Eight sides of Andy
The Pope of Pop was born 91 years ago today. Here’s how he went from magazine illustrator to art world superstar
For an artist with so much range and influence, Andy Warhol was, at times, quite repetitive. Indeed, for him, doing the same thing over and over again wasn’t a bug; it was a feature. “I started repeating the same image because I liked the way the repetition changed the same image,” we quote the artist as saying in our book, Andy Warhol Giant Size. Yet, Warhol himself led a varied, multifaceted life. On the artist’s birthday we look back at eight sides of Andy...
Warhol the illustrator Warhol arrived in New York in the summer of 1949, and quickly earned a name for himself as an illustrator. “Warhol’s success was largely due to his invention of a blotted-line technique, whereby he would take a pencil drawing, trace it with ink, and, while it was still wet, press the drawing onto another sheet of paper, creating a spontaneous-looking line that delighted art directors with its original “handmade” look,” explains the author, poet and Warhol scholar Kenneth Goldsmith in our book Andy Warhol Giant Size “This was enhanced by his mother’s shaky cursive texts, which would accompany his illustrations. His appearance - disheveled and pimply - earned Warhol the nickname “Raggedy Andy” among professionals in the field.”
Warhol the ad guy Warhol’s commercial work, and the commercial signage of the 1960s informed Warhol’s early Pop art, “Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again,” he observed. “And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again.”
Warhol the communicator Andy wasn’t a confident public speaker; in 1967 he sent an actor to impersonate him on a college lecture tour. Nevertheless, he managed to communicate a wide range of ideas in new and unexpected ways. It was this quality that led fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg to observe “he never relinquished his innocence and yet in his short life managed to move from speechless to creating a universal communication network.”
Warhol the shopper During his early years in New York, Warhol produced window displays for department stores such as Bonwit Teller & Co. and his admiration for the commercial experience never dimmed. “When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums,” he once observed.
Warhol as a starmaker Warhol may have immortalised a handful of young New York socialites and hustlers, but the time spent in their company was more brief than you might imagine. Though the Queen of the Factory, Edie Sedgwick, appeared in more than 10 Warhol films, the pair’s short, tempestuous relationship lasted little more than two years.
Warhol as a star Fame changed Andy, according to Factory insider David Dalton. “This art and its consequent celebrity presented Warhol with a set of personal demands,” writes Dalton in Andy Warhol Giant Size. “The new style would ultimately require a new Andy, a new persona, with requisite entourage. The cool, hip, vaguely sinister “Drella” would displace - though not entirely replace - the earlier sweet and daffy Andy of the soup-can paintings.”
Warhol the film director Though the films might seem today to be a secondary consideration, Andy’s film making more or less coincided with his fine-art career, as Goldsmith notes in our book. ” Warhol made his first film, Sleep (1963)—six hours of the poet John Giorno sleeping - after having become increasingly fascinated by the New York underground-film scene,” writes Goldsmith. “Warhol said to Giorno, “I want to make a movie. Do you want to be the star?” Giorno, thrilled to be asked, said: “What do I have to do?” “I want to make a movie of you sleeping,” Warhol answered. The result scandalized both the art and film worlds.”
Warhol the socialite Andy may have founded the Factory, but he wasn’t always the most famous person in the building, and often preferred to act as a demure host, rather than become the centre of attention. “A lot of people thought it was me everyone at the Factory was hanging around, that I was some kind of big attraction that everyone came to see, but that’s absolutely backward,” he once said. “It was me who was hanging around everyone else. I just paid the rent, and the crowds came simply because the door was open. People weren’t particularly interested in seeing me, they were interested in seeing each other. They came to see who came.”