From the beginning, critics have addressed the connections between what Warhol was doing and what Marcel Duchamp had done. It was Duchamp who in 1914 broke the rules and outraged the art world when he began exhibiting his objets trouvés, the coat-stands, bottle racks, and bicycle wheels. Duchamp, critics suggested, had shown Warhol that appropriating common consumer items could be art.
Warhol was a particularly culpable pioneer of
cultural nihilism because the silkscreened readymades--soup cans, bottles, and
such--were perceived to be the apotheoses of the objets trouvés.
129 Die in Jet, 1962
Henry Geldzahler takes credit for suggesting the
influential Death and Disaster Series, and later as an anodyne, the Flower
prints of 1964. During a lunch together in June 1962, Geldzahler told
Warhol, "That's enough affirmation of life. . . . It's enough
affirmation of soup and Coke bottles. Maybe everything isn't so fabulous
in America. It's time for some death. That's what's really
happening." The New York Daily News headline that day was
"129 DIE IN JET."