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When Andy Warhol remarked that “the more you look at the same exact thing . . . the better and emptier you feel” [1], he was making a comment on the repetitious nature of popular culture. His belief in the emotional benefits of repeated viewing led him to repeat images in his own artworks. Warhol’s frequent use of repetition has been studied in cultural and art historical terms [2–5] and through the lens of psychoanalysis [6]. However, it has not been explored with reference to the direct impact of repetition on the perceptual and cognitive processing in those viewing his artworks. This article has two goals: first, to determine if experimental findings on repetition and affect can tell us anything about the affective experience of Warholian repetition; second, and subsequent to the first, to consider if additional studies might be useful to extend our existing understanding of Warholian repetition. We focus our attention on a subset of Warhol’s artworks from the Death and Disaster series distinguished by the negative nature of the images they depict. While we focus on artworks from more than 50 years ago, our study maintains contemporary relevance and urgency in light of the increasing availability and circulation of negative images through traditional and new media sources. Warhol and Repetition The work of Andy Warhol has been considered using various frameworks: via Marxism [7], in relation to queer theory [8] and informed by modernist pictorial conventions [9]. Warhol ’s contributions to art history and the cult status of the artist have been explored in depth [10–13], including by the artist himself [14,15]. One aspect of Warhol’s output that has received significant attention in most accounts is his distinctive method of repeating images within his artworks. Warhol began working with repetition in the early 1960s, when he painted his notorious Campbell’s Soup Cans, comprising 32 individual canvases depicting all the Campbell’s soup flavors available at the time. When he adopted the silkscreen process shortly thereafter, allowing for the quick and easy application of image to canvas, repetition became a key feature of what has been called the “Warhol Aesthetic” [16]. Almost immediately, he began appropriating images from popular culture and printing them in grids across brightly colored canvases. The structure of repetition within these works is generally consistent. A single image is repeated anywhere from two to over 50 times, usually on a single canvas (when a second canvas is present, it is often left blank for dramatic effect). In most instances, the image is silkscreened in black ink against a white or painted background of a single color: red, green, orange, blue or, frequently, silver. Although the silkscreen process can be quite exacting, Warhol and/or his assistants—due either to artistic intention or to lack of skill in the process—typically applied the image in a sloppy manner and with inconsistent amounts of ink [17]. The structure of Warholian repetition inhibits the viewer from accessing meaning or forming a gist of whole artworks. Rather, viewers must attend sequentially to the repeating component images. By this we mean that the structured arrangement of the sets of repeating images forces a spatiotemporal inspection of his artworks to ensure spectators perceive In his Death and Disaster series, Andy Warhol repeated gruesome images of suicides and car crashes. The artist’s use of repetition has been discussed extensively but not in terms of its direct impact on the viewer’s perceptual and cognitive processing. This article considers the viewer’s affective experience resulting from repeated exposure to negative images in artworks from the Death and Disaster series. The authors put forward an account of the potential affective experience of Warholian repetition based on existing experimental findings and by way of the artist’s own remarks on the relationship between repetition and affect. g e n e r a l a r t i c l e Warholian Repetition and the Viewer’s Affective Response to Artworks from His Death and Disaster Series J a s o n K a ss , B e t h H a r l a n d a n d N i c k D o n n e l ly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-17
Open Access
No
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