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||Andy Warhol (1927-1987) - originally Andrew Warhola|
American artist, film maker, the best-known figure to emerge from the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. Andy Warhol eliminated individuality from his works and avoided serious interpretations of his art. He declared that he wanted to be a machine, something which makes, not paintings, but industrial productions. Warhol's personality has remained an enigma which has fueled a number of theories.
"I'd prefer to remain a mystery. I never like to give my background and, anyway, I make it all up different every time I'm asked. It's not just that it's part of my image not to tell everything, it's just that I forget what I said the day before, and I have to make it all up over again." (Warhol in Mike Wrenn's book Andy Warhol: in his own words, 1991)
Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the
son of Czech immigrants. His father, Andrej, who travelled much on
business trips, died when Warhol was 13. According to Warhol's mother
Julia, he had drank poisoned water. Warhol had three nervous breakdowns
during his childhood. He suffered from the nervous disorder St. Vitus'
dance, uncontrolled shaking, had a blotchy skin, and was taunted as
Spot by his schoolmates.
While studying the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol developed an obsession with Truman Capote, whose jacked photo he saw on his debut novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). Capote never answered Warhol's fan letters, but they drank together once, and had a long discussion. Capote did not recognize Warhol's genius, but dismissed him as a hopeless, born loser. After graduation Warhol worked as an advertising draughtsman and illustrator in New York. With his drawing of shoes in ads for I. Miller, Warhol made so much money that he was able to buy an apartment on the Upper East Side, where he moved with his mother. The film director Emile de Antonio encouraged him to start a professional free-lance – Antonio considered commercial art real art and he also helped such painters as Jasper Johns and Bob Rauschenberg. Roy Lichtenstein's works Warhol had seen in the late 1950s and he was surprised that somebody else dealt with same ideas.
By the mid-1950s, Warhol earned $50,000 a year from his work in
advetising. During his career, he never experienced poverty the way the
generation of abstract expressionists had when they pushed the
boundaries of the modern art. His first comic strip painting, "Dick
Tracy," Warhol made in 1960.
Along with the superabundance of consumer goods, Warhol turned his
attention in the early 1960s to supermarket products. He borrowed banal
mass-produced objects and exhibited them in the art context of a
gallery – as Marcel Duchamp had done already in the 1910s with his
urinal and bottle-rack. Warhol's first solo exhibition was in 1962 at
the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles. In Brillo (1964), acrylic silk
screen on wood, Warhol parodied the high-art seriousness and
With silk screenings of Marilyn Monroe prints and Campbell's soup cans Warhol became a detached reporter of the times. To the question of "Why soup cans?" Warhol replied that he "used to drink it... same lunch every day for twenty years... the same thing over and over again... I liked the idea." He also did "do-it-yourself" painting kits and in 1962 he "painted a portrait" of something which he had always been fond of - bank notes. "...Warhol's two primary artistic methods, the "blotted line" technique (an inked image blotted onto another sheet, like lipstick on a tissue) and silkscreening, are elaborate forms of blotching, in compensatory mimicry of his skin..." (Andy Warhol by Wayne Koestenbaum, 2001)
More than other pop artists, Warhol was concerned about death. Many of his pictures had morbid associations: Mrs. Kennedy after the assassination of her husband, "mug shots" of criminals, accidents as in 129 Die in Jet-Plane Crash (1962), gangster funerals, and race riots as in Red Race Riot (1963). The image of an electric chair in Orange Disaster (1962-63) was taken from a press photograph and perhaps tells more about the mass media than it does about capital punishment. By excluding all sentimental associations, it also dismissed interpretation and commitment. However, in Popism – The Warhol '60s (1980) Warhol reveals how persistently he worked to make his breakthrough although critics considered his work strange and even in 1964, after successful exhibitions, nobody wanted to pay high prizes for his paintings based on comics.
