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Explore the art and life of Andy Warhol through the food he depicted as well as the food he actually ate. We work our way through the ultimate Andy Warhol tasting menu. And don't forget to subscribe to Sound Field!

From Coca-Cola, Cornflakes, and Campbell's Tomato Soup, to a single mushroom, a banana, and a giant piece of meat, we step our way through the industrially-produced foods that Andy Warhol both ate and also venerated in his art. Let's eat like Andy.

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There's an Andy Warhol you almost definitely know, the one of repeating Marilyns, of Campbell's Soup, Brillo boxes, cow wallpaper, celebrity portraits, and dollar signs.  There is a ton of writing about Warhol, biographies, and even a detailed account of his daily life from the mid-1970s until his death in 1987.  Warhol surrounded himself with people who all gave competing reports of their time with him and he provided the world with too many prized aphorisms to count.

Today, we'll work our way through a tasting menu that explores Warhol's life through the food he depicted as well as the food he actually ate and talk about the human person you might not know, the one behind the enigma, the ultimate producer and consumer and product all in one, impossible to capture but oh so fun to try to anyway.

We'll start with a little breakfast, which for Warhol was often cornflakes, at least at certain points in his life.  We even have photographic evidence of him eating them, here with his beloved mother Julia who lived with him in New York from 1952 to 1970, and here as photographed by Bobby Grossman for Grossman's late 1970s series of celebrities eating cornflakes.  The cereal was one of a number of industrially produced, commercially available products that the artist not only consumed but reproduced and venerated in his art.  Cornflakes boxes were part of his famous show at Stable Gallery in New York in 1964, where he packed the space with Brillo box sculptures and box sculptures of Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Campbell's Tomato Juice as well as cornflakes, leaving only narrow passageways for amused and scandalized visitors to shimmy through.  These were not actual cardboard shipping containers, but wooden boxes ordered from a carpenter, then painted brown and silkscreened with logos by Warhol and his right hand man at the time, Gerard Malanga.  They were some of the first works made in the space that became known as The Factory, due to the assembly line-like processes that happened there.  Oh, and the fact that the building had previously been a hat factory.

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Hmm.  These are alright.  Enjoyable for their novelty, maybe, and a reminder of the strangeness and glory of industrial produced foodstuffs that took over the American diet after World War II.  Kind of exactly like what Warhol's box filled gallery/warehouse was pointing out.

Our next course comes from a restaurant and boutique where Warhol spent a tremendous amount of time in the 1950s during his career as a commercial illustrator and into his years as a pop artist.  Frozen hot chocolate.  Actually, sorry, they spell it this way, is the best known menu item at Serendipity 3, which opened on East 58th Street in 1954 and quickly became Warhol's unofficial headquarters.  To begin making it, we'll chop up three ounces of chocolate, whatever kind you like, and put it into a double boiler, stirring until it melts.  Then, add in two teaspoons of store-bought hot chocolate mix and 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, stirring until it's all blended together and smooth.  Remove from the heat, mix in half a cup of milk, and then let it cool to room temperature.  While that's happening, let's look at some of the work Andy was doing at the time he started drinking these concoctions.

Throughout the 1950s, he experienced considerable success as an illustrator for magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, making art for advertisements and window displays and creating illustrated books with friends.  All of the cursive script you see in his works from the 50s was contributed by his mom, Julia, by the way.  Her fanciful script paired beautifully with his distinctive and blotchy style of drawing.  Andy's blotted line was much sought after by the art directors of Madison Avenue and I'm gonna demonstrate roughly how he did it.

Let's take this illustration he did for a 1952 brochure about rheumatoid arthritis.  We're gonna trace the illustration itself but Warhol would usually work from a photograph of an object or a drawing and trace the image with pencil onto tracing paper.  Then he'd hinge the tracing paper to a piece of good drawing paper and use an ink pen to go over the tracing one section at a time, folding it back and blotting the wet ink onto the good paper.  

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Warhol used a traditional ink pen with a nib and not a bamboo one like this, but this is the only one I could get to work, even this poorly.  But Warhol would ink the tracing and transfer the image bit by bit until it was complete, leaving a jittery line with dots and dashes and smudges and smears along the way.  An old classmate from Carnegie Tech where he studied pictorial design, says Warhol discovered this technique one night at a restaurant when he blotted an ink sketch with a paper napkin.  It was a step in the direction of the automation he would wholly embrace in due time, allowing him to work from a source image and enlist assistance to do parts of the process.  He was after a look he described as exactly wrong, making him stand out as an individual in a crowded field, something he had a remarkable knack for throughout his life.

Now that the chocolate mixture is cool, pour it into a blender with another cup of milk and three cups of ice.  Then blend it up and curse at your blender which was too expensive to be executing its task this poorly, but serendipity made its frozen hot chocolate so well and still does, by the way, that Warhol spent nearly $2,000 there in 1957 alone.  He met art directors from ad agencies there, brought friends, and fed his assistants from a menu that did contain things other than sweets.  

Okay, so when it's smooth, pour the mixture into goblets, top with plenty of whipped cream followed by chocolate shavings and enjoy, feeling pretty good about our decision not to have tried to recreate this patriotic ice cream sundae Warhol drew but never made or ate, at least as far as we know.  

Now let's clear the palate with a Coca-Cola, or heck, let's have a few.  By the early 1960s, Warhol was focusing less on his work for hire and more on a way into the art world, making paintings of comic strips and advertisements, everyday things and subject matter he knew very well.  In 1962, he made two large paintings of Coca-Cola bottles, one kind of drippy and expressionistic and the other clean edged and asked his friends which they preferred.

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