Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot)
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Andy Warhol, Small Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot), 1962
[AUDIO: “Sit right down, and get your Campbell’s worth!” ]
Andy Warhol claimed he ate a can of soup every day. For 20 years.
He certainly appreciated uniformity. When Warhol first exhibited his famous Soup Can paintings, the gallery displayed them in tidy rows on shelves. The grocery store next door put up a sign advertising that they sold REAL soup cans, and for only 29 cents!
I saw the Warhol show at the Ferus Gallery in 1962, and I remember thinking the soup cans would look cute in my kitchen. But I thought Eli would have me committed if I spent $100 on a picture of a soup can. Now he really wishes I had bought one.
Warhol made many paintings of cans with their labels intact. These were not precious masterpieces but instead easily reproducible efforts, a mirror of the machine of American consumer culture.
[SOUNDFX: “MM yummy,” Machine sounds, ending in tearing paper sounds.]
But the act of tearing something is unique by its very nature, and Warhol made only six of these torn label paintings.
Irving Blum, director of the Ferus Gallery.
IRVING BLUM ARCHIVAL
That’s a lot of painting, you know. They’ve always seemed to me to be kind of bridge paintings, between first generation, abstract expressionism and the and the pop style. I think of them that way.
It shows off Warhol’s painterly handiwork, an ironic gesture in the age of mechanical reproduction by an artist who called his studio “The Factory.”
Andy Warhol is considered one of the most important figures in postwar art and has had an impact on almost every aspect of the art world. He, along with other pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, brought the imagery and techniques of mass commercialism into fine arts and broke up the stylistic hegemony of abstract expressionist painting in the 1960s. While Lichtenstein used hand-painted comics to develop a relationship between art and popular culture, Warhol focused on photography, silkscreen printing, and cinema to push his avant-garde imperatives. Alongside his art, Warhol’s persona and individual celebrity led to a contemporary status unlike any other artist. His studio, the Factory, became a flashpoint for 1960s counterculture, and was frequently visited by musicians and artists such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and the Beat poets, as well as most of the New York art scene.
Warhol’s silkscreens of the early 1960s are perhaps his best-known works. Drawing on themes such as celebrity, death, and commodity culture, the silkscreens are seen as metaphors for American culture and the fickle nature of fame in a capitalist society. Two Marilyns, 1962, and Twenty Jackies, 1964, exemplify Warhol’s mixture of the techniques of mass reproduction with the older, established painting genres of religious icons or portraiture. Warhol’s Marilyns and Jackies are symbols of their time, bound in their representations. Their relationship to mass reproduction makes these works of central importance to discussions of authorship, originality, and the possible end of art.
Warhol also used various programs of abstraction in his painting to mimic and comment on art of his era, especially abstract expressionism, as in Dance Diagram  [“The Lindy Tuck-In Turn Man”], 1962, Rorschach, 1984, and Camouflage, 1986, or his famous Shadows, 1978–79, and the Oxidation series. Dance Diagram , like the celebrities of the silkscreens, is topical to early 1960s, namely the revival of 1920s and 30s dance steps such as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. At the same time, however, the work allows a deeper reading of the evolving nature of painting as a performative endeavor or, since the work is displayed on the floor, the changing relationship between painting and sculpture.