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Marcel Duchamps and Andy Warhol Essay

Art is an extremely subjective form of human expression and no one exemplifies the modern expression better than Andy Warhol. Despite numerous accusations against him for his treatment of the said subjects, Andy Warhol has become the archetypal modern artist: a man who has turned the proverbial tables on art as we know it. Several decades prior to Warhol, however, was an equally controversial artist, Marcel Duchamps whose Dada influence contributed to a new way of looking at study objects.

How are these two artists connected a how did Dada influence Pop – Art as a movement? Marcel Duchamps is famous for a number of abstract pieces including The Fountain (1917/1964). The Fountain essentially consists of a toilet-bowl, glazed and signed. The idea behind this object appears to be asking the viewer whether or not this is in fact a fountain. Duchamps attempts to give the viewer another way of looking at the object. Rather than simply being an ablutionary article, the toilet-bowl also represents a man-made vehicle for water movement.

At the same time as Duchamps movement, there had been artists such as Rene Magritte who presented a similar image in his Treachery of Images collection (1928-1929). His painting This is not a Pipe created a stir in the industry with the question similar to Duchamps: is what we see really what it is? Take for instance Duchamps Three Standard Stoppages (1914-1915) which also represented a number of questions. The Stoppages are presented as a mathematically devised collection of stoppages on glass plates. However, Duchamps named this piece a ‘readymade’ collection.

This would mean that the objects are found and left to speak for themselves in the same way as The Fountain. The whole idea of Duchamps work compared to previous artistic movements was that previously the importance of art was to recreate reality instead of manipulate it. The modern movement manipulated the reality, thereby questioning its existence. Andy Warhol on the other hand also used object: human objects. While his use of other objects also existed, people played an important role in his work as a whole.

Celebrities offered him ‘muses’ and a symbiotic relationship of creating celebrity and enhancing it. His works of celebrities included Marilyn Monroe (1962), Liz Taylor (1962) and various others such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Similar to Duchamps, Warhol photographed inanimate articles that represented the modern world we live in. Corn Flakes (silk-screen, date unknown), is a silk-screened depiction of the modern objects we have come to know as part of our world. The ‘readymade’ idea comes back into pay with the idea that modernity spelt the easy access to such commodities as breakfast in a box.

This was important to the Pop-Art movement as presented later by other Pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein who created the popular art-form of cheesy comic book reality that represents the falseness of the society in which we live. Warhol’s Skull on Paper (1977) was another use of the object depiction that relied entirely on how the viewer decided to interpret it. If life was indeed expendable then it was the same as any other object that is used and thrown out. Warhol used a certain muse that became the downfall of his object obsession: Edie Sedgwick.

Edie Sedgwick was also merely an object in the same way that the Cornflakes or the Skull was. Edie Sedgwick (1966) was taken a few years before her untimely death, and showed the glamorous socialite in a variety of poses similar to that of the pictures taken of Marilyn Monroe shortly before her death. Sedgwick looked wooden and vulnerable: the same way she was in reality but being versatile enough to take on a number of personae. What we have, essentially is a series of objects ranging from animate (human) to inanimate (boxes and skulls).

The question is: does the humanity of the object make it any less of an object? Duchamps used articles also such as paper, wood, ceramics and photographs also in his composition Box in a Suitcase (1935-1941) we see the unlikely positioning of photographic material in what we presume is a suitcase. Warhol similarly presents articles in unnatural situations, such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor with various colored hair, such as green and red. The shift in how we view objects was initially explored by Duchamps and further explored by Warhol.

As one artist movement invariably affects the next, the influences of Dadism and Surrealism on modern art are cannot be ignored. We see that found objects such as those used by Duchamps can be used to represent things that we would not generally associate them with. We can see that there is necessary resemblance of toilet-bowls to fountains but we rarely see them in that perspective if we are sitting on them. Likewise, we eat cornflakes without regarding them as artistic pieces we wish to hang on the wall: they are disposable.

While performing one task and duty they are taken for granted with regards to other uses. A skull too can be viewed as depiction but not in the same way as a picture of Liz Taylor or Marilyn Monroe could be. The question here is not whether or not something should be seen as art or not but whether it can be seen as something more than it actually is. It is effectively the art of philosophy and ridicule rather than art for art’s sake. We can clearly see that objects play an important part in modern art, Pop Art in particular.

This has occurred in the changing climate of our existence which is far less genteel than in previous years. Our throw-away society relies on everything being ‘readymade’, space saving and time saving. With this in mind, art has always been used to express the state of humanity at the time. It is a recording of reality at any one time, and Pop Art merely explores the world that exists as material and artificial: objects being the primary subject. Museum of Modern Art: Marcel Duchamps: http://collections. sfmoma. org/THA822*1$2139*493827 Andy Warhol: http://collections. sfmoma. org/THA753*1$2167*495233


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