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Art & Popular Culture: The Warhol Effect

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In the mid-20th century, there was a battle brewing in the art world. Commercialization began to mass-produce art in all varieties, from comic books to magazines, gift-wrapping, billboards, you name it! What a fantastic thing to be happening! Art was now widely available to the general public. However, with the creation of so many replicas’ what would define the value of art? Critic Clement Greenberg was the condemning voice of the fine art community, denouncing this movement for decades throughout the 1940’s and 50’s. His argument was that popular culture and mainstream art was simply an aesthetic photocopy, to take money from consumers and offer no further significance or meaning. He claimed it to be an empty, tasteless, western plague infecting the world with its flaunting decoration and cheap advertisements. The derogatory term, “kitsch” was made popular by Greenberg as he used it to describe commercialized art as tasteless unoriginal copies of high class works. In spite of Greenberg’s criticisms, the popular culture movement continued to flourish and low-culture art was becoming a reputable art form. This was largely due to the efforts of artist, Andy Warhol. Warhol removed the separation between high and low art, reshaped pop-culture and put it into the galleries. The Warhol effect is not referring to his signature posterized style, but to a rebellious attack on elite class, and assumption of mainstream culture to achieve prominence.

The pop-art movement took objects from our everyday life and using mass production techniques, created an exciting visual image that paid homage to the commercialized art of time. Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can” was a reflection of the typical poster and magazine art found everywhere in m...

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