While I was gallery-hopping in Downtown LA, I found myself staring at a few works that were rather obvious. I didn’t feel the need to ask the artist or curator any questions because the art was not that hard to figure out. Kenneth Taylor, an artist who was showing his works in a café among others, insisted on taking me through the back story of one of his designs. His painting of a woman sitting in a field which I’m assuming was simply titled ‘woman sitting in a field’ was, in a way, obvious. It’s a woman sitting in a field! (forgive my repetitiveness). However the landscape was based on another painting by another artist. He was not committing forgery or anything, he was just using a style that was already born, something popular in art. Andy Warhol comes to mind. He created billions (I’m exaggerating) of screenprints based on popular culture. In fact, he made a portfolio entitled Myths that had ten screenprints of popular characters like Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, the Wicked Witch of the West, Howdy Doody, Uncle Sam, Dracula, Superman, Mammy, the Star, and the Shadow (Hamilton-Selway has/had all of the named screenprints on display). You see, he wasn’t committing forgery either, he was just creating based on his inspirations or state of mind.
Since it’s almost Halloween, which is another reason I decided to write this post (because two of them are Halloween characters, five of them can be Halloween costumes, and one of them is Santa Claus), I wanted to not state the obvious. Just like what I initially thought about Taylor’s painting, I would think the same about a screenprint of the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s a picture of a witch! What more information or symbolism can there be attached to it? Actually, the ten myths represent different sides of Warhol (with regards to the Shadow, it is actually a picture of Warhol’s side). Believe it or not, that is not the only self-portrait one can deduce by looking at the 10 prints. Mickey Mouse can also be considered a masked figure of Warhol because he always wished to be Mickey Mouse. If you look closer, the series of Myths (1981) were much more abstract than his earlier works in the 1960s (but that’s another blog post).
Yes, it is still a picture of Mickey Mouse, and many critics could say that the mouse “is not an autonomous work of art,” that it doesn’t make the viewer think about the life of art. For example, Warhol’s Myth prints contradict Clement Greenberg’s (art critic) rule: “paintings should not mimic sculptures, drawings should not mimic photographs.” Yet that is exactly what Warhol did, and these prints are hanging in museums across the world. That is because there is more to the picture than just the picture like the picture by Taylor. One might say that it is a reflection of Warhol’s childhood, since most of these characters are from the 1940s and 1950s. That it is more about popular culture and our constant surroundings. The message is simple, the picture simpler, but the process of printing images that were created by others from our past almost always creates a nostalgic effect for the viewer. Thus creating a feeling, a movement, and an hour of staring.
How to Analyze the Works of Andy Warhol – Michael Fallon
Art: ‘Myths’ of Warhol – Jo Anne Triplett (LEO Weekly)