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May.
12
2009

Andy warhol the Prince of Pop Art

Posted by: Zuzana Mészárosová

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The Prince of Pop Art

Born August 6th 1928 – Died February 22nd 1987.

Andrew Warhola (Andy Warhol) is one of the most influentialartists of the 20th century and the central figure of the American Pop Artmovement.  After a career as acommercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his avant-garde PopArt paintings and screenprintings. He was a diverse figure known forfriendships with bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywoodcelebrities and wealthy aristocrats. He was also controversial figure becauseof the nature of his works, his near fatal shooting, and his sex life. Forthese reasons and others he is known as the Prince of Pop Art.

Childhood

Born Andrew Warhola in a working class suburb of Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania on August 6th 1928 to Slovak immigrants (Ondrej and Julia Warhola[Varchola in Slovakia]). Warhol showed an early interest in photography anddrawing, attending free classes at Carnegie Institute.

Warhol's father worked in a coal mine, and the family livedat 55 Beelen Street and later at 3252 Dawson Street in the Oakland neighborhoodof Pittsburgh. The family was Byzantine Catholic and attended St. JohnChrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church. Andy Warhol has two brothers John andPaul. His father died in an accident when Andy was 13 years old.

Warhol came down with St. Vitus' dance in third grade, anaffliction of the nervous system causing involuntary movements which isbelieved to be a complication of scarlet fever. He was frequently bed-ridden asa child and became an outcast amongst other students. When in bed he drew alot, listened to the radio and collected pictures of movie stars.

Years later Warhol described the period of his sickness asvery important in the development of his personality and in the forming of hisskill-set and preferences.

1940s

The 1940s in America was psychologically grim. The countryhad just recovered from the Depression and the Second World War had brought thecruel outside world to the hearts and minds of isolationist-minded Americans.The average man worried about protecting his interests at home from Fascists,Communists and atomic bombs. It was an atmosphere of conformity and insecurity.

Andy was the only member of his family to attend college. In1945 he entered the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as CarnegieMelon University), where he majored in pictorial design.

Upon graduation, Warhol moved to New York with fellowstudents Philip Pearlstein and Phil's wife Dorothy Kantorand found steady workas a commercial artist working as an illustrator for several magazinesincluding Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and The New Yorker.

The Beat movement was there, slamming the mentallylethargic, decadent attitude of the middle class. Artists and writers were outto alter the public consciousness. New York was also the home of breakthroughcreativity in the commercial arts industry. Madison Avenue was the advertisingand editorial hub of the world. It was the perfect place for an illustrator tomake a living.

"Well, Andy was immediately employable. I was a veryuncertain thing—my portfolio was one of those elaborately worked out,intellectualized things about the US Constitution (2B), and unfortunately, Ihit New York in the beginning of the McCarthy era, and as soon as I walked inand somebody saw it, they immediately assumed I was some sort of political kook... Andy went right to the heart of the matter, he knew—that's what I mean byhe was immediately employable; he was only interested in illustration, and theywere very direct." - Philip Pearlstein.

He became well-known for his whimsical ink drawings done ina loose, blotted ink style which were shown at the Bodley Gallery in New York.

He also did advertising and window displays for retailstores such as Bonwit Teller and I. Miller. Ironically, his first assignmentwas for Glamour magazine for an article titled "Success is a Job in NewYork."

1950s

Throughout the nineteen fifties, Warhol enjoyed a successfulcareer as a commercial artist, winning several commendations from the ArtDirector's Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. During this period,he shortened his name to "Warhol." In 1951 he won his first ADC Awardfor a CBS record illustration.

In 1952 his mother moved in with him. She contributed herdistinctive handwriting to his illustrations and drawings. (Mrs. Warholareceived an ADC certificate in 1958 inscribed "to Andy Warhol'sMother" for her calligraphic style.) His client roster grew to includeNBC, Harper’s Bazaar and Dobeckmun. Ironically, he was also commissioned toillustrate the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette that year. Warhol alsohad his first New York exhibition-a series of drawings based on the writings ofTruman Capote at the Hugo Gallery. He began a series of drawing portfolios andartist's books between commercial assignments, including Love Is A Pink Cakeand 25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy with text contributed by Ralph T.Ward.

Andy also had his first solo exhibition at the Hugo Galleryin 1952, exhibiting Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote.Subsequently, Warhol's work was exhibited in several venues throughout thefifties including his first group show at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955.

In 1953 the artist produced his first illustrated book, A isan Alphabet and Love is a Pink Cake, which he gave to his clients andassociates.

In 1956 he and other pop artists had an important groupexhibition at the renowned Museum of Modern Art. With a burgeoning career as anillustrator and artist, he formed Andy Warhol Enterprises in 1957.

