Born August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator in New York, where he found success in the 1950s creating magazine and book illustrations, advertisements, window displays, and record album covers. His talents and ambitions led him into the art world and fueled his rise to stardom in the early 1960s. Warhol's images of celebrities and of everyday products—from Marilyn Monroe to Campbell's Soup cans—radically shifted the boundaries between vernacular and fine art. Likewise, he took the newspaper and magazine printing processes he had observed during his commercial career—photography, silkscreen, layout, printing—and brought them into his art, while emphasizing their repetitive, mechanical nature. These aesthetic preoccupations signaled a new style that became known as pop art, and Warhol became its greatest practitioner.
The news, for Warhol, represented yet another consumer good, and the headlines, with their bold type and attention-grabbing language, suggested a label on a package. He drew on the text and images of news headlines throughout his career, culling them from a variety of sources, but most regularly his beloved New York tabloids. As early as 1956 the acknowledged news junkie scoured stacks of newspapers, plucking out specific headlines to become fodder for his art. Starting with paintings and drawings and then moving into film, video, and television, the works in this exhibition chart a revolution in how the news was delivered in Warhol's lifetime, shifting from the rhythm of the daily papers to the nonstop "headline news" of cable television.
Tabloid themes of celebrity, death, and disaster were favorite subjects for Warhol and provided stark contrasts between the sensational and the mundane. Like the news itself, Warhol's headline works not only mirror their time but reflect its desires and fears. Yet Warhol was not simply a mirror. He chose the headlines, cropped and edited them, and ultimately transformed them, creating his own narrative and revealing a personal and, at times critical, slant on the media and its news.