He was a spectator, an innovator, a radical; he was the one and only, Andy Warhol.
Born Andrew Warhola on August 6th, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was the youngest of three sons. His mother, Julia Warhola, was a Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant. At age eight, Warhol was diagnosed with Sydenham Chorea, otherwise referred to as St. Vitus ’ dance, which left him bed written for months at a time. It was then that his mother began giving Warhol his first art lessons, which inspired him to pursue free art instruction at the local Carnegie Institute.
Warhol’s father, Andrej Warhola, recognized his youngest son’s artistic ability. Following his death in 1942, Andrej left a sum of money towards Warhol’s higher education.
Warhol continued his education at Carnegie Institute of Technology, graduating in 1949 with a focus in Pictorial Design.
In 1964, Warhol painted ‘The Race Riot’, which is arguably his most significant piece both politically and psychologically.
The piece features an image of two policeman inflicting their dogs on a black man. While the image itself is not very clear, the emotion depicted in it certainly is.
The anxiety can be read in the faces of nearby onlookers, the sheer terror in the running man is loud and clear, and the ruthlessness of the men pursuing him is implied. These emotions are revealed directly to the viewer, the coloring and duplication of the image assists in evoking a clear display of Warhol’s thoughts on the discrimination of the time.
I believe that Warhol fulfilled all four levels of the roles of being an artist in this work.
I believe that he helped show the world in more innovative ways. At the time, many individuals of Caucasian descent overlooked the rioting in Birmingham as foolishness, or with total disregard. Racism was still prevalent and segregation was still enforced. Warhol directly showed the pain caused by white-on-black racism.
Warhol also made a visual record of culture and current time. As stated above, both racism and segregation were prevalent in 1964. Although some history books may leave the time period as a sugarcoated fairy tale ending in peace and unity, that is not the case. History must be learned, or else it will be repeated. The brutality these individuals faced to make a better life for their children is a lesson to be learned for all generations.
The simplicity of a photograph, the ease of a snapshot to be shared with friends, or the mild content which we view in our everyday lives is something of strength which we often forget. The market for photography is so large, but often overlooked. Everything from social networking sites to having a blanket with your favorite picture on it to the background on your phone, pictures are everywhere, we so often forget how much power a picture can possess. When Warhol duplicated an image four times and showed it being overcast by different colors, he made us view the image in a new way.
Warhol also shed light into hidden parts of many individual’s lives. Even though segregation was at the beginning of the end, it was still prevalent in everyday lives. Children were being bullied, restaurant service denied, water fountains separated, because of skin pigmentation; such a small, uncontrollable factor, but such a high, insurmountable price if your genetics happen to place you on the less preferred side of the spectrum.
The color scheme, white, blue, and a double-dose of red, is an ironic comparison to the American flag, and may just have been a statement on the artist’s political beliefs, but we might never know.
In psychology, white is symbolic of purity. While we can agree that the action being portrayed in the image is anything but pure, on first impression, to some, it may have been just that. Many at that time saw the blacks as dirty, their race as unclean, and of good riddance.
Blue is typically symbolic of depression, loneliness, or heartache. In the cast of individuals in the back of the photograph, one of them may have been the man who was being pursued’s mother. Perhaps his best friend, his colleague, or a little girl knowing that she will be next.
The meaning of red is easy, violence, bloodshed, and mindlessness. Red brings death in its wake.
Warhol wanted change. He wanted the cycle to end. He wanted people to open their eyes up and see the world around them, he wanted them to think, to feel. He wanted their animistic ways to become humanized once again. Most of all, he wanted peace.
He attempted this in the most ironic way possible.