Factory

Research - Andy Warhol by Ally McGinn

Considered one of the most glamorous figures in contemporary art. Warhol was an eccentric figure, he became infamous for his eccentric way of seeing and experiencing the world. As I find is often the case, Duchamp said it best - “What's interesting is not that somebody would want to paint twenty-seven soup cans.  What’s interesting is the mind that would conceive of painting twenty-seven soup cans.” (Tompkins, 2013)

Fascinated with commerce and celebrity Warhol bridged the gap between the art world and the art market. (Warhol, 2007)

One of the basic tenants of commercialism is the wanting of something more. The purpose of advertising and other marketing strategies are to convince the viewer that they want something they don’t have, and that they must work hard to get it. This constant desire for more lies at the heart of our materialistic society.

For Warhol, this idea was something utterly fascinating. Working both against and with the idea of commercialism, Warhol worked with everyday materials as a way of showing that the things around us are worthy of as much respect, admiration and time as those we are taught to desire more. (Warhol, 2007) The things we already have can be as interesting as the things we don’t have, and therefore want.

The most famous example would be the soup can series. (Warhol, 2007) Highlighting the simple form, elegant design, and purposeful existence.

Andy Warhol (1964)  'Campbell's Soup Can' . Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Campbell's Soup Can'. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

In 1964 Warhol produced ‘Brillo Box (soap pads).' (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) An accurate reproduction of a commercially available product, the boxes show his interest in the everyday commercialist world we live in.

What I find most interesting about the work is that it is the container for the commercial object that has been reproduced. The ‘viewer,' or buyer, in this case, see the cardboard ancestor of this artwork not when they are buying or using it, but when it is being shipped to the shop for them to purchase.

Acknowledging mass production, both in the making of the box and the meaning of it, the work was criticised for “capitulating to consumerism, ” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but that certainly wasn’t the prevailing opinion.  

Arthur Danto, an influential art critic, found Warhol’s Brillo boxes intriguing and wrote about them in an essay ‘Beyond the Brillo Box.' (Danto, 1998) In it, he surmised that it was Warhol, as the artist, that made these boxes anything more than what they were. Calling them “pretty good pieces of carpentry” (Danto, 1998) Danto speaks about them being indistinguishable from commercial brillo boxes, the only difference in them is the declaration from Warhol that they are art.

Warhol himself was a believer that anything an artist did was art, once they had become an artist. (Warhol, 2007)

It was this examination of the Brillo Boxes that led Danto to conclude; that it is the intervention of the artist and the invocation of artistic context that defines an artwork. This invocation of artistic context is what he termed, ‘The Artworld,' without which the artwork could not exist. (Danto, 1998)

Works like the box reproductions (Brillo pads were not the only source of influence in the 100 strong series that Warhol worked on) (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) blur the lines on authorship, primarily because of the way Warhol ran his practice.

Andy Warhol (1964) ' Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'.  Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'. Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Working with a team, Warhol often delegated tasks, creating a near conveyer belt for artists and technicians, all working as part of a collaborative authorship.

In the first retrospective of his work in 1968 the entrance of the gallery was filled with 500 Brillo boxes, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but which boxes did Warhol work on himself, or even touch? And does that even matter? The art now exists and has become an autonomous entity in its own right, with inbuilt, ever-evolving meaning and message.

Warhol often gave plans of work to be made to the manufacturer's (in this case meaning individuals) who would work away from the originator of the idea. This reproduction, authorised as it was, can be considered a controversial topic.

In answer to the above questions – aside from the point made – is that in this case none of the boxes were made by Warhol, and none of them we even made of wood. In 2007 it was revealed, by someone linked to the exhibition, that there were no wooden boxes in the show.  Short on time and money someone (an unknown entity) purchased 500 cardboard boxes, directly from the factory in New York, which were shipped to Stockholm and displayed. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

I have to note here that Warhol would probably love the fact that his work has been increasing in value at a higher inflation rate than gold, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) considered the most glamorous and valuable of commodities. In 1994 they sold for £3,700 each, by 2000 one sold for £50,000, in 2006 one reached £120,000. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

There has since been an air of controversy surrounding the authenticity of the boxes. It is the authentication board of the Andy Warhol Foundation, which has the final say on what is and isn’t authentic. Any work authenticated by the board achieves artistic fame, and a catalogue number, those that don’t make it through the process are crudely stamped with the word ‘denied’ in red ink, defining and marking it as unwanted and useless.

