What Andy Warhol's 'Campbell's Soup Cans' Teaches Us About Consumerism

What Andy Warhol's 'Campbell's Soup Cans' Teaches Us About Consumerism

How 32 cans became immortal.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was the epitome of an artist; he could transform anything and dabbled in a variety of techniques. A pivotal figure to the Pop Art movement, his work of art "Campbell’s Soup Cans" produced in 1962, extends beyond his resume to contemporary approaches of defining art and an attack on the vapid consumerist culture ravaging America.

Pop Art has laid its claim and become renowned for borrowing from other styles, artists, and countries. Embedded was a message that originality is dead and what we do now is but a mere replica of a distant form. Rather than reject this, people should come to terms with the reality of things, fashion, and art itself.

The 1960s movement proclaims that art can still be made, but to be self-aware and look to abandoned preconceived ideas of what constitutes an unconventional form for a canvas. It's a departure from longstanding traditions of what to represent or what can be a still-life model.

Warhol famously declared, “Everyone is an artist.” He stood true to his claims and rallied for others to create art from popular culture. Like-minded individuals adhered and followed suit. Cropping, manipulating color, distorting its transparency and other changes to a base advertisement took exhibits by storm. Warhol reproduced and contritely replicated an ordinary object recognizable to shoppers.

"Campbell’s Soup Cans" would find its debut on July 9, 1962, in the Los Angeles Gallery entitled Ferus. Each can has its own 20" x 16" canvas placed in close proximity to the other. First displayed on the wall like a painting, they hung just above shelves as a tribute to its real-life existence in a grocery store.

The number 32 is symbolic, stemming from the namesake company – Campbell’s Soup – who sold 32 soup flavors. Warhol refused the idea of selling each piece off, a surprising choice in a market where profit could be found in 32 sales. This would then be considered Warhol's official entrance into the Pop Art movement.

Instructions did not go further. Warhol did not indicate the artwork's procession. Often in art, rigid formulaic instructions are left behind to have everything in prestige place. It was Warhol's way of saying that art needed to change its approaches to things are done. Instead, the curators took the initiative and arranged them in row order of the date of each can's release. Its tomato can from 1987 would have the honor of kicking it off.

"Campbell’s Soup Cans" is a precursor to Warhol's later acclaimed style. Here, they have the look of being mass-produced from a hardworking printing machine up to its brim. But in fact, each image is hand-painted with a synthetic polymer. Warhol wanted to convey the look of them being fake to keep his vision churning.

The cans did have subtle variations, with its front product labels stating its flavor to spice things up. Nevertheless, they are identical to each other with a quick panning glance turning them into the exact same being. Upon release, criticism and parodies were spawned by the general public. Warhol's piece was dubbed a flop.

Outrage has formed, something not unknown to avant-garde artists. Calling for a decline in art academics and the critic circle alike, "Campbell’s Soup Cans" was seen as an intrusive force to the established longstanding world of art. There were standards expected to be held of what a painting was and meant. Warhol quintessentially bridges the idea that making art is equivalent to picking out a can of soup and deciding to eat it.

Another point of interest to the reactions is that this piece has no demographics, instead, it is made for everyone. This runs in contrast to other traditions, where audiences were narrowed down to recognize certain iconography or historical context. Here, anybody can read Warhol's paintings.

That is not to say Warhol's effort was as mindless as conscious consumption. In many ways, he is reflected in the cans. Warhol once said, “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.” The repetition of his life is the same as the mundane patterns others engage in. "Campbell’s Soup Cans" grants him permission to grapple with himself.

Highlighting the disposability of items and inaneness in what gets deemed important via trendsetting movements, it became entangled in that. Ironically, the cans generated consumerist cult status and high-end fashion pieces dedicated to them. Can dresses were worn by the elite at the finest dinner parties and were seen on the biggest runways. Now, its influence is far-reaching and source material for rejecting high art.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Manning / Flickr

Popular Right Now

The Logan Paul Fiasco Is Just A Symptom Of A Much Larger Problem

In the wake of Logan Paul's suicide forest debacle, I decided to explore how this could even happen in the first place.

Wow, 2018 sure has started off with a bang, hasn't it? First, Donald Trump seemingly threatens North Korea with nuclear annihilation. Then, all these stupid memes about tide pods and Knuckles the echidna circulate across the web, and finally, Logan Paul decided that he would not be outdone.

