As Long as you Buy it

I have to admit, a serious love hate relationship with Andy Warhol.

I can’t stand his ubiquity, but, try as I might, I find it impossible to discount his contributions to the dialogue of Art History. And his design aesthetic? Inarguably potent.

So under most circumstances, I would be hesitant to create a blog reiterating the persistent relevance, if not the genius that can be categorized as the Warhol Machine. After all, Warhol isn’t (hasn’t ever, wasn’t ever, will never be) lacking in press coverage. However, after reading through Josh Hubank’s blog discussing news media this past week, my interest in a story that aired on NPR Morning Edition titled Andy Warhol’s Headline: Sensation Always Sells, was peaked.

Warhol in the Factory during work on the triptych "Fate Presto," 1981. Photo by Michele Bonuomo.

I realized that I often feel the same way about Andy Warhol, as I do about the news.

It seems more and more, that the question of what is news, is becoming almost as large and unanswerable as what is art. Many are asking: What creates legitimacy, importance, validity within these spheres? And more generally, what is it that makes the sensational, so irresistible?

Headlines, a show that opened September 25th at the National Gallery of Art here in DC, which is centered around Warhol’s work with news (and more obviously, headlines), is certainly about much more than a themed presentation of Warhol pieces. Its timing points to the fact that lately, there has been an explosion of questions surrounding the veracity of the thing we call news, not to mention the ethics behind news practices. Newscorp anyone?

“I think Warhol was trying to get the consumers of the news to think about the truth in the news overall…. The news is a product that we buy, as consumers,” curator Molly Donovan told NPR’s Susan Stamberg in the interview.

Celebrity, consumer goods, and headlines. Like the news, Warhol spent most of his life producing work on people and their ephemera. He was in many ways, a Marxist’s dream; no sphere of culture escaped his commodification. He was the champion of bad taste, and in his perfection of kitsch, he struck artistic gold. Yet his renderings are not just there for us to consider the visual quality of printed papers, how much we like the colors, or the celebrities gracing their pages. Though his use of appropriation, he borrows the language of headlines and front pages, raising questions about the source itself.

Warhol’s ability to make the original, unoriginal, is rivaled only by its inspirational source: the news. Repetition to the point of apathy, was Warhol’s ultimate strength. Perhaps his Factory, was a modern day news feed.

If we accept that Warhol created what people want to look at, then news media creates what people want to hear. After all, they are both about the art of sensation.

Headlines
The National Gallery of Art
Washington DC
September 25- January 2, 2012

Alicia Dillon

Alicia is a former CCT Graduate Student.