Warhol and Sartorial rhetoric!

Jenna and Sarah will lead discussion this coming week. Here are just a few opening questions to begin the discussion.

1. How does Dyer conceptualize Warhol’s view of himself? his audience?
2. As we have seen in a number of previous articles, Dyer frames her article by the “via negativa,” that is to say, here are the existing interpretations of Warhol’s works and this is why they do not work.
3. In contrasting the rival readings of the content of Warhol’s work, the commodity culture vs. the commentary on the tragic state of culture, what is Dyer trying to establish?
4. What is the significance of the mundane?
5. How does making things the same also make them different?
6. Did this article make you dizzy?
7. How does Andy Warhol’s style affect the meaning/content of his serial images?
8. How does the preeminence of surface in Warhol’s works reinforce the author’s thesis—or do you disagree with this aspect of the article?

Okay….can I just say how smart Amelia Jones is? I just think her work is so stimulating!

1. Clothing is the means for negotiating identities between the wearer and observer. Discuss.
2. What were the male artists’ sartorial options in the 19th century?
3. Have you ever thought of clothing in the performative sense? Why do certain clothes cast a feminizing light on male artists?
4. In siding with the working class or the dandy, who was the artist rejecting?
5. What do you think of Buci-Glucksmann’s Baudelairean flaneur theory? That to dress as a dandy was a way to defuse one’s anxieties in relation to the emasculating gender and class instabilities of modern urban life?
6. What is the “Great Masculine Renunciation”? Can we talk about the disavowal of the “aphanisis of male specularity”? Don’t you love language?
7. Why are Duchamp and Warhol so radical? What stance does Jackson Pollock adopt?
8. In what sense does Klein ironize the idea of the artist as a creative genius? Why isn’t Klein’s suit a bourgeois sellout?
9. Identity for Morris and Burden (for example) is “contingent on an exchange of visual information rather than phallic inevitability;” how does that change the landscape of the art world?
10. Clothes, it would seem, are yet another weapon in the hegemonic arsenal!

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16 responses

  1. Ok, so I’m not going to say much now because rather save some of it for discussion in class tomorrow. I really did not like this article at all, or more so I should say the author. Who is Jennifer Dyer to call Andy Warhol mundane. After getting tired of her constant word choice, I decided to look up the full definition of mundane, and you know what popped up, “common, ordinary, unimaginative”. You know what I think she’s unimaginative. She completely removed any credit of Andy Warhol. Every step of the way she belittles him in some way, I’m starting to think she has a grudge against him. Did a professor give her an F on a Warhol paper, is that where the resentment is coming from. Anyways, I apologize for my ranting, I do hope tomorrow will be an article bashing day. I have to say that there was only one thing I completely agreed on with her, the fact that 2 prints will ever come out the same. I agree with this statement based on experience. Beyond that, I have to say I’m not a big fan. I’m sure we’ll be having a “fun” discussion of it tomorrow!

    • Oh Jess, you are so right to speculate! I think that the amount of belittling by calling his work mundane make it seem as if she is denoting his work as art at all.

      I do admit that I found his earlier work more compelling, but to brush him off as common or unimaginative is far from the truth!! Tisk, tisk Dyer!

  2. Hey all– I really apologize, but I am still reading this insane article (for about the 5th time). Here are two questions to get us started. I will (I promise!) send more questions tonight.

    1. Dyer says, “However, to present the artwork through the artist and the artist through the artwork is tautological and, in this case, does not lead to any understanding of Warhol’s oeuvre (that it is redundant to try to figure out who the artist is based on his work, and the significance of his work based on the artist).
    (33-34) But on page 35 Dyer says: “there can be no doubt that a critical analysis of Warhol’s oeuvre must take into consideration the relation of Warhol’s life to his artwork. As I will show, the two are intimately intertwined.” Are these two statements contradictory?

    2. Dyer cites Danto who says that Warhol’s work must be read as a symptom of the time “a media oriented culture, at a unique historical moment” (34). Yet, says Dyer, if this is so, then the “artworks become wholly contingent and irretrievably lost for the present that came after him” (34). Lets discuss this. Does that mean we can’t appreciate/understand works by Warhol, Baudelaire, and Monet because we weren’t there at the moment of their creation? That these works are moot and wholly contingent upon the times in which their works were produced? Is the art no longer relevant, is it meaningless (simply because we came after)? Are these works “irretrievably lost” for us?

  3. Some more questions:

    3. Dyer says that Warhol’s work “presents the viewer with powerful icons, but they are icons of the mundane rather than the divine” (35). If they’re “powerful,” then why are they mundane? Discuss!

