Warhol, Andy Cambell's Soup Cans 1962, polymer paint on 32 canvases, NY MOMA
My mom is not an art historian; she is an intelligent, observant woman who does not allow anyone else to make her opinions for her. I've been thinking about what she said, and about Warhol, who indeed came to fame to a great extent from reproducing images from newspapers, brand graphics and even other artists. Even when it is true that his huge body of work is in fact far more varied than this, he's most known for adapting the images of others.
Warhol was part of a movement, started in the 1960s, known as Pop Art. Pop artists used and manipulated motifs seen in contemporary advertising. People were surrounded by these motifs in their daily lives, so much so that they probably hardly thought about them. Pop artists, putting these motifs in the unexpected context of the art world, reminded people to question them. How much do these motifs from advertising affect our lives? How does repetition (such an essential component of Warhol's Cambell's Soup Cans, and an essential part of how advertising appears in our daily lives) change the meaning of the motif? The thoughts about the subconscious and inescapable power of never ending advertising, which are evoked by pop art, can even be downright scary.
Warhol, Andy Brillo Boxes, 1970 silkscreen on plywood, Allen Memorial Art Museum
All that being said, I think my mom, in her thoughts about Warhol, has a point. Not that Warhol is a bad artist, but that his art should strike us as funny. He is playing a bit of a cheeky, and rather genius prank, putting soup cans or brillo boxes in a museum where they clearly don't belong, making money from such a deceptively simple trick.
(If you're interested in this artist, check out the very interesting Warhol Museum Website, where I found quite a bit of information about Warhol that surprised me.)