Warhol also traveled to Japan, Southeast Asia, Italy andHolland in 1956 and had two exhibitions at the Bodley Gallery. The work for I.Miller, Harper's Bazaar, and Noonday Press won him additional ADC awards andbusiness was booming so he hired several assistants.

1960s

In the 1960s Warhol began to make paintings of Americanproducts such as Campbell's Soup Cans amp; Coca-Cola bottles and comic stripslike Superman amp; Popeye. Starting in 1962 he began making silkscreens of celebritieslike Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Troy Donahue, and Elizabeth Taylor by usingenlarging photographs and transferring the images onto his canvases using aprojector.

This was a turning point in Warhol's career as they broughthim fame, money and success.

In 1962, the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles exhibited hisCampbell's Soup Cans and in New York, the Stable gallery showed the Baseball,Coca-Cola, Do It Yourself and Dance Diagram paintings among others. In 1963Warhol established a studio at 231 East 47th Street which became known as the"Factory."

In addition to painting and creating box sculptures such asBrillo Box and Heinz Box, Warhol began working in other mediums includingrecord producing (The Velvet Underground), magazine publishing (Interview) andfilmmaking. His avant-garde films such as Chelsea Girls, Blow Job and Empirehave become classics of the underground genre.

Consequently he founded The Factory in 1962. It was an artstudio where he employed in a rather chaotic way "art workers" to massproduce mainly prints and posters but also other items like shoes designed bythe artist. The Factory included a wide range of artists, writers, musiciansand underground celebrities. The first location of the Factory was in 231 E.47th Street, 5th Floor (between 1st amp; 2nd Ave) in New York City.

Artists like Warhol were attacked by critics for"capitulating" to consumerism. Critics were scandalized by Warhol'sopen embrace of market culture. This symposium set the tone for Warhol'sreception - though throughout the decade it became more and more clear thatthere had been a profound change in the culture of the art world, and thatWarhol was at the center of that shift.

Warhol's favorite printmaking technique at the time wassilkscreen. It came closest to his idea of proliferation of art. Apart frombeing an Art Producing Machine, the Factory served as a filmmaking studio.Warhol made over 300 experimental underground films - most rather bizarre andsome rather pornographic. His first one was called Sleep and showed nothingelse but a man sleeping over six hours.

A pivotal event was the 1964 exhibit "The AmericanSupermarket", a show held in Paul Bianchini's Upper East Side gallery. Theshow was presented as a typical small supermarket environment, except thateverything in it (the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc.)was created by six prominent pop artists of the time, including thecontroversial (and like-minded) Billy Apple, Mary Inman, and Robert Watts.Warhol's painting of a can of Campbell's soup cost $1,500, while eachautographed can sold for $6. The exhibit was one of the first mass events thatdirectly confronted the general public with both Pop Art and the perennialquestion of what is art.

The quintessence of Andy Warhol's skill was his ability toremove the difference between fine arts and the commercial arts used formagazine illustrations, comic books, record albums or advertising campaigns.Warhol once expressed his philosophy in one poignant sentence:

"When you think about it, department stores are kind oflike museums."

In minimizing the role of his own hand in the production ofhis work, Warhol sparked a revolution in art thinking, and thus his workquickly became very controversial and more popular.

In 1968 Valerie Solanas, a periodic factory visitor, and thesole member of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) walked into the Factory andshot Warhol. The attack was near fatal and he was briefly declared dead(doctors opened his chest and massaged his heart to help stimulate its movementagain).

On June 3rd 1968 she arrived at The Factory and waited forWarhol in the lobby area. When he arrived with a couple of friends, she firedthree shots from a handgun at Warhol. She then shot art critic Mario Amaya andalso tried to shoot Warhol's manager, Fred Hughes, but her gun jammed. Justthen, the elevator arrived. Hughes suggested she take it, and she did, leavingthe Factory.

That evening Solanas turned herself in to the police and wascharged with attempted murder and other offenses. Solanas made statements tothe arresting officer and at the arraignment hearing that Warhol had "toomuch control" over her and that Warhol was planning to steal her work.Pleading guilty, she received a three-year sentence.

Warhol refused to testify against her. The attack had aprofound impact on Warhol and his art, and The Factory scene became much moretightly controlled afterwards. For the rest of his life, Warhol lived in fearthat Solanas would attack him again.

"It was the Cardboard Andy, not the Andy I could loveand play with," said close friend and collaborator Billy Name. "Hewas so sensitized you couldn't put your hand on him without him jumping. Icouldn't even love him anymore, because it hurt him to touch him." Whilehis friends were actively hostile towards Solanas, Warhol himself preferred notto discuss her.