    4. Dyer quotes Gilles Deleuze: “repetition belongs to humor and irony” (36). Lets discus this. What about the repetitive images of Kings, Christ, the Madonna, Monet’s repetitious series of Church façade paintings? Does repetition and irony belong to the case of Warhol only?

    5. Dyer cites Matthew Tinckom who says that Warhol’s images are “[d]etached from any contextualizing narrative” (36). Do you agree? Isn’t the narrative already there, embedded in our minds, that therefore the narrative/context exists without having to be seen?

  4. Wow, this is certainly a unique perspective on Warhol. The more I read the more I was confused by Dyer’s perspective. I, too, found that Jenna’s question 2 was interesting. Of course, understanding and being part of a time period can lend a different perspective, but I do not think are becomes passe or irrelevant due to age. That also seems like a particularly unusual.

    I found myself doubting the opinions and perspectives presented simply because they seemed so biased, much like Jess.

    I have always found Warhol’s work really interesting and, while repetitive, meaningfully so and certainly not mundane. I am excited to discuss this article tomorrow and cannot wait to hear what everyone has to say.

  5. Yes, there is a lot to decode from this article, especially at times when Dyer’s perspective may seem overly hypocritical and biased.

    I neither think that we had to be in the same time as Warhol to fully appreciate the art nor do I think that his art has lost value now a days.

    Another bothersome part of the article is how she begins it with the subtitle of “How to Look at Warhol” as if to give us some sort of prescriptive method in how to observe or understand his art. I always find it problematic when writers think that they can tell a viewer how to look at art and appreciate what an artist has created.

    Anyways, I am excited to unveil some truth behind why the author is set in her view on Warhol.

  6. Sorry guys — especially you, Jenna — I’m having some sleep issues, which may be clear since I’m posting at this time! Anyway…

    I don’t believe Dyer is using the word mundane in a derogatory way in this article. Rather than saying Warhol is dull, I think she is arguing that his iconographic choices reflect objects that are considered common/mundane (those of everyday life like soup cans or inevitably tragic events like car crashes). And she thinks this is important because Warhol presented them in an aggrandizing way. I’m thinking specifically of the section on page 36:

    “Taken at face value, their iconic semblance allows them to be seen as devotional in terms of their iconic semblance… Warhol’s larger than life images render his objects glamorously mystifying.”

    Jenna, for your question 5, I definitely think you’re on to something. I understand what Dyer is saying in this passage, but I think you’re right to point out that part of what is at play when we look at Marilyn Diptych is that there is an unavoidable narrative attached because of our own associations and the cult of Marilyn. But I think Dyer would counter argue that really these objects are being produced, and then viewers are the ones “transposing” these images (her Tincktom reference) = viewers pull the “icon out of a causal context and imaginatively place it in one that is alien or otherworldly.” (36) I’m not sure if I really buy this completely. We’ll figure it out in class.

    I thought the comparison between 210 Coca-Cola Bottles and Monet’s series of haystacks of Rouen Cathedral was so interesting! (38) Although, for the Nine Multi-Colored Marilyn’s I think most people read this more as her emotional deterioration and not light at different times of day. That of course is me bringing my own inevitable associations, but I think those color choices make that interpretation hard to escape.

    I think this article brings up a lot and can’t wait to discuss it! See you all in class.

    • Ok, I have to admit, after reading your comment Katherine, I had to go back and reread the article in a new light. You are right, taking a more sympathetic definition to the word mundane and applying it to the article surely changes the perspective. Thanks!!

  7. I hope you all are as amazed as I am that the last blog post is here!! What a quick semester, and I’m really happy that we are ending with an article by Amelia Jones. She is someone, I think, that has a great writing method (not too confusing) and is direct in her argument!

    1. Raymond Williams said, “the identity adopted by the artist not only stresses creativity as its basis, but operates through a rejection of bourgeois culture and of the femininity associated with bourgeois domesticity. ” This was a really interesting quote and I’d like to know what you all have to say about it, not only in association with the 19th century artists, but also applying it to more contemporary artists discussed in the article.

    2. Is the dandy against depersonalizing capitalism and the feminization of the subject? How does this tie in with the idea of Flaneur?

    3. The Great Masculine Renunciation- enables men to subliminate their narcissism and sexual energy toward more socially useful avenues of expression than those available to women. Is this truly, as Flugel suggests, a way to be seen as well as a way to see?

