Collections> Browse Andy Warhol

Collections> Browse Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol
Holdings (108)
5 paintings, 1 multiple, 1 drawing, 6 books, 72 edition prints/proofs, 9 sculptures, 1 internet art, 5 posters, 3 photographs, 1 videotapes/videodisc, 4

Wikipedia About Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives. It is the largest museum in the United States of America dedicated to a single artist. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Andy Warhol, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

Today, Andy Warhol’s name is as widely recognizable as those of Marilyn, Elvis, Jackie, Liz, Campbell’s Soup, and Coke, some of his most famous subjects. For many people, the name Warhol is also synonymous with glamour, fame, hucksterism, money, and all the excesses of postwar American consumer culture. His life traces the classic American dream: he was born in Pittsburgh to working-class immigrant parents, and built a successful career in the 1950s as a New York commercial artist. He reinvented himself in the 1960s as a Pop painter and avant-garde filmmaker, then transcended the art world to become a wealthy international celebrity who was pursued by groupies and paparazzi. Warhol’s work, too, transgressed categories and pushed at the boundaries that defined what art could be, ultimately transforming the aesthetic landscape through the unlikely agency of trashy, offhand films and deadpan paintings of banal subjects. Many of his works were made by committee, with the artist directing a band of cronies in the studio he called the Factory. Critic Edmund White called him a “brilliant dumbbell,”1 and he was not alone in wondering if Warhol’s success was attributable to a serendipitous combination of intuition, timing, savvy, and ambition more than simply to native intelligence and talent. But the artist insisted there was no mystery. “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”2

Warhol had his first New York solo exhibition in 1962 at the Stable Gallery. The eighteen works presented gave viewers a look at what would become his signature devices: a compositional structure based on the grid, and the use of silkscreen to apply photographic imagery to his canvases. The grid had figured in his earlier pictures of airmail stamps and S&H Green Stamps, but these were “painted” using stencils cut from balsa wood or rubber stamps carved out of gum erasers. Warhol first used photo-silkscreening for Baseball (1962), a repeating grid of news photos showing Roger Maris hitting a home run. Subsequently, he relied on newspaper photos as well as celebrity head shots, advertisements, comics, and all manner of found images as sources for his pictures, and silkscreening was a quick, inexpensive, and accurate way to transfer them onto canvas. The smudges, missed alignments, and inconsistencies were always accepted, and give the works a handmade appearance despite the industrial process. There are clear connections between these works and Jasper Johns’ flags, targets, and alphabet grids, and Robert Rauschenberg’s embrace of newspaper imagery,3 but Warhol had found his own very modern voice by privileging mechanical techniques and serial imagery over the gestural brushwork and personal content favored by Johns and Rauschenberg.

Repetition as a condition of modern life is perhaps most pervasive in the mass media, where iconic images, faces, and slogans appear again and again and again, moving from print to television to billboards, changing scale and color, being copied, cropped, degraded, and enhanced—but always remaining the same. Warhol brilliantly exploited this monotonous barrage, lining images up so that the profusion could be understood, then freezing them in place. The melancholy, black-and-blue Sixteen Jackies (1964) quotes from the incessant television coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, after which footage of the same events (inauguration, motorcade, funeral) was repeated for weeks. The Jackie canvases followed other death and disaster series, including the Car Crashes, Suicides, Electric Chairs, and Race Riots, which were based on photos from tabloids and movie magazines. Even his Marilyns, painted after her death, might be seen as portraits of a suicide. Perhaps Warhol was attempting with these pictures to quiet his own purported fear of death through familiarity and repetition. “When you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn’t really have any effect,” he told an interviewer in 1963.4

In 1964, when Sixteen Jackies was painted, Warhol’s Factory was in full swing, populated each day with various assistants, friends, visitors, and hangers-on. Many were there to work on his films, a medium with which he was becoming increasingly involved; others helped him produce the paintings and sculptures. Some of these were on view in his second solo show at the Stable Gallery, in early 1964, which featured a profusion of grocery-carton sculptures—hand-painted and silkscreened facsimiles of boxes for Brillo soap pads, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Heinz Ketchup, and other products. Warhol stacked the boxes in towers so that the gallery resembled the back room of a supermarket, and priced them inexpensively at $200 to $400 each.5 They sold poorly, but the show was a critical success, and the boxes—quintessential Pop objects—have become an important part of a larger conversation about appropriation that begins in the 1910s with Duchamp’s “readymades,” includes Johns’ painted bronze beer cans of 1960, and continues into the 1980s, when Richard Prince rephotographed magazine advertisements.

