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Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World by Gary Indiana

By Gary Indiana

In the summertime of 1962, Andy Warhol unveiled 32 Soup Cans in his first solo exhibition on the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles—and despatched the artwork international reeling. The responses ran from incredulity to outrage; the poet Taylor Mead defined the exhibition as “a amazing slap within the face to America.” The exhibition placed Warhol at the map—and reworked American tradition endlessly. virtually single-handedly, Warhol collapsed the centuries-old contrast among “high” and “low” tradition, and created a brand new and notably glossy aesthetic.

In Andy Warhol and the Can that offered the area, the dazzlingly flexible critic Gary Indiana tells the tale of the genesis and effect of this iconic murals. With power, wit, and large perspicacity, Indiana recovers the excitement and controversy of the Pop artwork Revolution and the bright, tormented, and profoundly narcissistic determine at its leading edge.

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The two critics became mortal enemies after a brief friendship; though they were advocates for the same artists, each could prove that the other liked the same thing for the wrong reasons. They trafficked in the jargon of “greatness,” of “major” and “minor,” “important,” “groundbreaking,” and so on, the broad-brush vocabulary of subjective opinion marshaling a quorum. This language of consensus-building, of gathering a claque around a proper name, carried weight at a time when few Americans were familiar with any sort of art, and the sheer assertiveness of these critics attracted attention for the New Art in larger media venues than the small magazines that published their writings.

Like many lunatics, Dondero enjoyed enthusiastic support from other lunatics. One of Dondero’s posse revealed that “modern art is actually a means of espionage . . S. ”2 This must have come as startling news to artists who had little familiarity with Boulder Dam and other crucial structures or fortifications. The idea of Communist spies meticulously scanning reproductions of Pollock’s Blue Poles with magnifying glasses and decoder rings really was McCarthyism in a nutshell. Whether or not the artist carried some memory of this legislator’s paranoid fantasy in mind, one of Warhol’s last paintings, a crude black-and-white map indicating known Soviet missile sites, carries a rich irony indeed.

3 Socialist Realism, the approved art of the Communist world, restricted the artist to oversaturated realist paintings of joyful workers driving tractors and their beaming comrades operating industrial machinery. ) The more shrouded enclaves of American government also embraced the clear propaganda value of showing the new art abroad. As they habitually did and still do, they resorted to covert means of achieving their goal rather than attempting to seek funding through legislation. The CIA, using agent Tom Braden as its point man, laundered the money for overseas exhibitions through a network of private foundations and institutions (primarily the Museum of Modern Art).

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