Go See – Los Angeles: Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans at the Museum of Contemporary Art through September 19th, 2011

August 24th, 2011

Announcement for Warhol’s Original Soup Cans Show at Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles in 1962, via MOCA

On view now at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art is Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans from 1962. Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans are arguably both his most recognizable work, and that of American Pop Art as a whole. The installation opened on the 49th anniversary of both the first exhibition of the paintings at Los Angeles’ Ferus Gallery, and Warhol’s first solo show.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962), via the Museum of Modern Art

More text and images after the jump…

Andy Warhol, Tomato (1968), via The Whitney Museum

Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator and the processes used greatly informed his future work. In particular, his use of silk-screening and choice of seemingly mundane subject matter proved to be controversial as it was seen to be a direct assault on the more painterly movement of Abstract Expressionism. Although there was no real immediate demand for Warhol’s work, such debate helped to catapult him into the limelight, transforming his career from that of illustration to the fine arts.

Much of his work reproduced the seemingly mundane images, of well-known American products and people: dollar bills, Coca Cola bottles, Marilyn Monroe… It is with Campbell’s soups however that Warhol is most often associated. Each of the thirty-two canvases is silkscreened with a different variety of soup available in the early 1960s. At first glance, each canvas appears the same, but there are nuanced differences besides the type of soup depicted: there are minor variations in the style, size, and color and color of words, and few of the cans have additional decorations such as a banner-like addition with New! in the center.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato) (1962), via the Museum of Modern Art

Although displayed today in a grid formation, originally, the canvases in the 1962 Ferus show were placed in a line, resembling actual cans on a supermarket shelf. Although few people actually saw the installation, it provoked a heated discussion about Warhol’s supposed degradation of art to the commercial sphere. Nevertheless, the exhibition of Campbell’s Soup Cans brought Pop art to the West Coast and dramatically altered the landscape of contemporary art.

Today, the Campbell’s Soup Cans are a part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s collection. Because Warhol did not specify the order of the canvases – only that he wanted them to be viewed together and not individually – MOMA occasionally reorders the cans. No matter the order, the canvases together emphasize the uniformity within Campbell products, and the mechanized methods through which they are produced, and here, reproduced.

Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans are on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art through September 19th 2011.

– G. Linden

Related Links:

Exhibition Page [MOCA]
Critic’s Notebook: Was Andy’ Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ inspired by Willem de Kooning? [Los Angeles Times]