In 1968 Warhol was shot and nearly killed by Valerie Solanis, a sometime Factory denizen and actress who had had a bit part in one of his films. Most observers mark the event as a turning point in his work as well as his life. Post-shooting, he hired himself out as a portraitist to the rich and famous, turning out idealized likenesses based on his own Polaroids rather than the mass-media images he’d used during the previous decade. He produced new images of Marilyn, Mao, and others, but in negative (the Reversals), and began sprinkling glittery diamond dust (a powder obtained during the manufacture of industrial diamonds) on his canvases.6 Toward the end of the 1970s, he returned to self-portraiture, but the blank cool of his 1960s canvases is gone; the late self-portraits include haunting images of Warhol’s disembodied head, with gaunt face and fright wig, floating on dark fields of color; expressionistic memento mori featuring a human skull; and poignant photographs of the artist in skewed drag, wearing provisional makeup and cheap wigs and looking very mortal indeed.

Finally, Warhol turned to abstraction—Warhol, whose soup cans and Marilyns had helped end the dominance of Abstract Expressionism, and whom de Kooning had accused of killing art, beauty, and even laughter.7 The Oxidation, Shadow, Rorschach, and Camouflage series of the late 1970s and 1980s approach the sublime in spite of banal sources and abject materials. The majestic, phantom Shadows were based on photographs of dramatically lit pieces of paperboard, and the Oxidations are canvases prepared with copper metallic paint on which the artist and others urinated, turning piss into cash in an alchemical revision of Action Painting.

Warhol’s immense body of work includes thousands of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, films, photographs, multiples, and books—a cornucopia whose bounty hasn’t dimmed the appetite or enthusiasm of his public. Increasingly, he seems a crucial part of our focus on the proliferation of images and spectacle in contemporary culture, and the increasing overlap of art, consumption, entertainment, and information. Warhol understood long ago that the distinction among these realms would not hold. “I believe media is art,” he said, and he made it so.8

  1. Quoted in Arthur C. Danto, “The Philosopher as Andy Warhol,” in Callie Angell et al., The Andy Warhol Museum (New York: D.A.P., 1994), 81.

  2. From a 1967 interview, quoted in Kynaston McShine, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989), 457.

  3. Rauschenberg was unfamiliar with the photo-silkscreening technique when he visited Warhol’s studio in September 1962. After querying Warhol about it, Rauschenberg began using it himself the following month. Warhol was dismayed, fearing that he would be accused of stealing the idea from the older, better-known artist. See Walter Hopps and Susan Davidson, eds., Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), 561, and David Bourdon, Warhol (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989), 131–132.

  4. Interview with G. R. Swenson, quoted in Bourdon, Warhol, 142.

  5. Ibid., 186.

  6. Ibid., 380. The Walker’s collection includes an example of the latter: Diamond Dust Joseph Beuys (1980).

  7. Danto, “The Philosopher,” 77–78.

  8. Quoted in Christoph Heinrich, Andy Warhol Photography, Candace Breitz, ed., exh. cat. (Hamburg: Hamburg Kunsthalle; Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum, 1999), 6.

Rothfuss, Joan. “Andy Warhol.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

© 2005 Walker Art Center


biography Andy Warhol, Let’s Entertain: Life’s Guilty Pleasures Walker Art Center, 2000

A multimedia artist avant la lettre, Andy Warhol was painter, printer, filmmaker, magazine founder, and all-around media star from the early 1960s until his death in 1987. The seminal progenitor of American Pop Art and purveyor of the glamorous celebrity lifestyle uttered the now-clichéd statement, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” With this simple utterance, Warhol captured the volatile mix of desire, artifice, glamour, fickleness, and information overload that would define our celebrity-obsessed culture. His celebrated silkscreen paintings were often serialized portraits of rich, famous, and sometimes tragic figures of music, screen, and popular culture–such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, and Jackie Kennedy. In his Factory of the late 1960s and early 1970s, he created “superstars” with that “It” quality that separated them from the ordinary. He made films that starred his creations, including Poor Little Rich Girl with Edie Sedgwick and Sleep with John Giorno. Taking part in all areas of the creative world, mainstream and underground, he was involved in the 1960s underground music scene with his musical protégés the Velvet Underground and was also instrumental in the success of Studio 54, the disco-era New York club that became the archetypal high-profile celebrity hangout. While helping to highlight, define, and foster America’s obsession with the rich and famous, in 1969 Warhol also created a vehicle to both critique and celebrate that culture: Interview magazine. He also made a number of forays into television. Apart from appearing, as himself, in popular television series such as Love Boat, he also hosted two cable programs in the 1980s: Andy Warhol’s TV and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes. The episodes included in this exhibition feature segments with artists Eleanor Antin and Yoko Ono, musicians The Ramones and Debbie Harry, and filmmaker John Waters and his star Divine, among many others. Warhol was the pioneer who paved the way for such current celebrity media outlets as E! Entertainment Television and In Style magazine. In addition, he has had an extraordinary influence on many of the artists in this exhibition.

Andy Warhol biography from Let’s Entertain: Life’s Guilty Pleasures, Walker Art Center, 2000.
artworks — Andy Warhol — Collections — Walker Art Center