"The Factory," Warhol's New York City art studio, became a legendary hangout for artist, celebrities, and social dropouts. Among its glittering visitors were Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Rudolf Nureyev, Mia Farrow, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and its regulars included Edie Sedgwick, Viva, and Lou Reed. Although Wahnol first scorned Yoko Ono, dismissing her as "corny", they mad much in common. The location of the studio was in the middle of the action – 47th Street and Third Avenue. Demonstrators could be seen on their way to the UN, the prime minister of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchec went by, and the Pope rode by once on his way to St Patrick's Cathedral. Warhol's obsession with celebrities led him to found in 1969 with Gerard Malanga the Interview magazine – first called inter/VIEW. Later, in March 1977, his name was taken off the front cover.
In 1963 Warhol went into filmmaking, producing more than 80 films. Typical examples of his early films are Sleep (1963), in which the camera remained fixed on a man sleeping for the duration of eight hours, and Empire (1965), which consisted of seemingly endless shot of the Empire State Building. In Tub Girls, the girls had to take baths with other people in tubs. His films, exhibited in art theatres, helped accelerate the trend toward legitimizing explicit sex on the American screen. Usually Warhol used as actors transvestites, homosexuals, and people who happened to visit the Factory. Several of his actors achieved a kind of status as underground superstars, with such pseudonyms as Viva, Ultra Violet, Mario Montez, Candy Darling, and Ingrid Superstar. Warhol himself had a look of an over grown infant, he spoke in a quiet, almost inaudible voice, and walked in an odd way. His followers believed that behind his emotionless rigidity there was a great wisdom.
"I always like to work on leftovers, doing the leftover things. Things that were discarded, that everybody knew were no good. I always thought had a great potential to be funny. It was like recycling work. I always thought there was a lot of humor in leftovers." (from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, 1975)
Warhol's first films were plotless and silent, loosely structured
productions between documentary and fiction. Later films were
technically more complex. Warhol also used a script although much of
the dialogue was improvised and the films were more or less without
plot as seen in Chelsea Girls
(1966). For a while he used many drag queens in his movies, "because
the real girls... couldn't seem to get excited about anything." The
Factory's superstar was the beautifull heiress and fashion model Edie
Sedgwick from Boston. She carried around a picnic basket full of drugs.
Her first Warhol film was Vinyl (1965), where she smoked a cigarette and flicked her ashes on a boy who was being tortured.
According to Warhol, he never particularly wanted to make simply sex movies, but examine the behaviour of people. Warhol's gradual withdrawal from films production coincided with his near fatal shooting by a female Factory reject connected with an anti-male hate group. The shooting occurred on June 3, 1968, at the new Factory at 33 Union Square West. Just before losing consciousness due to blood loss, Warhol said, "Don't make me laugh, it hurts too much." During Warhol's recovery the film projects were continued by Paul Morrisey.
In 1965 Warhol began to sponsor the rock group Velvet Underground, and invited them to perform at the showing of his film series, Cinematique Uptight. The group was originally formed by Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen "Moe Tucker" and Warhol's close friend Nico (Christa Päffgen). The Velvet Underground and Nico came out in 1967. The album included Reed's Heroinand had Warhol's cover illustration, a peelable banana. "People thought Warhol was the guitar player," said Reed once of Warhol's close association with the ronch band. In rock Warhol found the true spirit of "Pop". Especially he was fascinated by Bianca Jagger. John Lennon admired Warhol reluctantly: "Andy's way is rather nice," he said. "He doesn't do anything – just signs it."
"I had known Andy Warhol for 23 years at the time of his death, and it came as surprise to me to learn that he was a devout Catholic - a surprise that, when considered, is not a surprise but somehow appropriate." (the writer William S. Burroughs, in Andy Warhol by Mike Wrenn)
From the beginning of his career, Warhol's
activities went beyond mere art making: he was in the
center of a corporation that produced films, books, plays, and was
involved with television. Warhol is credired for the saying, "In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes" –
there are different versions of the maxim. Other memorable remarks
include "I want everybody to think alike," "I'd like to be a machine,
wouldn't you", and "I never read. I just look at pictures."
Bob Colacello, the editor of Interview who left
the magazine in 1983, later portrayed Warhol in his book Holy Terror(1990).
Colacello saw Warhol as an eccentric millionaire, gossiper,
sharp businessman, shopper, and "a closet control freak, who deviously
pretended he didn't know what was going on..." In the
1970s Warhol turned to portrait painting of celebrities. He remained a
powerful pop culture figure into 1980s. Andy Warhol died suddenly on
1987, following a routine gallbladder operation. A team of doctors
tried for an hour to revive him. Warhol was 58.
