
repetition that Warhol employed within a great many of his images
was intended, associatively, to parallel the vast repetition of
images that are employed in a mass-culture in order to sell goods
and services. This includes vehicles of communication such as
movies and TV programmes. By incorporating into his images the very
techniques of mass production that are central to a modern
industrial society, Warhol directly mirrored larger cultural uses
and abuses, while emphasising, to the point of absurdity, the
complete detachment from emotional commitment that he saw
everywhere around him. Moreover, in addition to employing imagery
derived from popular culture in order to offer a critique of
contemporary society, Warhol also carried forward the assaults on
art and bourgeois values that the Dadaists had earlier pioneered;
by manipulating images and the public persona of the artist he was
able to throw back in our faces the contradictions and
superficialities of contemporary art and culture. Ultimately, it is
the trenchancy of his cultural critique, as well as the
vivaciousness with which he imbued it, that will surely lend his
works their continuing relevance long after the particular objects
he represented such as Campbells Soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles
have perhaps become technologically outmoded, or the outstanding
people he depicted, such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Mao
Zedong, have come to be regarded merely as the superstars of
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