Jean-Michel Basquiat, Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), 1983. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / ARS, New York 2016.

Art of the Month Club: justin adkins

The Williams College Museum of Art is excited to introduce a new regular feature to our blog, the Art of the Month Club. Each month we invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. We look forward to engaging with a variety of people through this new feature. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Club member. Today, please welcome, justin adkins, Assistant Director, The Davis Center, Williams College.

 Alfredo Manzo Cedeño, The Cuba's Soup Homage Warhol, ca. 1998 and Andy Warhol, BEEF, Campbell's Soup Can, 1969, © Artists Rights Society.

I am a huge fan of pop art.  In my studies at Marlboro College I focused my energy on anarchy and graffiti.  As I looked at the history of the graffiti movement I found so many similarities with the work of Andy Warhol.  Warhol took what was common and with a slight change showed the objects back to us as art.  He took the ideas of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades to a new level.  Though I am a huge fan of Warhol’s work his capitalism always irked me.  I found over the years that the artists whom he influenced mean more to me, and are a greater influence on my work as an artist, than Warhol himself.  One of these artists is Alfredo Manzo Cedeño.

Revolution is an overthrow of an old system and a space for something new.  Manzo took a common image, made iconic by Warhol, and put a bit of revolution back in it.  This can is part of the Cuba’s Soupseries of serigraphs and as I look at the series, I think about the poster on my office wall of Che and Castro, and about the proliferation of Che schwag. You know, the t-shirts and hats, key chains and posters with “Che” Guevara in a beret.  The image of Che has become something in and of itself.  It is the capitalism of Warhol and a symbol of revolution oddly together.

The Cuba’s Soupseries of serigraphs also points out the odd relationship of the United States and Cuba. “America’s Favorite Revolution” is the revolution that the US has been most against, including being implemented in the killing of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the multiple plots to overthrow Castro.

As I look at current revolutionary movements I see the difference between the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring.  People selling patches and pins, posters and books about Occupy Wall Street started as soon as the people gathered in Liberty Plaza. The idea of revolution and capitalism together is often how the US “does revolt”, even when that revolt is against capitalism itself.

The amazing thing about places like WCMA is that they have both Manzo’s The Cuba’s Soup Homage Warhol and Warhol’s BEEF, Campbell’s Soup Can. It is a place that you can see the art of change.  Both of these artists challenge the status quo and make me think about the images I encounter in daily life. Are they art? What is revolution? What is change?

justin adkins
Assistant Director, The Davis Center
Williams College


Above images:

Alfredo Manzo Cedeño, (Cuban, 1964-2010) The Cuba’s Soup Homage Warhol, ca. 1998, lithograph, collage, oil on paper, Gift of Linda Shearer. (M.2003.18)

Andy Warhol, (American, 1928-1987), BEEF, Campbell’s Soup Can, 1969, color silkscreen on paper, Gift of Richard F. Holmes, Class of 1946. © Artists Rights Society (M.2005.17.2)

One Response to Art of the Month Club: justin adkins

  1. In 2003 my husband and I were in Havana and, by chance, came upon an outdoor art fair near the Academy, where we spotted serigraphs by Alfredo Manzo Cedeno. We happily purchased two of them from his collaborator, a young woman who was taking care of the display.
    We were intrigued with how and what message was intended by these images – critique of capitalism? critique of the cuban regime? both?
    Everyone admires them – regardless of political meaning.