    4. Does postmodern irony show an artists defiance? Are artists, by dressing middle class, really being ironic and not just wanting to be a part of bourgeoise culture?

    5. The veiled body is an object of the audience’s gaze (pg 27). I am not much of a Jeff Koons fan, but in relation to the veiled body, is he taking advantage of this, or might he even be unsuccessful?

  8. Dyer’s presentation of her argument was well constructed yet; at times the article seemed repetitive, so perhaps this article did make me dizzy. I enjoyed Dyer’s discussion of Warhol’s prints as “reworking Christian iconography,” doing this by presenting the subjects with no “contextualizing background,” but replacing a divine subject with recognizable figures in 1960’s popular culture. Whether that be a Campbell’s soup can or a portrait of Marilyn Monroe. By using these images in popular culture, rather than religious images Dyer points out that he is then questioning iconography itself. I related to the idea that alone prints in a series become monotonous and meaningless where as when repeated on the same canvas “…the process of repetition generates difference.” The differences found in Warhol’s prints display the hand of the artist. The amount of paint used and placement of the print varies thus showing the imperfect process.

    • I wrote “shoot me” in the margins several times throughout this article—it was repetitive (but I certainly got the point….). I of course love the reference to Christian icons and I think the “differences in serialization” is a very intriguing idea—-something I never noticed in his work but now clearly see.

  9. I had never heard of the way Dyer described Warhol’s artwork as reworking Christian iconography, I found that discussion to be especially interesting, looking at an artist so well known for images of pop culture imagery and neon and bright color schemes, “as
    a maker of icons, surrounded by apprentices working in a type of Renaissance studio.” -page 36. This idea works surprisingly well, and then Warhol seems to turn the idea into a farce as his subjects are unexpected, and undeserving of the idolization, such as the can of soup.
    Dyer’s discussion on the repetition of the piece was really interesting, as I’ve heard discussion on the repetition of Marylin Monroe’s face before, but those focussed more on the purposefully imperfect versions of her face and the commentary there on pop culture ruining Monroe. It seems important that there are countless repeated differentiations of a subject, that it was not merely the differentiations, but the unlimited repetition as well that is important in Warhol’s work. Because he could make similar statements on the destruction of popular culture icons without repeated versions of the icons, there seems to be more to the fact that Warhol, like Monet, “reworked the possibilities inherent in one image into many adumbrations of that image.” -page 39.

    • I’m so glad you brought up that comparison that she makes between Warhol and Monet. I would love to discuss this further in class! Because Warhol’s changes are all on the surface and Monet’s changes record the passage of time in a way that denies the surface, I wonder if we can go there?

  10. 4. I absolutely love Warhol’s use of the mundane. And within this article, I really appreciated Dyer’s mention of the use of mundane as deity, because I personally think that plays a huge part in Warhol’s work. Warhol’s repetition or similar iconography in a setting out of place of it’s normality is not only visually and logically jarring, but it on par, in my mind, with the icons of saints on votives in Dollar Tree. It’s, like Duchamp, taking an object’s purpose and changing and abstracting it. I’m reading a source for my seminar report that’s studying the history of comics (and I know this is slightly off course but), and it had a section where it talked about comic art as a purely North American art form, as that’s where it took off. The way I see it, and I think Dyer might agree, judging by her discussion of Warhol as a wholly new kind of artist in his corruption of tradition, is that Warhol’s art, in all it’s absurdity, is whole North American as well. From the production to the distribution, the capitalizing and corrupting of and on items and people, and the factorial production of dissimilarly similar pieces, It’s a break from the tradition of even the impressionist and surrealist artists.

  11. This article definitely made me dizzy! The paradox Dryer presents about “the activity of making things the same also makes them different” is something that I find difficult to dissect, but believe is directly connected to the notion of the mundane. Mundane images are easily recognizable, often relatable, and epitomize consumer culture and reproduction; therefore the celebrities Warhol used in his artwork are considered mundane simply out of the public’s familiarity with them and their role as media for consumption. What distinguishes mundane objects is their production. Soup cans are manufactured through a series of automated steps that produce identical cans, yet each can is distinguished through its individual production and ultimate existence in space as separate objects. In the same way an individual soup can is produced as a result of a standardized process, Warhol’s individual prints are the result of the same steps. The process is the same, but the result is different. Dryer points to one example of the prints’ distinction in the inconsistent alignment of the silkscreen and the variance in color between prints. Additionally, just like each can’s individual existence in space, each of Warhol’s prints are distinguished by aura even if the also have a collective aura as a series.

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