In The Junk Drawer

I am compelled to write a blog after visiting the Currier Art Museum in Manchester, with it’s new first-time exhibit “Pop Politics” by Andy Warhol. Simply Amazing. It really got me thinking. Unfortunately most of what people know about Warhol is “Oh he’s the Campbell soup guy”. Well, yes that is true, but Warhol is so much more than that, I think as a professional designers, we can learn a lot from him. Let’s dig in.

My favorite piece at this show was “Red Lenin” – I found not only the subject but also the execution compelling. As designers what can we take away from this particular piece? Some questions to get your little brain going:
Scale: This piece is 39.4 x 29.5 in – Would it have this much impact at another size? What if it was smaller?
Placement/ Cropping: Just the bust of Lenin is present, he is pretty much dead center, and staring straight ahead. – What if he was looking away, what if this was a full length view? What if he only took up a 2in. section in the corner?
Color: This canvas is saturated in bright red, the skin in yellow. – What if it was saturated in bright green? What if his skin was peach colored? Would it conjure up the same emotions?
Medium: This is a silk screen. – What if it was a charcoal drawing? A watercolor?
Message: Art means different things to different people, that goes without saying. I am not sure what Warhol’s intentions were in creating this piece, but I have definite opinions about what this piece says to me, and I’ve formulated these opinions based on the above key components. If those components were in any way different, they most certainly would have changed Warhol’s message.

All of these items are something to think of not only when analyzing fine art, but when creating a commercial piece of work. Each of Warhol’s choices bring up a certain emotion, I am sure they were meticulously and specifically chosen. Are you that specific when creating design work? Warhol wanted to create a definitive emotion with his choices, just as you (or I) want to create a specific emotion in commercial design pieces. Are you as calculated as Warhol?

What else can we learn from Warhol?

A point that speaks to me is that he started out as a graphic (or commercial) designer (I have something in common with Andy Warhol, YES!). But unlike me I guess most of his purpose and pop art in general was to blur that line between – commercial art – and fine art. Basically to show us that commercial art could be fine art. His artwork was mass produced, by this he tried to show us that these two disciplines are truly interchangeable. I can say that I strive to translate my knowledge and abilities of fine art and art history into my commercial work. As I mentioned above the basics of symmetry, color theory, layout and a thousand other principals can be broadly applied from a fine art education to my current career as a graphic designer and vice versa.

No matter what medium or discipline we choose, we speak to people visually and that is what I think art is all about. If you’re in the NH area any time soon, I recommend that you swing by the Currier and see what you can take personally from this exhibit, and apply to your own life and work.

This piece is part of a group writing project created by

The wonderful Art History Department at Plymouth State University

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