Andy Warhol’s Soup Can exhibit at MOMA, recently closed in October 2015. I’d made a pit stop at MOMA on my last day in New York to see the Picasso Sculpture Exhibit and was beyond thrilled to stumble upon this show that I didn’t even know was on display. A recent article on artnet news echoed my sent sentiment by saying: Weirdly, the New York art world hasn’t much cottoned on to the epochal exhibit in its midst; there’s far less buzz about it than there should be. I’d have to agree, it caught me completely off guard.
Like many of you, I’ve seen the famous Soup Can prints over the years at auctions and galleries. And to be honest, I didn’t really know that the fine art painting ensemble existed. I’d always thought of it as a print series, and seeing all 32 of the original paintings in person was quite informative. I immediately noticed that the background of the paintings were soft gray instead of white, like the prints. The paintings were also, well, painterly. I could see the pencil marks under the paint, and the transparent nature of the paint allowed for variations in tone and coverage. Thus, in some areas, the white canvas was still visible. This tells me the the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not about each painting being absolutely letter perfect, but more about the concept of them as series, like cans of soup on the grocery store shelves. To quote MOMA: The Soup Cans mark a breakthrough for Warhol, when he began to apply his seminal strategies of serial repetition and reproduction to key subjects derived from American commodity culture.
For any artist who’s strived to create a series of paintings, there’s an immediate level of respect that happens when you walk into a museum or gallery, and see such a labor of love as this. It appears simple at first, but it’s quite the contrary. It’s like seeing a chic angled Bob haircut on a woman. While it looks simple as a finished product, it’s technically one of thee most difficult haircuts to accomplish. It requires thin partings with even tension, while accurately cutting section after section. Over directing the hair while cutting can create graduation, or layering, in an area you may not want. Then you need to follow up with a superb blowout and a final cut on dry hair… all to create a simple strong cut that always falls into place after shaking your head from side to side. The Soup Cans are over 50 years old, and they still hold up, just like a good haircut.