Analysis of an Artwork
Pop Art is probably one of the most intriguing and interesting elements in today’s age. Several artists initiated this genre in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s but none was more prominent than Andy Warhol. Although there have been several critics who have criticized his work as being without any form or sense of direction, posterity has shown otherwise. Works of art such as ‘Telephone’, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and other pieces have fetched tens of millions of dollars as wealthy collectors have paid huge sums of money to acquire these iconic works. ‘Telephone’ is one such work, although at face value it appears rather simple and a simple reproduction, if one analyzes it closely, one finds that it has a brilliance about it that cannot be discounted. Popular art has brown in stature in recent years with some examples fetching vast sums of money, works such as the pop art portrayals of Mel Ramos.
The thesis of this essay is to analyze the work by Andy Warhol called Telephone, and to compare and contrast it with Warhol’s work and other contemporary artists. I will build my essay around the central theme of pop art with Warhol’s work as center stage, describing how it changed the ideas on this art movement and brought about polarizing opinions.
Warhol’s work portrays a telephone in all its glory. Although it dates from 1962, one can observe a lot of details that show the artist’s preoccupation with being as accurate as possible when depicting such a telephone. The telephone is simply a representation of a straightforward black and white painting of a telephone with not much going for it. However, being a painting by Andy Warhol, it has certainly achieved cult status. The ambition to make Warhol an un-American artist was very popular in the 1960’s and the painting of the telephone fitted the description of Imperialist progress. Critics such as Henry Geldzahler described the reasons for this universality with the breathtaking frankness of an imperialist victor.
Warhol fitted the bill of an artist who worked principally in American regionalism that was principally a reaction of this group against Abstract Expressionism that seemed to have exhausted its prowess. This regionalism could also be described as being something that went nationwide and that could also have been exported to Europe. The Pop artist in Andy Warhol had finally come out.
Works such as ‘Telephone’ found their homes in the theatres of European capitalist culture with several tycoons biding for Warhol’s work, first in West Germany and then in France and Italy. Warhol’s work was viewed as a kind of high culture when compared with the low culture cult of all American things. It seems that these advanced cult forms were celebrated in a masochistic folly that was eventually subjected to massive destruction as the commodity production of late capitalism would hold in store for the vast majority of European countries. Almost inevitably, Warhol’s work acquired the suggestive nature of prophetic foresight almost overnight. Warhol’s background as a designer is also evident in this work where the machine like aspects of the telephone is vividly present. The work was also a departure from the Imperialist art movements that were popular in the 1950’s as a portrayal of a far off Empire that was rapidly disintegrating as far as the British were concerned.
It does not come as any sort of surprise that the main collectors of Warhol’s work in Europe were wealthy industrialists such as Stroher and Ludwig. However, works such as ‘Telephone’ eventually found their way into the main cosmopolitan centres of London and Paris when they were bought by the Saatchi family who saw in them a sense of identity. These works are instrumental in inflicting those conditions of enforced consumption, they can also be viewed as culturally legitimate. It may also seem that the collectors were looking for cultural representations of themselves in Warhol’s work but could not seem to find it, largely due to the fact that Warhol’s work defies any sort of representation.
The eventual recognition of Warhol’s tremendous ingenuity and radicalism is demonstrated in this artwork. At first, the painting elicited shock and horror from the modern art movement, fresh from the scandals faced in the New York School as well as a general climate of indifference in the late 1950’s. However, Andy Warhol’s interventions were seen as a breath of fresh air and his contributions contributed immensely towards an early 1960’s aesthetics that would be accepted by the artistic viewer. ‘Telephone’ is a painting that reaffirms Warhol’s commitment to artistic reality as well as an emphasis and reflection on the inescapable symbiotic ties between aesthetics and commodity aesthetics.
The piece of work displayed by Warhol presents a fine art print that has been exceptionally done well. Produced using natural colors of black and white that have been displayed and applied equally well in the entire piece to show the reflects and shadows that the product is displaying (Warhol et. al. 42). By use of such colors, and applying them in equal measure to produce a balanced view in terms of light variation, is a strategy that artists use. Variation of both bright and dark colors in art in intended to bring out and reinforce various qualities that the particular piece of art is displaying. In using the strategy, one has to balance the varying colors in equal measure that will display the intended message and results as noted by Anderson (2006) in his article titled Colour: How to Use Colour in Art and Design (8). From the work of Warhol, every part of the telephone used a mixture of the two colors. The base of the telephone has a mixture of both colors applied in balanced measures and areas. This technique is applied to bring a balanced view in terms of exposing all parts of the piece. Therefore by mixing bright and dark colors it enables the audiences to create and interpret the picture fast in their minds and to give it correct meaning. The body of the piece has also used the same technique of applying a balanced measure between the bright and dark colors to relay the same message and help the audience correctly interpret and give meaning to the piece. The neck and head part of the work by Warhol, as well as the arms both, uses the same technique that makes the entire work exceptional and classic. The background of the work also uses color that does not reflect and contrast with the drawing and this further helps the audience has a better glance and view of the work and hence give it correct meaning and interpretation. All these techniques of art have to be used and applied together as a system to bring out the correct meaning and interpretation of the work. Failures to balance one element it will result to the picture getting wrong interpretations and, therefore, loose the intentioned potential that it would have attracted.
In terms of dimensions used a reflection of the real product that the work intends to reflect and display has to be considered for the work, Warhol balance it with uses various measurements that aid the viewers and audience create the correct picture and interpretation of the work. In producing such art work, and factored in the artwork produced, especially dimensions and measurements of the various parts (Leland 18). Warhol has done this perfectly creating the balance and hence enabling the audience gives correct interpretation to the work. Irrespective of the resources available, artists have to come up with the best product and design to use that will create and give full potential to their works, and display the correct theme. In the piece described above, the simple color used reflects the lifestyle and technology that existed during those ancient days and, therefore, it matches and helps audience further create and imagine life as it was during those times. As the adage says that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this applies to this work too. A good artwork is supposed to display more than what meets the eye, and this piece does exactly the same. In those early times, photography was of poor quality and black and white pictures were common and dominant that reflected the level of development of the ancient people.
In conclusion, artwork entails techniques that have to be applied in a balanced manner so as to display and create correct information not only to the audience but the artists at a large. The colors used have to reflect and bring out artistic products, which will display and carry more messages that viewers are able to relate to and tell a story. All factors have to be considered in analyzing an artistic work and product for the correct meaning, to be given to it.
Anderson, Feisner E. Colour: How to Use Colour in Art and Design. London: Laurence King, 2006. Print.
Leland, Nita. Confident Color: An Artist's Guide to Harmony, Contrast and Unity. Cincinnati, Ohio: North Light Books, 2008. Print.
Warhol, Andy, Christopher Wool, Barnett Newman, Bruce Conner, Sharon Lockhart, Giuliana Bruno, and Peter Pakesch. Warhol Wool Newman: Painting Real ; Screening Real : Conner Lockhart Warhol. Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2009. Print.