A New Look at Andy Warhol

This week's featured review looks at Andy Warhol's art from a class perspective

Warhol’s working class : pop art and egalitarianism

Grudin, Anthony E. Chicago, 2017
202p index, 9780226347776 $40.00, 9780226347806 $40.00

Warhol’s working class : pop art and egalitarianism book cover

Andy Warhol (1928–87) is one of very few widely celebrated artists with a working-class background. Indeed, as Grudin (Univ. of Vermont) writes in the introduction, Warhol was raised “in the abject poverty of a Pittsburgh ghetto” by a construction worker and house cleaner. Grudin builds on this fact, theorizing on Warhol in terms of social class. Surprisingly, given the volume of scholarship on Warhol, this is the first major treatment of the artist using class as a framework, and the book is thus groundbreaking. The author treats the subject thoughtfully, avoiding essentialism and embracing the concept of “intersectionality.” He points out that in Warhol’s art, the fact that he depicted ordinary aspects of life that all classes had access to—especially grocery products—is key. Warhol’s art has a democratic character. Grudin explores how Warhol specifically, and working-class people more generally, viewed stereotypes, American myths, social mobility, class consciousness, and consumerism, and he argues that Warhol’s work relates to class in a “deeply ambivalent and contradictory way.” Grudin also looks at Warhol, and his work, in the context of his contemporaries—Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.
Reviewer: T. Nygard, Ripon College
Subject: Humanities – Art & Architecture – Fine Arts
Choice Issue: Jun 2018