I was having a fantastic conversation with my parents the other day about art. We were talking about Modern Art, specifically Andy Warhol. The discussion came up about what Warhol’s possible relationship between message vs. subject matter was. It’s difficult to talk about Warhol’s work without some background on what the famous artist was trying to achieve with his art. I could go on all day about Warhol and his art. Basically, we were discussing the meaning behind Warhol’s work. Was there something deeper beyond his concept that repetition makes something (such as an actor, or a can of soup) transform from the actual subject it is to a two dimensional, iconic image?
The piece we were talking about specifically was this:
My mom thought that this was a picture of a can of tomato soup. She reminded me that Warhol has produced pictures of many different types of soup, and that to her, the soup was the focus of this picture. But I offered up a different take on the well-known piece.
To me, this piece is not so much about the soup, as it is of the can. We are not looking at the soup, but rather the can of soup. This is especially noteworthy, since Warhol was very interested in advertising and the graphics associated with them. To me, this piece focuses on the can, and the design of the label. It is a flat representation of the can, but not so much that it is a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup. My counter-argument was this:
Magritte‘s piece, which translates to, “This is not a pipe.” No, in fact, it is a picture of a pipe. It’s not the actual thing. Magritte’s piece (which was actually done decades before Warhol) illustrates what I believe Warhol was trying to convey with nearly all of his art. Warhol was trying to tell us that we were not looking at whatever was the subject of his pieces, but rather, a representation of them. It’s almost as if Warhol was channeling Magritte through his art, though until I made that realization, I had never heard of a connection between the two artists before.