Do you know the history behind delicious Campbell Soup?

In 1960, Andy Warhol began producing his first canvases, which he based on comic strip subjects. In late 1961, he learned the process of silkscreening from Floriano Vecchi who had run the Tiber Press since 1953. Though the process generally begins with a stencil drawing, it often evolves from a blown up photograph which is then transferred with glue onto silk. In either case, one needs to produce a glue-based version of a positive two-dimensional image (positive means that open spaces are left where the paint will appear). Usually, the ink is rolled across the medium so that it passes through the silk and not the glue. Campbell’s Soup cans were among Warhol's first silkscreen productions; the first were U.S. dollar bills. The pieces were made from stencils; one for each color. Warhol did not begin to convert photographs to silkscreens until after the original series of Campbell’s Soup cans had been produced.

Although Warhol had produced silkscreens of comic strips and of other pop art subjects, he supposedly relegated himself to soup cans as a subject at the time to avoid competing with the more finished style of comics by Roy Lichtenstein. In fact, he once said "I've got to do something that really will have a lot of impact that will be different enough from Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, that will be very personal, that won't look like I'm doing exactly what they're doing." In February 1962, Lichtenstein displayed at a sold-out exhibition of cartoon pictures at Leo Castelli's eponymous Leo Castelli Gallery, ending the possibility of Warhol exhibiting his own cartoon paintings. In fact, Castelli had visited Warhol's gallery in 1961 and said that the work he saw there was too similar to Lichtenstein's, although Warhol's and Lichtenstein’s comic artwork differed in subject and techniques (e.g., Warhol’s comic-strip figures were humorous pop culture caricatures such as Popeye, while Lichtenstein’s were generally of stereotypical hero and heroines,inspired by comic strips devoted to adventure and romance). Castelli chose not to represent both artists at that time, but he would, in 1964, exhibit Warhol works such as reproductions of Campbell's Juice Boxes (pictured below right) and Brillo Soap Boxes. He would again exhibit Warhol's work in 1966. Lichtenstein's 1962 show was quickly followed by Wayne Thiebaud’s April 17, 1962 one man show at the Allan Stone Gallery featuring all-American foods, which agitated Warhol as he felt it jeopardized his own food-related soup can works. Warhol was considering returning to the Bodley gallery, but the Bodley's director did not like his pop art works. In 1961, Warhol was offered a three-man show by Allan Stone at the latter's 18 East 82nd Street Gallery with Rosenquist and Robert Indiana, but all three were insulted by this proposition.

Irving Blum was the first dealer to show Warhol’s soup can paintings. Blum happened to be visiting Warhol in May 1962, at a time when Warhol was being featured in a May 11, 1962 Time Magazine article "The Slice-of-Cake School" (that included a portion of Warhol's silkscreened 200 One Dollar Bills), along with Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Wayne Thiebaud. Warhol was the only artist whose photograph actually appeared in the article, which is indicative of his knack for manipulating the mass media. Blum saw dozens of Campbell’s Soup can variations, including a grid of One-Hundred Soup Cans that day. Blum was shocked that Warhol had no gallery arrangement and offered him a July show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. This would be Warhol’s first one man show of his pop art. Warhol was assured by Blum that the newly founded Artforum magazine, which had an office above the gallery, would cover the show. Not only was the show Warhol's first solo gallery exhibit, but it was considered to be the West Coast premiere of pop art.

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Do you remembered Memphis?

exhibition at the design museum, london contemporary design gallery 7 september – 4 november 2001 and 24 november 2001 – 27 january 2002

The design museum marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of memphis, the legendary italian design collective led by the milanese designer and architect ettore sottsass.

Memphis was a landmark in design history. Sottsass called memphis design the new international style and plunged the sophisticated and influential milan design world into a labyrinth of visual irony, puns and provocations. The standards of 'good form' design that had been considered unassailable for years lost their claim to timeless validity for sottsass and his fellow-workers. the idea they had in common was to eliminate the peaceful conformity of furniture design and present concrete alternatives to the late 70s standard formal culture.

The playful colours, cheap materials and kitsch motifs of the furniture, ceramics and glassware unveiled by memphis designers at the 1981 milan furniture fair split the design world and caused a media sensation after years of drab rationalism.

Lots of brightly coloured, neo-1950s plastic laminates covering everything from crazy sideboards to bonkers beds. Was this gimcrack stuff really so influential? Had the brown-and-orange 1970s been so boring that product design had to descend into these cartoon capers? It was about turning the design world upside down.

The ideas of the memphis collective were embraced by design students of the time: memphis was the major influence on philippe starck, jasper morrison and marc newson...

Nathalie du Pasquier, one of the memphis team, describes it as 'a way of life, of transferring into the world of the western home the culture of rock music, travel and a certain excess'.

Jasper Morrison says: 'it was the weirdest feeling - you were in one sense repulsed by the objects, but also freed by this sort of total rule-breaking. I came back to college and immediately
did my one and only memphis piece (which hopefully has now disappeared forever).'

Memphis pieces were snapped up by international collectors such as paris based fashion designer, karl lagerfeld, he says: ' it was love at first sight. I'd just got an apartment in Monte Carlo and I could only imagine it in memphis. now it seems very 1980s, but the mood will come back. the pretensions of minimalism made it difficult for memphis in the 1990s, but I think sottsass is one of the design geniuses of the 20th century.'

Many designers still talk of memphis in the way that rock musicians of the same age speak of the clash and blondie. even the first Memphis exhibition opening in 1981attained the same iconic status in design circles as the sex pistols’ debut gig in music.

Ettore Sottsass himself :

'I'm always offended when they say that I play when I do memphis work; actually I 'm very serious, I'm never more serious than when I do memphis work. It's when I design machines for olivetti that I play.'and ' we draw our product-language stimuli not so much from institutionalized culture, not from technology, not from some sort of institutionalized certainty, but from spheres where everything starts afresh again, is uncertain, contradictory, without firm outlines.'

This exhibition recaptures the vitality of the work of sottsass, branzi, cibic, mendini, thun, de lucchi and the rest of the memphis collective at a time of growing interest in early 1980s aesthetics. As well as displaying many original pieces of memphis furniture, ceramics, lighting and glassware, 'memphis remembered' analyses the movement’s enduring influence over contemporary designers.

1) Who is Ettore Sottsass?
Other Ettore Sottsass designs
3) Powerpoint about Memphis (Author S.Smith)

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