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Indiana University Art Museum

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Presidential Seal

Andy Warhol, Presidential Seal (1968)

For centuries, artists have challenged how people think about art by injecting elements of popular culture. In the 1950s and ’60s, the Pop Art Movement appropriated mass-produced visual commodities, such as images from comic books and commercial advertising, in their imagery and asked us to consider them from new perspectives.

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), a central figure in Pop Art, was born to Slovak immigrant parents. Raised in a working-class suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol became very interested in photography and drawing while suffering from a severe childhood illness. Spending much of his time drawing in bed, Warhol listened to the radio and surrounded himself with pictures of celebrities.

As a young adult, Warhol attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) to study pictorial design. Moving to New York, he went on to have a successful career in commercial art, particularly in magazine illustration and advertising. In the 1960s, Warhol became a major figure in the New York art world, an internationally recognized celebrity who was eternally fascinated with fame, violence, materialism, and Americana. Everything within his visual field was fair game for his art, especially including money, movie stars, brand name products, and violent pictures from newspaper articles. By minimizing the hand of the artist and producing art as "a machine," Warhol championed a democratization of art objects, subjects, and processes and prefigured the attitude of Post-Modern aesthetics.

In addition to elevating the images of everyday life to the level of fine art, Warhol wanted to make fine art itself trivial, trite, and everyday. In the "Factory," mass-produced images are turned into art, and his art is turned into mass-produced objects. Many of Warhol's most celebrated works are prints of pop culture created via silkscreen processes used in mass production.

Presidential Seal is one of eleven silkscreens from the "Flash – November 22, 1963," series, which reflected on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Here, Warhol prints in shades of silver different views of President Kennedy, a gun advertisement, and a bullet-ridden seal.