The controversy over the Brillo Boxes in the 1968 exhibition has since been explained. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) A rather entrepreneurial curator Pontus Hulten, twisted in the controversy throughout, had claimed to make the boxes at Warhol's request before the retrospective. It has since come to light that the fabrication of the boxes was done in 1990, three years after Warhol died.  His reasons for this have been argued and defended. A staunch critic of the consumerist art market Hulten did not need the money involved in a fraud like this. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) I hesitate to use the term fraud. As an art student, I feel a sense of freedom to speak about this controversy regarding what it means for art.

Regardless of the financial or moral implications of a ‘fraud’ like this, it brings up more questions about authenticity, providence and the falsity of the art market.

In fact, this ‘fraud’ could more accurately be considered a piece of performance art itself.

As Thomas Anderberg, a Swedish art critic, said: “I believe Hulten decided to show up the entire Warhol industry.” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

The fact that the authenticity of Warhol's works is so complicated questions the validity of the entire process. In 2003 a print was denied by the foundation, even though its provenance was solid and it even had Warhols signature on the work. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) The defence for this rejection was that Warhol didn’t make the work, he only signed it. A disappointing response considering the way Warhol worked.

Who is the artist? What is the art? Does the artist have to touch the art? If the works are a series of reproductions why does it matter which one Warhol touched? The notion of artistic genius is at the forefront of the argument once more. The authentication board has defended itself by stating that its purpose is to clarify the distinctions between what he did make and what he didn’t make. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) Personally, I think the more important consideration is why there is a difference in value between the two.

Sadly the integrity of the Warhol authenticity board has been called into question, and it faces an extended period of uncertainty. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

It doesn’t, however, negate the totality of Warhol's work; it only questions some of it.

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Warhol was someone who believed that the world could work in a better way and that the way to do that was through the clever manipulation of the truth and our understanding of the way we see the world. (Warhol, 2007)

Rather than have a studio he called his space a factory. A contradicting conversation between art and production, Warhol argued that the two are inextricably linked. (Warhol, 2007) The lesson he saw in the factory is that we can produce things, things called art, in a different way than history would suggest. Traditionally, and in general terms, art is something that is created by an individual and enjoyed by an individual. The creation of 'Art' happens on massive scales, but the commercial side of the art world means that the final position for each piece is most often eventually either disposed of or owned by a single individual.

For Warhol a way around this was reproduction.  Which explains his interest in soup cans, screen printing, and Brillo boxes.

After reading that Picasso had made 4000 masterpieces in his lifetime, Warhol decided that he would create 4000 in one day. A goal he quickly failed, he did make 500 in a month, a feat Picasso probably didn’t achieve. (Warhol, 2007) (Although that does beg the question – what is a masterpiece?)

Warhol wanted to apply the notions of commercialism and mass-production to the ‘good’ things in life. (Warhol, 2007) Things he saw as necessary to the continued development (as opposed to the current stagnation) of the human race. The issue that is in evidence through his attempted record-breaking printmaking goals, as well as other aspects of his life, is that art remains partitioned from mass production. (Warhol, 2007) That the art market exists and is the foundation for the continued existence of art is common knowledge, although still argued tremendously, it is a very different creature from mass-market commercialism, which Warhol arguably edged towards.

Warhol was interested in large-scale impact. He could be argued to be one of the most prolific artists when it came to trying different things. He tried drawing, painting, printing, audio recording, photography, sculpture, magazine editing, clothing manufacturing, advertising, band management, directing, he even planned a chat show. (Warhol, 2007)

Warhol’s legacy challenges future artists to change the world, in a mass populist way, through the medium (or message) of art.  

Reflection

The implications of Warhol's work, and perspective are far-reaching, including into my own practice.

I am a maker at heart, and it is through that production that I can question our assumptions about art and process, and hopefully inspire those questions in the viewer.

Warhol did this, extremely successfully, in his own, unique way, I can only hope to do it in mine.

Bibliography

Danto, A C. (1998) Beyond the Brillo Box: The visual arts in post-historical perspective. California: The university of California press.

Levy, A. and Scott-Clark, C. (2010) ‘Warhol’s box of tricks.’ The Guardian. [Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/aug/21/warhol-brillo-boxes-scandal-fraud [Accessed - 20.11.17].

Tompkins, C. (2013) Marcel Duchamp: The afternoon interviews. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited.

Warhol, A (2007) The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : From A and B and Back Again. St Ives : Penguin Books.

 

Research - 'The Studio' and 'The Gallery' or 'The Factory' and 'The White Cube' by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

I have continually found the differences between the studio and gallery fascinating. At university, this difference can be seen in the same space, which is an unusual situation. I doubt I will see it much after university.

The combination of studio and gallery in a single location has been a catalyst for my interests, and this work could have only been created in a space housing that dichotomy.

The Studio - The Factory.

In the studio, the aesthetics of the space are set aside in favour of the process. Artists studios are a snapshot into their minds, and the variety of forms the studio can take are as varied as the artists themselves.

The studio can be defined as the space where an artist ‘works’, where paintings are created, sculptures are formed, and objects become Art, and potentially any site of activity.

An enigmatic geographical location that denies and defies its definition, the studio is as complicated a subject as many found in the artworld.

Developments in the last century include the discovery and embrace of concepts like installation art, relational aesthetics, performance and other site-specific activities, which by definition occur, at least in part, outside the studio. Leading to the suggestion that we are in the stage of the ‘post-studio condition.' (Hoffmann, 2012)

Once, and possibly still, considered a solitary space where an unknowable genius resides, the studio has changed with the modern world, becoming something so-far undefined, and perhaps as indefinable as artists themselves.

Every studio is different and has various demands placed on it. (make no mistake, artists are demanding people)

People continue to have a fascination with the artist's studio, and the activities that take place, undoubtedly in part due to the desire to understand art, and where better to start than understanding the studio. This fascination can be seen in television programs and videos ‘visiting’ the studio, which seem to hover between a recorded reverence and honesty of a documentary and a near romantic escapism.

A clear example of the romanticism of the studio can be seen in the preservation of Francis Bacon’s studio. (Cappock, Undated) Carefully undertaken by a team of professionals, the space has been meticulously collected and replicated in Dublin. The recreation even took the dust collected since Bacon’s death in 1992. What purpose can be found in this preservation of space and object? The studio has been turned into a museum, displaying itself.

Given the rise and expansion of painting, performance, and installation the studio is an artwork awaiting nomination.

The contemporary studio model can be traced back to the shifting focus of art during the Renaissance, as patrons began to fund artists where art had previously been governed by a central system, revolving around the church, and it's monastic institutions. (Klonk, 2009)

The relationship between artist and patron became necessary for both, as individual artists were commissioned to create works for an entire household.

The work would have been created in the ‘bottega’ - workroom - as opposed to the ‘studiolo’ which was more a space for contemplation and study. The etymological link here being the Latin 'studium', meaning to study. (Klonk, 2009)

The artist's development came through apprenticeship; a promising young artist would work for years at the instruction of a master before being considered to learn the art of the master.

This system is linked to the ‘Atelier,' a French word combining studio and workroom, where a single artist would be assisted by a team of apprentices. (Klonk, 2009)

Commissioned portraits would remain a central staple for the artist's livelihood for centuries, as developments in techniques and ideas continued.

The studio became an amalgamation of the workroom and study room, a space where both worked together to create and develop. The contemplation of the 'studiolo' worked into the process of the workroom. (Klonk, 2009)

The basic structure of the atelier and artists themselves remained mostly unchanged from the Middle Ages to the 1800’s. (Klonk, 2009) In 1816 the first academy was opened in Paris - the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts - which hosted its own exhibitions, the first salons, to critique, analyse and support the growing developments in the art world and our understanding of it.(Klonk, 2009)

Academy’s like this became the foundation of art in that century and were the catalysts that avant-guards artists would rebel against in the beginning of Modernism. (Klonk, 2009)

The beginnings of mass-production had a significant impact on art. Making paint, which was once a laborious process became something far different when it could be purchased in small, portable, tubes. (Klonk, 2009) Efficiency was the word of the time - and with efficiency comes introspection and an expansion of philosophy, and therefore, art.

The developments and the natural outlook and creativity of artists led to an entirely new way of painting - en plein air - literally meaning “in open air.” (Klonk, 2009) The studio became mobile.

Artists began to work on their own artwork, rather than a total reliance on commissioned works artworks sold more and more on the basis of their own merit —l'art pour l'art, or "art for art's sake." (Klonk, 2009)

In the 1960’s Andy Warhol subverted the notion of the studio, although his work questions whether it was a subversion or not. His studio became The Factory, a space that owes influence to Ford’s production methods.

Warhol worked extensively with ideas of repetition, replication, and reality, or at least the reality of modern life and the celebrity. The Factory was equally known for drug-fueled parties and a high production of artistic output. (Warhol, 2007) Combined with his persona and perspective Warhol brought us the idea of an artist as a brand. Which I see as a form of practice as artwork.

Jeff Koons, a definite artistic celebrity, employs hundreds of assistants in a studio that looks more like the headquarters of a successful modern company, which is probably because the artist's process is most like one, a cyclical return to the apprentice/master relationship. (Warhol, 2007)

When compared to Warhol’s factory the studios of some contemporary artists look like scientific labs, high-tech think tanks, or indeed any other model.

Like art itself, the artist's studio is always a reflection the spirit of the times, and like the definition of art, the artist's studio is varied, undefinable and delightfully mysterious, often even to the artists.

The Gallery - The white cube.

The gallery was traditionally perceived in the same way we perceive a museum; a place where things are not touched and are idolised in quasi-religious contemplation, and often worship.

From experience, I can say that galleries tend to be quiet places, large or small, where visitors are monitored for behaviour, although often unobtrusively.

While the physical appearance and expectations are one of good behaviour, the experiences of a museum and art galleries are designed to be a positive one.

Interestingly, when museums began to be opened to the public, in the eighteenth century, they were used by the public as other public spaces were, as places to spend downtime with friends and family. Charlotte Klonk writes in her book, Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000, that it was through room design and layout that the shift in museum etiquette began.

The creation of public galleries meant that arts audience widened dramatically, and therefore it's purpose altered. That goal is still vehemently argued but the shift to what we now know as art can be linked to the opening of these public spaces.

The white cube can be traced to MOMA in the 1930’s. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) The culmination of various roots, the white cube was the result of a desire to show the depth and colour of paintings produced at the time against the most contrasting background, a pure white wall. (Klonk, 2011) Klonk discusses another root in the desire for hygiene, a white wall shows dirt more easily and appears clean. In the 1920’s theories were emerging about the connotations between white and infinite space. Combined with the increasing desire for temporary spaces to exhibit the white cube emerged.

In full effect by the 1950’s anyone who has since been to an art gallery will have experienced the white cube. Designed to house, acknowledge and present art to the public, aka, the consumer.

It wouldn't be wrong to suggest that, the majority of artworks are experienced in galleries or other forms of curated settings.  A transformative process, curation takes the artwork from studio to gallery.  During the post-creation time, the process of art becomes one of curation. The works are placed carefully, the space aligned with other elements of the work to enhance themes, ideas, and conversations.

Galleries are a mix of publicly and privately funded institutions where art can be exhibited and experienced. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) Curators have increased in importance and amount as the development of art has grown. The vast majority of artists make work to be shown in galleries. These institutions have become almost religious in their status as the bastions of fine art.

Galleries are designed to be visited, and when the onlooker enters the gallery, they are trusting the institution. The larger the gallery, the more the public trusts that the work will be ‘good.' In turn, a gallery has a responsibility to its visitors to ensure that the trust is earned and validated.

Galleries are not without their biases, in fact, the reverse is closer to the truth. The experience of a gallery is carefully curated to achieve a specific result. It is a physical space utterly controlled by a theoretical ideal. This is no secret and artists often use the white cube to their advantage. The gallery becomes another blank canvas; the space is the surface. Galleries are a lens through which art can be seen.  

The exploration of this bias has led to a relatively new term, Installation art, discussed on another page in this blog.

Looking at a piece of art against a white background removes all associations, other than those with art. The idea is to show the single art in it's purest form.

Curation allows the experience of the entire space to work by invoking the experiences of the individual works into a narrative whole.

“We have to be able to forget that there are walls and have found no better way to do that, than with pictures. Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures.” (Bachelard, 1992)

The gallery is designed to be aseptic, to show as little human presence as possible. Toilets, desks, shops and other areas of purpose are kept away from the work where possible or otherwise as unobtrusive as possible. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011)  - experience??

The spaces exist for experience and contemplation alone. This expectation of behaviour and understanding can be uncomfortable for some, but the intention is all about the art.

The white cube remains a somewhat controversial subject and has become close enough to the factors that constitute an artwork that it can be argued to be an artwork in its own right.

Reflection

Observations of gallery and studio have formed most of this text, experience. These observations have formed many works directly, and an indirect interest in this juxtaposition is part of the foundation of my interests.

This research has been an additional element of my growing collection. Knowing the traditional and origins of both studio and gallery has been a useful tool through my explorations.

It's interesting to note that both gallery and studio can be seen as artwork, in theory, if not in practice.

Bibliography

Klonk, C. (2009) Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000. Yale University Press.

Bachelard, G. (1992) The Poetics of Space. New York. Penguin Publishing.

Hoffmann, J. (2012) The Studio. MIT Press.

Cappock, M. (Undated) History of Studio Relocation. [Online] Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Available from: http://www.hughlane.ie/history-of-studio-relocation. [Accessed 17.11.17].

Maak, N. Klonk, C. and Demand, T (2011) ‘The White Cube and Beyond’. Tate. [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/white-cube-and-beyond [Accessed  20.11.17].

Warhol, A (2007) The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : From A and B and Back Again. St Ives : Penguin Books.