Andy Warhol Profile

Carolyn and I have admired the work of visual artists, film directors, and leading figures in the Pop Art movement Andy Warhol. His work explores the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture, in a variety of media, including painting, silk-screening, photography, film, and sculpture. Warhol’s work embraces and celebrates the banality of American culture, and he is well known for his witty and insightful quotes.

Andrew (Andy) Warhola Jr. was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928. He was the fourth child in a working-class family, whose parents were emigrants from a geographical region that is now located in Slovakia. Warhol’s father worked in a coal mine and died in a car accident when Andy was thirteen.

In 1936, when Warhol was eight years old, he became infected with a nervous system affliction that caused involuntary movements in his extremities, and he was confined to bed for over two months. Warhol described this period as being an important developmental stage in his life, which was largely spent listening to the radio and collecting pictures of movie stars around his bed.

In 1945, Warhol graduated from Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, and he won a Scholastic Art and Writing Award. Warhol enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied commercial art. In 1947 and 1948 Warhol’s illustrations appeared on the cover and interior of his student magazine. In 1949, Warhol earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in pictorial design, and his first commissions were to draw shoes for Glamour magazine.

In 1950, Warhol moved to New York City, where he began a career in magazine illustration and advertising, and his first job in the city was designing shoes for a shoe manufacturer. While working in the shoe industry, Warhol developed a “blotted line” printing technique, which involved applying ink to paper and then blotting the ink while still wet. His use of tracing paper and ink allowed him to repeat— and to create endless variations— of a basic image; a process that became important in his later work.

In 1952, Warhol had his first solo show, of his whimsical ink drawings of shoe advertisements, at the Hugo Gallery in New York (although that show was not very well received). In 1956, some of his work was included in a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Warhol began creating art by tracing projected photographs, subtly alerting the image, such as his 1956 image of a Young Man Smoking a Cigarette.

It was around this time, in the late 1950s, that Warhol was hired by RCA Records to design record album covers and promotional materials. In 1962, Warhol learned silk screen printmaking techniques, and he began to participate in the Pop Art movement. Pop Art was a British and American art movement that emerged in the mid to late 1950s, and is based on imagery from modern popular culture and the mass media. Pop Art was largely viewed as a critical or ironic comment on traditional fine art values, and often used imagery that had been commonly used in advertising or comic books.

In 1962, Warhol was featured in an article in Time magazine with his painting Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable), which became his most sustained motif— the Campbell’s soup can. The painting was exhibited at the Wadsworth Museum in Connecticut that year, and a year later Warhol made his West Coast debut with his Campbell’s Soup Cans exhibition at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. That same year, Warhol also had exhibits at the Stable Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, including a silkscreened painting series of iconic American images and objects, such as Marilyn Monroe portraits, Coca Cola bottles, and $100 bills.

In 1963, Warhol rented an old firehouse on East 47th Street in NYC that became his art studio and would turn into a legendary location called The Factory, where Warhol’s workers made silkscreens and lithographs under his direction. The Factory became famous for its exclusive parties in the 1960s, and was a hip hangout for artists, musicians, and celebrities, such as Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Velvet Underground. Warhol created a Pop Art empire, and at exhibits he sold autographed soup cans and “sculptures” of boxes with commercial logos on them.

In 1968, there was an assassination attempt on Warhol by a radical feminist writer named Valerie Solanas, who shot Warhol at The Factory, but only minor injuries were sustained. Solanas was subsequently arrested and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

In 1969, Warhol co-founded Interview magazine with a British journalist. The magazine features in-depth, usually unedited interviews with celebrities, artists, musicians, and creative thinkers. It is still in print today.

In 1971, Warhol had a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. In 1975, he published his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, which is a loosely formed autobiography. Although criticized as being merely a “business artist,” some critics have come to view Warhol’s superficiality and commerciality as “the most brilliant mirror of our times,” contending that “Warhol had captured something irresistible about the zeitgeist of American culture.”

Warhol also directed or produced hundreds of experimental films, and dozens of full-length movies—silent and sound, short and long, scripted and improvised— fifty of which have been preserved by the Museum of Modern Art. The styles range from minimalist avant-garde to more commercial productions. The Andy Warhol Film Project seeks to preserve Warhol’s nearly 650 films.

Warhol once said, “I’d like to be a machine, wouldn’t you?” In 1981, he got his wish when he worked on a project that was to create a traveling stage show— called A No Man Show— with a life-sized animatronic robot in the image of Warhol. The Andy Warhol Robot would then be able to read Warhol’s diaries as a theatrical production. This project was left unfinished when Warhol died, and over $400,000 was spent to create a Warhol robot, which is now in the hands of a private collector.

Warhol died in 1987 in New York City. After he died, Warhol’s body was brought back to Pittsburgh, where an open-coffin wake was held. The solid bronze casket had gold-plated rails and white upholstery. Warhol was dressed in a black cashmere suit, a paisley tie, a platinum wig, and sunglasses. He was laid out holding a small prayer book and a red rose, and the coffin was covered with white roses and asparagus ferns.

Warhol is remembered as one of the founding fathers of the Pop Art movement, and for challenging the very definition of art. Warhol’s artistic risks, and his lifelong experimentation with different subjects and media, made him a pioneer in almost all forms of visual art.

Some of the quotes that Andy Warhol is known for include:

Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.

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.

In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

Art is already advertising. Mona Lisa could have been used to support a brand of chocolate, Coca-Cola, or anything else.

Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery.

I am a deeply superficial person.

We seek to last more than we try to live.

When you work with people who misunderstand you, instead of getting transmissions, you get transmutations, and that’s much more interesting in the long run.

by David Jay Brown

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