Yes, the YouTube star decided to vlog in Japan, and every foreigner who has ever hated American tourists for their arrogance and ignorance has been validated. When he arrived in the country, Paul stated that Japanese culture was all about respect. He then proceeded to run around streets in traditional Japanese attire, buy a Game Boy Color from a store only to immediately spike it on the road like a football, and oh yeah, went to the suicide forest, and decided to film the body of a man they found who had recently hung himself in the forest.

Yep, Logan Paul found a dead body and decided to post it on YouTube. I imagine this is what the end of "Stand By Me" would've looked like if it were written today, and by a trash person. Paul has since apologized after lots of backlashes.

Logan Paul is one of, if not the fastest growing star on YouTube, and this controversy has barely affected his ascent in subscribers, some of which defended his actions, and even sent threats to those who didn't. Also, I feel I am justified in saying that both Logan and his brother Jake Paul (a former Disney channel actor turned YouTuber) are both arrogant pricks who make their livings messing with people and being an overall nuisance to anyone they encounter and have no concept of consequences for their actions, but this article isn't about them.

I believe that their popularity is only a result of several fundamental problems with YouTube.

First, I want to get into YouTube's algorithms. It's how the site decides what videos are recommended for you, and more importantly to this story, what videos are on the trending page. Logan Paul's suicide forest video, the one with the dead body in the thumbnail, and the one with the words "dead body" in the title was NUMBER 1 on trending.

YouTube's algorithm exposed millions of people to this deplorable video.

YouTube wasn't even able to take the video down; this was a video that had to have been flagged thousands of times, and it was only removed because Logan Paul himself took it down after all of the backlashes. YouTube was simply unable to do anything about this, and there have to be changed to ensure that they don't let things like this slip through the cracks again.

The real question, at least to me, is why even make a video this ridiculous and ignorant and disrespectful in the first place?

The answer, of course, is for the content. Unfortunately, this is not new. YouTubers have been doing shocking things to get views for years now, and this has led to the bar being raised. Many things that were shocking before simply aren't anymore. We've seen it so many times we get numb, so creators come up with even crazier things to do. Eventually, it becomes normalized, and the cycle continues on and on until we have people filming dead bodies in haunted forests.

YouTubers are trying to get a rise out of us so that we click on their videos, and they're seeing how much they can get away with. It seems that on the internet, no matter which site you go to, the loudest, most obnoxious, most divisive voices always rise to the top, but they don't have to. We can resist that knee-jerk angry share that they want from us.

We don't have to give these idiots the light of day, and we can tell them that we have had enough of their crap, not with our voices, but with our views, because once those go away, they'll have no choice but to listen up.

Cover Image Credit: Esther Vargas

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"Reputation" Brings Taylor Back From The Dead

10 verses that assert Taylor's dominance.

Taylor is NOT dead. In fact, she's come back harder and stronger than she ever has in her 2017 album, "Reputation". This album is full of disses and self-confidence as she points out those that have wronged her as well as she has asserted her dominance. She is one of the most talked about celebrities in popular media as she's one of the most controversial and drama-filled artists as well.

Here is a list of the best kick-ass verses from each song off of "Reputation". The old innocent Taylor evolves anew as fierce and fiery Taylor. Here are the top ten badass verses that assert Taylor's dominance and fierce flare.

1. …Ready for it?

“Every love I’ve ever known in comparison is a failure// I forget their names now, I’m so very tame now// Never be the same now, now”

This song is perfect to put as #1 because it shows Taylor's new rocker vibe as well as her fight against all those who have doubted her.


2. End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran and Future)

“I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me// And I can’t let you go, your handprints on my soul”

Here's Taylor asserting her dominance in the guy she hopes to end up with. She not only sells herself to be valuable but also confident which is something that everyone should look up to.


3. I Did Something Bad

“I never trust a playboy but they love me// and so I fly ‘em all over the world// And I let them think they saved me// They never see it coming what I do next// This is how the world works// You gotta leave before you get left”

Taylor sings proudly of her conquers of the guys she's hurt over her life.

This is the perfect anthem for doing what the f*** you want to do because there's always going to be someone who doubts you anyways. In the end, you have to do what makes you happy.


4. Don’t Blame Me

“I’ve been breaking hearts a long time// And toying with them older guys// Just playthings for me to use// Something happened for the first time// In the darkest little paradise// Shakin’, pacin’, I just need you”

I think I can say for all of us who have experienced a love that it has made us do crazy things and think crazy thoughts from time to time. Falling in love is one of the most addicting times which is why Taylor refers to her love as a drug.


