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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. 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.

"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. Warhol studied art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and worked as an advertising draughtsman and illustrator in New York. 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.

In 1960 Warhol made his first comic strip painting, "Dick Tracy". 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 consumerism. 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.

Warhol's New York City art studio, "the Factory", 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." 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 in 1968 by a female Factory reject connected with an anti-male hate group. 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 Heroin and had Warhol's cover illustration, a peelable banana. 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)

Warhol remained a powerful pop culture figure into 1980s. In the 1970s Warhol turned to portrait painting of celebrities – but his activities had already expanded beyond mere art making: he was in the center of a corporation that produced films, books, plays, and was involved with television. Bob Colacello, the editor of Interview left the magazine in 1983 and 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..." Warhol died suddenly in 1987, following a routine gallbladder operation.

Warhol's diary, from 1976 to 1987, was published posthumously in 1989. The book became a bestseller and contained gossips and reminiscences of his acquaitances. In the entries he records 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..." Nobody says anything interesting.

"In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes."

Warhol's 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. Some of his 'artistic creations' were finished by his dominating mother, Julia Warhola, who even signed them, often miss-spelling his name. 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.

Being good in business in the most fascinating kind of art." Warhol's personality has remained an enigma which has fueled a number of theories. According to Wayne Koestenbaum's psychonalytical interpretation everything was sexual for Warhol, who was ''as gay as you can get." Koestenbaum also connects 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."

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) - 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).

Non-fiction works:

  • The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B & Back Again, 1975 (ghostwritten by Pat Hackett and others)
  • A: A Novel, 1978
  • Popism, 1980 (written and compiled by Pat Hackett)
  • Portraits of Ingrid Bergman, 198-
  • The Andy Warhol Diaries, 1989 (edited by Pat Hackett)
  • Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, 1989
  • Angels, Angels, Angels, 1994
  • Cats, Cats, Cats, 1994
  • Ho, Ho, Ho!, 1995
  • Andy Warhol: Art from Art, 1995 (Andy Warhol et al.)
  • Flowers, Flowers, Flowers, 1996
  • Love, Love, Love, 1996
  • Shoes, Shoes, Shoes, 1997
  • Style, Style, Style, 1997
  • Andy Warhol: The Last Supper, 1998

Films as a director and producer:

  • Kiss, 1963
  • Eat, 1963
  • Sleep, 1963
  • Haircut, 1963
  • Tarzan and Jane Regained... Sort of, 1964
  • Dance Movie/Roller Skate, 1964
  • Blow Job, 1964
  • Batman Dracula, 1964
  • Salome and Delilah, 1964
  • Soap Opera, 1964 (co-dir.)
  • Couch 1964
  • 13 Most Beautiful Women, 1964
  • Harlot, 1964
  • The Life of Juanita Castro, 1965
  • Empire, 1965
  • Poor Little Rich Girl, 1965
  • Screen Test, 1965
  • Vinyl, 1965
  • Beauty #2, 1965
  • Horse, 1965
  • My Hustler, 1965
  • Camp, 1965
  • Afternoon, 1965
  • Suicide, 1965
  • Drunk, 1965
  • Bitch, 1965
  • Prison, 1965
  • Space, 1965
  • The Closet, 1965
  • Henry Geldzahler, 1965
  • Taylor Mead's Ass 1965
  • Face, 1966
  • Outer and Inner Space, 1966
  • The 14-Year Old Girl/Hedy/Hedy the Shoplifter, 1966
  • More Milk, Yvette/Lana Turner, 1966
  • The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound, 1966
  • Kitchen, 1966
  • Lupe, 1966
  • Chelsea Girls, 1966
  • I'm a Man, 1967
  • Bike Boy, 1967
  • Nude Restaurant, 1967
  • ****/Four Stars/24-Hour Movie, 1967
  • The Loves of Ondine, 1968
  • Flesh, 1968 (producer)
  • Lonesome Cowboys, 1968
  • Blue Movie/Fuck, 1969
  • Trash, 1970 (producer)
  • Heat, 1972 (producer)
  • Women in Revolt, 1972 (co.dir. with Paul Morrisey)
  • L'Amour, 1973 (co.dir. and co-script with Morrisey)
  • Andy Warhol's Frankenstein/Flesh for Frankenstein, 1974 (producer)
  • Andy Warhol's Dracula/Blood for Dracula, 1974 (producer)
  • Underground and Emigrants, 1976 (actor)
  • Andy Warhol's Bad, 1977 (producer)
  • An Unmarried Woman, 1978 (art collab.)
  • Cocaine Cowboys, 1979 (actor)
  • The Look, 1985 (actor)
  • Vamp, 1986 (contrib. art)
  • Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol, 1991 (documentary)

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