Andy Warhol Biography

In Brief
Born Andrew Warhola in McKeesport. Pennsylvania. 6 August 1928. Died in New York. 22 February 1987. Studied at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Pittsburgh. 1945-49. B.F.A. 1949: illustrator. Glamour Magazine. New York. 1949-50. and commercial anist. New York. 1950-57; then independent artist: first silk-screen paintings. 1962: made films from 1963. often with Paul Morrissey.
Collections: London: Tate; Los Angeles; Minneapolis: New York: Moma. Whitney: Pasadena: Stockholm: Moderna Museet:Toronto: Washington: Corcoran.
By WARHOL: books- Index Book. New York, 1967.
A: A Novel. New York, 1968.
Blue Movie (script). New York, 1970.
A to B and Back Again, New York. 1975: as The Philosophy of Warhol. London, 1975.
Ladies and Gentlemen. Milan, 1975.
Warhol's Exposures: Photographs, with Bob Colacello. New York. 1979.
Photographs. New York. 1980.
Papism: Vie Warhol -60s. with Pat Hackett. New York, 1980. London, 1981.
25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy: Holy Cats. London. 2 vols., 1988.
On WARHOL: books- Green, S. A., Warhol (cat). Philadelphia. 1965.
Crone, Rainer. Warhol, New York and London. 1970, 1987.
Coplans, John, Warhol (cat). Pasadena, 1970.
Coke, Van Deren, Photo/Graphics (cat). Rochester, 1971.
Gidal, Peter, Warhol: Films and Paintings. New York, 1971.
Koch, Stephen, Stargazer: Warhol and His Films. New York, 1973, 1985. London, 1985.
Warhol: Das zeichnerische Werk 1942-1975 (cat). Stuttgart, 1976.
Warhol (cat). Zurich,1978.
Barozzi, Paolo, Voglio essere una macchina: La fotografia in Warhol. Milan, 1979.
Gibson, Ralph. SX-70 Art (cat). New York, 1979.
Warhol: Portraits of the '70's (cat). New York, 1979.
Wiinsche, Hermann, Warhol: Das graphische Werk 1962- 1980, Cologne, 1980.
Warhol: Bilder 1961 bis 1981 (cat). Hanover, 1981.
Ratcliff, Carter, Warhol. New York, 1983.
Feldman, Frayda, and Jorg Schellmann, Warhol Prints. New York, 1985.
Smith. Patrick S., Warhol's Art and Films. Ann Arbor, 1986. Warhol (cat). Hamburg, 1987.
The Warhol Collection (auction catalogues). New York, 6 vols., 1988.
Films (selection)—
Haircut. 1963: Blow Job, 1963: Harlot. 1964: My Hustler. 1966: Chelsea Girls, 1966: I, a Man, 1967: Bike Boy. 1967: Lonesome Cowboys, 1968: Blue Movie, 1968: Flesh, 1968: Trash, 1970: Women in Revolt, 1972: Heat, 1972: Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, 1974: Andy Warhol's Dracula. 1974: Andy Warhol's Bad, 1977.
The Art
Andy Warhol embodied the cool, object-oriented sensibility of the 1960's. As a founder of American Pop art. Warhol's subiect matter and techniques were borrowed from commercial art, comic strips, television programs, movies, and advertising. As a whole. Pop art reacted against the tortured individualism of Abstract Expressionism. The Pop art movement would have been unthinkable during the Depression of the 1930s or wartime 1940s, when consumer goods were not as readily available and low culture was considered the enemy of high culture. This attitude changed in the 1950's, a transformation brought about by the economic boom and unprecedented growth of mass media, with its emphasis on advertising consumer goods. Only when it appeared that our way of seeing the world had been irrevocably altered could a style emerge thai dealt with that phenomenon, both in its positive and negative aspects. Warhol was a successful commercial artist until 1960. At that time, he began to paint comic strips and the labels of cans in an Abstract Expressionist manner. By 1962 he suppressed painterly handling, and continued to execute advertising images by hand in the manner of mass production. Shortly thereafter Warhol turned to silkscreening photographs, a technique of mechanical image transfer which made his work seem even more impersonal.

Despite the lack of mythic subject matter and personalized touch which had characterized Abstract Expressionism, the best of Warhol's silkscreen paintings make a haunting impression. Warhol accomplished this through choosing imagery that is common, yet striking when removed from its original context. Warhol's use of color and of "accidental" effects during the silkscreen process also contribute to the emotional resonance of some early works. In Warhol's painting Electric Chair (1963). the stark newspaper image of the New York State execution room, reproduced four times on the canvas and ironically colored in soft pastels, drives home the horror of that place in a manner that even the contemporary state-wide debate over capital punishment could not equal. In Marilyn (1962). the colors of the famous actress's pink flesh and bleached yellow hair are deliberately garish and mis-registered so that line and color areas do not match. The painting is not easy to dismiss, because it explores the difficult realm between beauty and vulgarity. The lonely sex goddess seems to be decay ing in front of our eyes.

Warhol not only fashioned art but personalities. His studio, the famous silver-foil-lined Factory in New York City, was populated by both celebrities and unknowns that Warhol arbitrarily designed "stars." Warhol, like his subjects, became a celebrity whose every activity was followed by the popular press. Warhol's desire to live his life as an art work links him to Marcel Duchamp before and Joseph Beuys afterwards. Like them, the man behind the events remained an enigma. Warhol's use of repeated images in his paintings, resembling a film strip, led him in 1963 to begin to produce movies. Such early films as his six hour Sleep, depicting a person sleeping, exhibited a complete rejection of the action-filled story lines and cinematic drama of traditional films.

When Warhol barely survived a sensational attempt on his life in 1968. his art and life-style changed. Fame and money, which had been previously treated in an ironic spirit in his art, became the goals of his life. He recognized that through the right combination of counter-culture and commercialism, he could cash in on the youth market. His early and controversial paintings were followed by slick, commissioned society portraits of such figures as Elizabeth Taylor. His films became more commercially acceptable and he launched such projects as the jet-set gossip magazine Interview.

There are two schools of critical thought about Warhol's art. One argues that he is simply the product of his consumeroriented times, and reflects the unquestioned acceptance of mass culture. The other contends that his work is an ironic commentary on his age, and that it provides a lense through which we can better see some assumptions formed in the 1960s. This author believes that the latter description best suits Warhol before 1968, and the former one fits his art after that date. Warhol himself would never enlighten us upon this issue, to do so would have compromised his prized ambiguity and mystery. Perhaps he realized that the longevity of his art depended upon its providing a screen on which the viewer could project his own image of the age.

Tags: USA, Artist, 1920-1929