5. Delicate

“Sometimes I wonder when you sleep, are you ever dreaming of me?”

This song is about finding a new love to spend your time and energy on. It's about seeing the person that you daydream over, even if it was lust at first sight.

6. Look What You Made Me Do

“But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time// Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time”

On the reputation Album Release Party, Taylor revealed that “Look What You Made Me Do” started out as a poem:

It actually started with just a poem that I wrote about my feelings, and it’s basically about realizing that you couldn’t trust certain people, but realizing you appreciate the people you can trust. Realizing that you can’t just let everyone in, but the ones you can let in, you need to cherish. And it had all the verses in it, just basically as is.

7. So It Goes…

“cause we break down a little, but when you get me alone, it’s so simple// cause baby, I know what you know, and we can feel it”

This song is about Taylor's relationship being strong enough to withstand even the publicity and circumstances thrown their way. She's so infatuated with her beau that she even talks about how they met and the way he makes her feel. This song is definitely for you if you need some loving.

8. Gorgeous

“And I got a boyfriend he’s older than us// he’s in the club doing I don’t know what”

This song is about lusting after someone that you see at the bar and you want to talk to but you are too nervous to. This song is the song to listen to in order to gather up the nerves to talk to that attractive stranger that you see across from you but are too nervous to say hi to.

9. Getaway Car

“But you weren’t thinking, and I was just thinking”

This song is about being in an intense and romance-filled relationship that is crashing and has red flags all along. Sometimes relationships are fun rides but they come to a point where they crash.

10. King of My Heart

“Up on the rooftop with a schoolgirl crush// drinking beer out of plastic cups”

We often fool ourselves by saying we're fine by our own until a cute boy walks into our lives and begin to consume our thoughts and desires. It's that boy that makes you feel youthful and fulfilled despite all of the walls you've put up since you've been hurt so many times before.


11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied

“So baby, can we dance? Oh, through an avalanche? And say, say that we got it// I’m a mess, but I’m the mess that you wanted// Oh, cause it’s gravity, oh keeping you with me, I could’ve spent forever with your hands in my pocket”

That one love that you would be willing to climb mountains for, as long as it meant you got to be with them.

12. Dress

Flashback to my mistakes, my rebounds, my earthquake// Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me// And I woke up just in time// Now I wake up by your side// My one and only, my lifeline’’

Sometimes, it takes a friend or a lover to make us feel better. Regardless of whatever your past may be, you can always be born again.

13. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

“There I was, giving you a second chance// But then you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand”

To that one love that you don't necessarily want to trust in the first place and they end up letting you down like you expected. Yeah, we see you. And no, you don't get a second chance.

14. Call It What You Want To

“You don’t need to save me, but would you run away with me?”

During the iHeartRadio reputation release party, a clip of Taylor saying the following at a reputation Secret Session was played:

The way I feel the album is, as far as a storyline, is I feel like it starts with just getting out any kind of rebellion, or anger, or angst, or whatever. And then, like, falling in love, and realizing that you kind of settle into what your priorities are, and your life changes, but you welcome it because it’s something that matters to you. And this last part of the album feels like settling into where I am now. So it started with where I was when I started making the album, and ends with kind of my emotional state now. And this song, I think, really reflects that probably the best on the album, and it’s called “Call It What You Want.

15. New Year’s Day

“Don’t read the last page// But I stay when it’s hard or it’s wrong// But I’ll be cleaning up the

bottles with you on New Years Day”

During the iHeartRadio reputation Release Party, a clip of Taylor saying the following at an earlier Secret Session for select fans was played:

We threw a big New Year’s Eve party in London this year, and I was thinking about how everybody talks and thinks about who you kiss at midnight. Like it’s this big romantic idea of like, ‘Who are you gonna kiss at midnight, like ring in the New Year.’ And I think that is very romantic. But I think there’s something even more romantic about who’s gonna deal with you on New Year’s Day. Who’s willing to give you Advil and clean up the house. I think that states more of a permanence. So I was thinking about that, and I wrote this song called ‘New Year’s Day.’ There are two lines in this song that I had been saving for a long time, for the right moment, and I had picked them for this song, and I’m really excited about them. The first one is, ‘Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.’ And the other one is, ‘Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you.’
Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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