The Andy Warhol Diaries, covering the period between
November 1976 and February 1987, was published posthumously
in 1989. The book became a bestseller and contained gossips and
reminiscences of his acquaitances. In the entries Warhol recorded carefully
his use of money from phone calls to nickels for bag-ladies, and
especially endlessly lists celebrities he met at parties and other
places: "I went to Ashton Hawkins's dinner at 17 East 89th Street, my
old neighborhood, so it made me feel funny. The real howdy-doody heavy
duties were there – Brooke Astor, Laurance Rockefeller, Alice Arlen.
And Mike Nichols's hair, I don't think it's fake, it looks so great, so
really great. . . . Went home, I called Jon Gould at the Beverly
Wilshire. Then I went to bed and had the most un-sleep night. Woke up at
3:00 and had a glass of brandy and a Valium."
Some of Warhol's "artistic creations" were
finished by his dominating mother, Julia Warhola, who even signed them, often
miss-spelling his name. His works have arisen much debate –
proving that they are not as simple as they appear at first glance.
Warhol himself did not want to explain his pictures, or merely
considered them business art. Warhol did not go to his mother's funeral.
In his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975)
he wrote: "Busines art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a
commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. After I
did the thing called 'art' or whatever it's called, I went into
business art. I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist.
Wayne Koestenbaum argued in his book Andy Warhol (2001) that everything was sexual for Warhol, who was ''as gay as
you can get." Koestenbaum also connected the removal of Julia Warhola's
bowel system and subsequent colostomy bag to the artist's concept of
art – "...consider that Warhol's major artistic contribution was
reinterpreting the worth of cultural waste products."
From 1977 until 1987, Rupert Smith was Warhol’s main silkscreen printer. He also served as his art director. Smith’s factory and other printers worked without supervision – it was not Warhol's habit to visit these factories. Thus there are a huge amount of unauthorized prints of Warhol's works. Smith himself died in 1989.
For further reading: Famous For 15 Minutes by Ultra Violet (1989); The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett (1989); The Life and Death of Andy Warhol by Victor Bockris (1989); Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up by Bob Colacello (1990); Andy Warhol by Mike Wren (1991); I Shot Andy Warhol by Mary Harron and Daniel Minahan (1996); The Life and Works of Andy Warhol by Trewin Copplestone (1996); Andy Warhol by Wayne Koestenbaum (2001); Warhol: The Biography by Victor Bockris (2003); The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol by John Wilcock, Christopher Trela and Harry Shunk (2010); "Our kind of Movie": the Films of Andy Warhol by Douglas Crimp (2012); Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up by Bob Colacello (2014); The Many Lives of Andy Warhol by Stuart Lenig (2021); Loner at the Ball: the Life of Andy Warhol by Fred Lawrence Guiles (2022) - See also: Marshall McLuhan - Nico - Christa Päffgen (1938-1988), born in Köln. She worked as a model, and had a small role in 1959 in Fellini's film La Dolce Vita. In the mid-Sixties she got into music through friendship with Rolling Stone Brian Jones and manager Andrew Loog Oldham. In New York she met Andy Warhol and appeared in his film Chelsea Girls. Nico left Velvet Underground after one record and made solo debut in 1968. Next years she spent in Paris and made a version of the Door's The End, which was the name of her solo return. In the late Seventies and early Eighties Nico performed in clubs, and released in 1981 Drama of Exile. Leading a vagabond life and addicted to heroin, Nico floated from country to country, and spent her last years in Manchester, England. On July 17, 1988, she had an accident on her bicycle in Ibiza, Spain. She was misdiagnosed as having a sunstroke and she died of a celebral hemorrhage. - Nico had a son with French actor Alain Delon. Among her friends were Jin Morrison, John Cale, Brian Eno. - Chelsea Girl (1968), The Marble Index (1969), Desert Shore (1971), June 1 (1974), The End (1974), Drama of Exile (1981), Do or Die! Nico in Europe (1983), Camera Obscura (1985), The Peel Sessions (1988).
Films as a director and producer: