(August 6, 1920–February 22, 1987)
Painter, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, Author, Sculptor, Filmmaker
Known as the Pope of Pop, Andy Warhol was the major defining force in the American Pop art movement in the 1960s. He started out as a commercial illustrator and by the end of his life had dabbled in almost every facet of artistic creation, from painting and writing to filmmaking and photography. Warhol was a social chameleon, equally at home among bohemians, aristocrats, intellectuals, rock stars, Hollywood celebrities, and down-and-outs on the street.
Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he and his two older brothers grew up. His parents were working-class immigrants of Ruthenian ethnicity from Miková, Austria-Hungary, now in northeast Slovakia. His father worked in a coal mine and died at a young age, forcing the young Warhol to take jobs to help support the family while he was in high school. The family was Byzantine Catholic—a religious preference Warhol retained throughout his life—Page 1012 | Top of Articleand attended the St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church.
When he was in the third grade, Warhol fell ill with chorea, a nervous system disorder believed to be a complication of scarlet fever that causes involuntary movements. Warhol had blotchy skin as a child as a result, and it, combined with his pallid complexion, rendered him a social outcast. His artistic talent emerged early in his life, and while bedridden from the disease, he drew, listened to the radio, and collected pictures of movie stars. His mother strongly encouraged his interest in the arts.
After graduating from high school in 1945, he studied commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at what is now Carnegie Mellon University. In 1949, he moved to New York City with his friend, the Realist painter Philip Pearlstein (1924–), and there began a successful career as a magazine illustrator and advertiser for both Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. He designed window displays for the department store Bonwit Teller but gained perhaps his biggest success as a commercial artist for his blotted-line ink shoe drawings for I. Miller.
In 1953, Warhol held his first one-man show at the Hugo Gallery. Inspired early on by the American documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio (1919–1989), as well as the paintings of JASPER JOHNS and Pop art icon Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997), he began to focus his efforts on what would become the Pop art movement.
During the 1960s, Warhol began to paint famous and distinctly American commercial products (as well as the dollar bill itself), such as Campbell's Soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. A lifelong admirer of and friend to many famous celebrities, he also painted portraits of many well-known figures. Among them were Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962), Troy Donahue (1936–2001), and Elizabeth Taylor (1932–). In 1962, the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles showed his thirty-two Campbell's Soup Cans (1961–1962).
The Pop art of Warhol, Lichtenstein, and others was a direct rejection of Abstract Expressionism, a movement that had gained popularity through American painters such as JACKSON POLLACK earlier in the twentieth century. Its embrace of popular American culture also stood in direct contrast to the anticommericalism of parallel counterculture movements that gained popularity in 1960s America. Warhol merely presented his images without comment or criticism, and when approached for verbal interpretations of his work, he generally refused to comment.
In the early 1960s, he founded his studio, which he called "The Factory," located at 231 East 47th Street in Manhattan. A small loft, it was lined with aluminum foil and silver paint and furnished with street trash. Warhol surrounded himself with avant-garde underground artists and started mass-producing silkscreen prints of commercial products, celebrity portraits, and pictures taken from news events and public disasters. He crafted sculptures that reproduced product wrappers, such as Brillo soap boxes.
Warhol embraced commercialism not only as subject matter for his art, but as the vehicle for promoting and selling it. Particularly as his fame grew, he withdrew from the actual production of his conceptual creations and left the physical work to Factory regulars and assistants. Among the most prolific of his collaborators in this capacity was Gerard Malanga (1943–).
In 1966, although he had already made films, Warhol began to devote more of his energy to his underground cinema projects. The films frequently featured members of a group of Factory-associated bohemians he called his Superstars, among whom were heiress and actress Edie Sedgwick (1943–1971); the actor Ondine (1937–1989), whose real name was Robert Olivo and who Warhol met at an orgy; the actress Viva (1938–), whose real name was Janet Susan Mary Hoffmann; and Ultra Violet (1935–), the stage name of French-American artist Isabelle Collin Dufresne.
Prominent figures in the New York underground literary and film worlds, such as writer John Giorno (1936–) and filmmaker Jack Smith (1932–1989), also appear in Warhol's films of the 1960s. Other Factory regulars included dancer and choreographer Freddie Herko, writer and actor Ronald Tavel (1941–), photographer and filmmaker Billy Name (1940–), actress Mary Woronov (1943–), artist Brigid Berlin (1939–), and Italian artist Pietro Psaier (1936–2004).
Warhol and his Superstars made more than sixty films, many of which were merely shown at the Factory. One of his most famous, Sleep (1963) shows Giorno sleeping for six hours. Many were pornographic in nature, often open expressions of Warhol's homosexuality, including Blow Job (1963), My Hustler (1965), and Lonesome Cowboys (1968), the protagonists of which are five gay cowboys. The documentary Empire (1964), consists of eight hours of footage of the Empire State Building in New York City from dusk until three o'clock in the morning, and Eat (1963) depicts artist Robert Indiana (1928–) eating a mushroom for forty-five minutes.
Sedgwick, Ondine, and Malanga all appeared in Vinyl (1965), an adaptation of ANTHONY BURGESS'S A Clockwork Orange. Four Stars (1967) lasted twenty-four hours. Bike Boy (1967) pits a macho biker against Warhol's Superstars, who overpower his ego by cracking jokes he cannot understand and correcting his repeated word mispronunciations. Other Warhol films simply record improvised encounters with Factory regulars, junkies, hustlers, transvestites, and many other characters. Chelsea Girls (1966), however, was his most popular, mainstream, and critically successful cinematic effort. It consisted of two films projected simultaneously, with two different stories being shown at the same time.
On June 3, 1968, Factory regular and radical feminist Valerie Solanas (1936–1988) shot Warhol in the chest, as well as his friend and fellow artist Mario Amaya—and attempted to shoot Warhol's manager Fred Hughes—in the Factory lobby. Solanas had apparently been angry at Warhol for failing to return a script she had given him. After being sentenced to three years in prison and released, she continued to harass Warhol and eventually wound up in a series of mental institutions before her death.
The seriously injured Warhol barely survived the shooting and had to wear a corset for the remainder of his life, and he suffered from the physical consequences of the gunshot wound until he died. Aside from the physical damage he suffered, the incident significantly slowed the pace of his personal output and diminished his artistic ambition.
In 1969, Warhol started the literary magazine Interview. During the 1970s, he devoted a lot of his efforts to collecting wealthy patrons for portrait commissions while his longtime collaborating director Paul Morrissey (1938–) continued to make films using his name. The "Warhol"-Morrissey films were decidedly more mainstream than the pre-shooting films and frequently starred Joe Dallesandro (1948–). His, series of "oxidation paintings," which were painted with copper paints and oxidized with urine from either himself or Factory visitors to form unique colors, also belong to the 1970s.
During the 1980s, Warhol actively promoted the work of younger artists he admired, notably Neo-expressionists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), who died of a drug overdose at the age of twenty-seven and outlived Warhol by little more than a year; and members of the Transavantguardia movement.
Among Warhol's commercially published writings are The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975), POP-ism, the Warhol '60s (1980), and America (1985). He produced photographs and drawings, many of male nudes; designed album covers for The Velvet Underground, THE ROLLING STONES, and other rock artists; self-published a number of writings; made two cable shows entitled Andy Warhol's TV (1982) and Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes (1986), the latter for MTV; and made guest ap-Page 1014 | Top of Articlepearances television shows. Warhol's works were exhibited in major shows from the late 1960s to the 1980s. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native Pittsburgh holds more than twelve thousand of his works.
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