It is true that the term “Kitch” has carried with it a sting of pretension, and I don’t completely disagree with that. The term “Kitch” makes reference in the Art world to work that has no intrinsic meaning or purpose and is ultimately aesthetically low brow. Art that is just art and nothing else; primary colours, basic shapes, pretty much art that misses the point and doesn’t hold any particular feeling. 1950’s America became the birthplace for Kitch art. Society at the time was preoccupied with the idea of comfort, ease and accessibility of every aspect of their home life. Canned and frozen food were the highlights of quintessential 1950’s American living. People were obsessed with the ideas of the fast and accessibility of everything.
When it came to the advent of Kitch Art to the gallery only one name really comes to mind; Andy Warhol. Despite the papers, books and journals written about him, he is still very much an enigma. On the surface, his portfolio is aesthetically Kitch, however, peeling back the layers, Warhol’s artwork was very much a commentary on the superficiality of 1950’s Modern Life and the desire for commodities and possessions. His public personality matched his portfolio seamlessly; like his work it carried a double meaning. Warhol carried on as a socialite for most of his life. The public impression of Andy Warhol, was a complete satire; a caricature not of who he was but rather of what he perceived people to view him as. He was the ultimate actor.
Like Lichtenstein’s work, Warhol sort to reproduce stock social signifiers of the time, in a formulaic graphic design. The fact that these signifiers were cliche and so completely recognisable by the public fed into the idea of his work being Kitch. By contrast, the Kitch nature of his work was a direct commentary that commodities became the signifiers of Modern life. That society could be represented by the latest and most modern gadgets and things. The Pop Art Movement sort to bring this phenomena to the forefront. Consumerism became the birthplace for Kitch and so to its welcome to the gallery.
The Pop Art Movement was indeed a very interesting one. Artwork about cows, and cans of soup, haphazard colourings of famous faces and the simplicity of the subject matter made the art world appear comical and ridiculous. These superficial ideas being bandy around as profound thought. The artists of the 1950’s were satirising the behaviour of the 1950’s upper class lifestyle and in turn selling it to the same people they were commenting on and calling it profound art. It was genius really. Mocking those who were wealthy by selling them as vapid and meaningless an art piece and people still taking it as profound art. Warhol was the master of this sort of double entender. The fact that people still bought and sold his paintings of cows and canes of soup perpetuated his idea of consumerism and the fickleness of the 1950’s.
I believe that Andy Warhol’s work is still mistaken even today as a very empty and meaningless portfolio, despite it really being far from it. His work made it okay to comment on society free of prejudice. It was a rebellion on the path society was taking and bringing to the forefront the silliness and vapidness of materialism. I think that even today his work is very relevant and that to me is the sign of a true artist. Someone whose ideas and work still spans for decades after their demise. I don’t think the world will ever not be preoccupied with the fancies and technologies of the time, but slipping into a world of materialism is just as silly as hanging a painting of a can of soup on your walls.
Be sure to check out more of Warhol’s work on his tribute sites.