"You can see a billboard for Tab and think: Nancy Regan drinks tab, Gloria Vanderbilt drinks Tab. Jackie Onassis drinks Tab, and just think, you can drink Tab too. Tab is Tab and no matter how rich you are, you can't get a better one than the homeless woman on the corner is drinking. All the Tabs are the same. And all the tabs are good. Nancy Regan knows it, Gloria Vanderbilt knows it, Jackie Onassis knows it, Katharine Hepburn knows it, the baglady knows it, and you know it."

- Andy Warhol from America.

Showing a post war pluralist view of democracy similar to Boorstin's in his book The Americas: The Democratic Experience, Warhol, on one hand, adored the democratization of goods in America and on the other hand was frustrated with the lack of creativity and originality in American society. Complimenting consumer culture for its ability to unify Americans of all different backgrounds, Warhol still appealed to higher principals of art and infused his work with meaning that didn't come from the images as much as the alteration and display of them.

Warhol followed in Jackson Pollack's footsteps to further shatter the modernist idea of what painting is and made it into a commodity. He dropped the easel, left the oils behind, and made silkscreen and polymer paint the way to go. Streamlining the process of art Warhol made himself, in a sense, dispensable by applying the same assembly line techniques he saw in consumer society to his work. Warhol even shattered stereotypes by dealing with consumerism as a subject since the very concept of turning consumer art into high art would be abhorrent to any modernist.

Every Warhol started as an image, usually a photograph, that Andy marked for cutting and screening. Then he would usually give it to his assistants from the Factory with instructions on color, number, and other variations, so that often he wouldn't have a physical hand in the production of his works. This non-personal touch as well as the success of his paintings all held up the parts of consumerism Warhol loved, but what about his fear that it stifled new ideas? Warhol dealt with that by the shocking amount of repetition in his work. The viewer of a Warhol show was saturated with the same image until it gradually lost its meaning. The more times an image was seen the less it signified, as the viewer became more used to seeing it. Viewers began to realize through this saturation that through lack of variety the senses and emotions were dulled to certain things much in the way that the concept of media saturation is feared today.

Due to contradictory statements and opinions, there is confusion about whether Warhol liked consumerism, and a lot of it can be explained though his love of machines. Warhol loved the precision of machines and adored how film and tape could capture moments. He even went so far as to make himself and his artwork more mechanized by using the Factory and the silk screening process and making himself replaceable (see Replication?). But Warhol never truly left the human aspect behind. A machine could not choose images with as much emotional impact as those Warhol brilliantly chose to portray, and he refused until his death to outsource the silk screening process or any final decisions on his projects. All the ideas were his, and he had final say on what was shown.

From subject matter to commercial process, Warhol is remembered best for his work on consumerism in America, and ironically these works of art which modernist critics first derided for their unoriginality, lack of symbolism, and lack of high artistic merit have been accepted as high art in the academic world today.

To view examples of consumerism in Warhol's art, click here.

Morbidity

Celebrity

Bibliography