Artifact: Andy Warhol's Ironic Achievement


Credit: Andy Warhol

Even when he was making replicas of S&H trading stamps, Andy Warhol (1928–1987) never worked small, so it's fitting that Phaidon Press has produced Andy Warhol "GIANT" Size, a stunning, massive compendium of more than 2,000 images of the Pittsburgh native's art and life (the tome is 17-inches by 13-inches and weighs a hefty 15 pounds).

Riffing off Dada, catalog illustration, post-war celebrity culture, and more, Warhol never fretted over the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Rather, he gloried in inverting the myth of the starving, romantic genius. "Andy Warhol transformed the artist's studio from a 'lonely garret' into a collective, corporate endeavor," writes Dave Hickey in his insightful introduction.

Warhol also transformed the unique masterpiece into a series of repetitive and iconic images ranging from Campbell's soup cans to boxes of Brillo soap pads to lithographs of matinee idols such as Elizabeth Taylor in which different colors stand in for different "flavors" of consumer products. Perhaps most devilishly, he refused to traffic in the idea that art and commerce were in any way mutually exclusive.

A master of deadpan irony, he once said, "Anyone can do what I do," a statement that is self-evidently false and, in the wide-open cultural world he did so much to create, absolutely true.