andy warhol and pop art -- 3/29/19
Today's selection -- from 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year In Music by Andrew Grant Jackson. Andy Warhol and pop art, circa 1965:
"Pop art was both a cheeky middle finger to pretension and a way to find beauty in the consumer-industrial society we were drowned in, whether we liked it or not. Roy Lichtenstein reproduced the panels of romance comic books with the newsprint dots plainly visible. Thought balloons expressed the soap opera angst of his troubled women. James Rosenquist applied his skill at painting billboards to the massive F-111 collage of A-bombs, hair dryers, babies, airplanes, and spaghetti. Ed Ruscha depicted a burning Standard Oil gas station from a low cinematic angle and rendered it epic. Wallace Berman made a collage of Muhammad Ali, James Brown, and the Rolling Stones dubbed Papa's Got a Brand New Bag.
"Andy Warhol surpassed his rivals by turning his own persona into a cartoon. With silver wig, shades, black leather jacket, striped T-shirt, and nail polish, he transformed from a balding mid-thirties nerd into a Pop (art) star who would eventually guest on The Love Boat. When he did interviews, he'd come on both fey and moronic. He'd make the questioner squirm with his airy, monosyllabic answers, partly because he really was shy, partly because it was some sort of Zen koan, partly because it was the pre-punk aggression of being deliberately vapid, pretty vacant -- the ultimate put-on. 'If you want to know all about Andy Warhol,' he said, 'just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it.' He sent an impersonator out on the college lecture circuit.
"The post-beatniks and folkies and proto-hippies all hewed the party line against mainstream Middle America. Pete Seeger dismissed the 'little boxes' of suburbia that all looked just the same. But Warhol rebelled against the rebels by saying he liked plastic. Warhol tossed off the aphorism 'In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' for the program of one of his exhibits, yet it prophesized the rise of reality TV and YouTube. He made no bones about wanting money and fame, all the things the Village folkies crucified Dylan for chasing. The 1960s were the peak for strident, self-righteous artists to proclaim art as a tool to stop the war and end racism (and thus save the world). Warhol was the ultimate counterprogramming. He denied that 'depth' and 'substance' were worth pursuing. With his rejection of hippie idealism, he was the forefather of punk.
"Warhol had used assistants when he manufactured ads in the 1950s, and continued to use them as he moved into painting, as indeed many masters had over the centuries. Like Berry Gordy with Motown, he appreciated the efficiency of the assembly line. His assistants would make his silkscreens and lithographs by day in his loft space on Forty-Seventh street while Warhol popped Obetrols (a 1960s version of Adderall) and kept the R&B hit 'Sally Goes Round the Roses' on constant repeat, like Tom Sawyer convincing others to whitewash his fences for him. Naming his loft the Factory was another rejection of bohemia orthodoxy, as he embraced capitalism's ability to mass-produce product.
"He painted the Factory silver and lined it with aluminum foil to go with his wig. By night, it became a legendary salon to rival that of Gertrude Stein, who in the 1920s opened her Paris apartment to artists such as Picasso and Hemingway. Warhol's place had a much more liberal open-door policy. His guests ranged from the rich and glamorous to skid row outcasts. In the former category were rock stars such as the Stones and models such as Anita Pallenberg, wealthy debutantes and European socialites; free-thinking bohemians, movie stars, and gay icons such as Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Rudolf Nureyev, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Allen Ginsberg.
"On the seedy side were the porn stars, drag queens, speed freaks, junkies, gay hustlers, and general weirdos. In the middle were the Factory regulars, such as Warhol's assistant Gerard Malanga, who helped with the silkscreen and sculpture. Billy Name was the speed freak photographer who 'silverized' the Factory and lived in the dark room. Warhol befriended the catty actor Ondine after he had Warhol thrown out of an orgy for not participating. Andy's own mother lived downstairs, cooking roasts covered with radishes and applesauce. And soup, of course. His mother had always fed him the soup, which was why he'd painted Campbell's Soup cans three years before."