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Analysis of Warhol and Bansky Essay

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Bansky was very good and helping Warhol promote his style, and worked alongside Warhol as a sort of idea man (Carson 34). The viewer of Warhol’s work is tempted to read beyond the surface of his work and to try and discover what the artist thought – and this was often difficult since his work embodied a certain blankness or lack of signifiers of sincerity. For example, his images of suicide would make one wonder whether the artist is horrified by death or perceives it as funny. His depictions of the Campbell’s Soup cans were received with similarly mixed reactions – was he making a cynical joke on the cheapness of American mass culture, or are the soup cans homage to the simple comforts of home? Warhol’s refusal to speak to how his work ought to be read made them all the more interesting. With Warhol’s effect, the interpretation of his works was left entirely up to his audience.

Thus, affect is taking things at their face value, and not looking beyond what was on the surface of artistic work. In Warhol’s effect, there was no provocation to read the artist’s hidden meaning or inner mind beyond the surface of his canvas. Affect represents not just being deadpan, but being almost numb to an image that has been made prominent, repetitively, in the public sphere through mass reproduction or advertising. Bansky understood the draw of actors and actresses and inspired Warhol to include such famous individuals in his works (Flatley 86). Many individuals were interested in buying portraits of their favorite actors and hanging them in their homes. The affectlessness that characterized Warhol’s work is there in the repetition of stars’ faces, such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor, who became subjects of the artist’s work. These actors did not represent self-portraiture but were the mediums used by Warhol to emphasize affectlessness. They represent a record of the condition of being an uninvolved spectator who views an image with which he or she has been bombarded in a media-saturated culture.

On the contrary, Warhol used actors and popular media icons in his work not to further emulate them, but to show how emulation of these famous personalities was something that was drilled into our unconscious by mass media (Cutrone 32). For the actors in his film, Warhol preferred to focus on their “humiliating particularities” rather than any performance of self-abstraction. He intended to project himself and his stars into publicity through transcendence of particularities. His use of white-on-white connotes the neutrality of a social group, wherein there is difficulty in telling people apart, whether they be famous or not. In 1962, Warhol reproduced cinematic beauties in several of his Female Movie Star Composites. For instance, he edits together the head and forehead of Greta Garbo, the eyes of Joan Crawford, the nose of Marlene Dietrich, and the lips and chin of Sophia Loren. Only their initials identified these various facial elements of these popular movie stars. Their unfinished appearance suggests they were meant to serve as studies or sketches for larger projects, instead of being taken as individual pieces in themselves. Yet even though Warhol tries to indicate the “whiteness” of these subjects, as neutral objects difficult to tell apart, the artist himself recognized both the requirement for inclusion in the elite Hollywood circles while at the same time confirming his personal life into achieving that impossible ideal of Hollywood beauty and perfection. He even went so far as to drop the A in his name, which was originally Warhola, since the extra A sounded too clunky and ethnic. In propagating the philosophy of maintaining an affectless, neutral attitude towards art and its appreciation, there is a seamless continuity between the surfaces of Warhol’s body and his images, as the products of the artist’s self-abstraction which was designed exactly to avoid “any rupture of self-difference between ordinary life and publicity.” (Cooke 32)

In creating portraits at his Factory, Warhol became a medium through which these faces took on a recognizable identity and became in many ways his superstars. Bansky’s inspiration doubtless assisted with this as well as Warhol’s ideas. Bansky was aware of the fact that individuals would pay top dollar for a beautiful portrait of a favorite celebrity. Yet his affectless element persists. For instance, in his portraits of Liza Minelli (1978) and Debbie Hairy (1980), the dramatic effect produced in these silkscreen portraits resemble an obliteration of features of these famous faces, rather than an increase in contrasts, with only their hairstyles distinguishing the faces. In addition to the eyes and lips, the faces are marked by an overwhelming whiteness. In creating celebrity portraits, Warhol drew attention to the construed, anonymous identity of all and showed that celebrity is merely an endless proliferation of sameness.

It has been argued however that Warhol’s constructed-ness of celebrity does not necessarily suggest that anyone can be famous or become identical to the stars, under Warhol’s hands such as with his Ladies and Gentlemen portfolio. If Warhol’s portraiture were to be treated as “giving face” then this would imply the recognisability of an individual. This is hardly possible as Warhol’s portraiture of the ladies and gentlemen pictured have no proper names, and thus have little hope of attaining fame. In the absence of specific names, unlike stars who are known to the public, the other sitters of Warhol remain nobodies by the absence of specific names (Cooke 30). Their anonymity is entirely different than the anonymous identity of all the stars portrayed in Warhol’s works.

The role of apparently absent visual pleasure is that these visuals – paintings or pictures – allow them to be whatever you want them to be. Warhol’s Rorschach paintings (1984) for instance, look liquid, protean, and vacant, yet they have been described as reflecting each viewer’s desires and fantasies. They merely thus appear to be absent of any visual pleasure. It is however this apparent absence that leaves room for the spectator’s interpretation, and from such interpretation, the spectator can derive his or her visual pleasure without the headache of trying to figure out what the artist intended. These visual pleasures may not always indicate apparent visual pleasure, but hold some implied pleasures available to the spectator.

Works Cited

Carson, John. “Artforum-ism, or the Mythical Andy Warhol.” Eastern Illinois University. 2007.

Cooke, Lynne. “Andy Warhol.” DIA Art Foundation, 2008. Web.

Cutrone, Ray. “Interview with Patrick Smith”. Warhol: Conversations About the Artist. Ann Arbor; London: 1988.

Flatley, James. Warhol Gives Good Face: Publicity and the Politics of Prosopopoeia. Pop Out: Queer Warhol. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

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