Warhol barely survived. He never fully recovered and for therest of his life had to wear a bandage to prevent his injuries from worsening.Years later, his wounds would still occasionally bleed after he overexertedhimself. See Richard Avedon's Photograph of Andy Warhol's scars.

Solanas had given Warhol a script called "Up YourAss" in 1967 and later demanded he return it. When Warhol admitted he hadlost it, she began demanding money as payment. Warhol ignored these demands butoffered her a role in "I, A Man" perhaps as compensation which shetook. In his book Popism Warhol would write that before she shot him, hethought Solanas was an interesting and funny person. However, her constanthassle and eventually stalking of him made her difficult to deal with.

1970s

After this assassination attempt the pop artist made aradical turn in his process of producing art. The philosopher of art massproduction now spent most of his time making individual portraits of the richand affluent of his time like Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson or Brigitte Bardot.

Warhol's activities became more and more entrepreneurial. Hestarted the magazine Interview and even a night-club. In 1974 the Factory wasmoved to 860 Broadway. In 1975 Warhol published "The philosophy of AndyWarhol (from A to B and Back Again)".

Warhol renewed his focus on painting and worked extensivelyon a commissioned basis both for corporations and for individuals whose portraithe painted. Works created in this decade include Skulls, Hammer and Sickles,Torsos, Maos and Shadows.

In 1975, Warhol said: "What's great about this countryis that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buyessentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and seeCoca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinksCoke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amountof money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner isdrinking. All the Cokes are good, Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it,the bum knows it.”

Firmly established as a major 20th-century artist andinternational celebrity, Warhol was given a major retrospective of his work atthe Pasadena Art Museum which traveled to museums around the world. In the lateseventies Warhol began dictating an oral diary to his colleague Pat Hackett,which became the basis for the best-selling Andy Warhol Diaries. He alsofrequented Studio 54 along with other members of the international jet-setsaying, "I have a social disease. I have to go out every night."

Warhol sometimes socialized at Serendipity 3 and, later inthe 70s, Studio 54, nightspots in New York City. He was generally regarded asquiet, shy, and as a meticulous observer. Art critic Robert Hughes called him"the white mole of Union Square".

1980s

Warhol had a re-emergence of critical and financial successin the 1980s, partially due to his affiliation and friendships with a number ofprolific younger artists, who were dominating the "bull market" of'80s New York art: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and theso-called Neo-Expressionists, as well as Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi andmembers of the Transavanguardia movement, which had become influential.

Warhol also had an appreciation for intense Hollywoodglamour. He once said: "I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're sobeautiful. Everything's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to beplastic."

He began the 1980's with the publication of POPism: TheWarhol '60s. He also began work on Andy Warhol's TV, a series of half hour ofvideo programs patterned after Interview magazine. In 1985, "Andy Warhol'sFifteen Minutes" appeared on MTV, half hour programs featuringcelebrities, artists, musicians, and designers, with Warhol as the host.

The paintings he created during this time included DollarSigns, Guns and Last Suppers. He also produced several paintings incollaboration with other artists including Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiatand Francesco Clemente.

In his last years Warhol promoted other artists like KeithHaring or Robert Mapplethorpe.

Following routine gall bladder surgery, Andy Warhol died ofcomplications during his recovery on February 22nd 1987.

The pop art icon was also a religious man (a little knownfact). The funeral liturgy was held at the Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Churchon Pittsburgh's North Side. The eulogy was given by Monsignor Peter Tay. Fellowartist Yoko Ono also made an appearance. The coffin was covered with whiteroses and asparagus ferns.

After the liturgy, the coffin was driven to St. John theBaptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, a south suburb ofPittsburgh. At the grave, the priest said a brief prayer and sprinkled holywater on the casket. Before the coffin was lowered, Paige Powell dropped a copyof Interview magazine, an Interview t-shirt, and a bottle of the Estee Lauderperfume "Beautiful" into the grave. Warhol was buried next to hismother and father.

A second memorial was organized in New York: More than 2000people attended the memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on April 1st.

After Life

In 1989, the Museum of Modern Art in New York had a majorretrospective of his works. In 2001 Heiner Bastian curated a Warholretrospective that began in Berlin and traveled to the Tate in London andfinally to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

In May 1994 the Andy Warhol Museum opened in his home townPittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

Warhol had so many possessions that it took Sotheby's ninedays to auction his estate after his death; the auction grossed more than US$20million. His total estate was worth considerably more, in no small part due toshrewd investments over the years.

On the twentieth anniversary of his death The Gershwin Hotelin New York City held a week-long series of events commemorating Warhol's artand his superstars.

 

 

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