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September 27, 2006

Andy and Me and Joe and Don

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Did you make it through the recent Ric Burns / PBS documentary about Andy Warhol? What a logy and dismal piece of filmmaking. Pacing-wise, Ric Burns makes Ken Burns look like an action-adventure specialist. And the apparatus that PBS loads on top of so many of their prestige documentaries drives me nuts. The mournful music is a particular annoyance. That noodling solo piano (or solo violin) seems meant to convey, "When did America go so wrong?" In "Andy Warhol," two hours passed before music with a discernable beat could be heard in the background -- and this in a film whose subject was a fantastically successful '60s pop artist.

The surfeit of pointless, standard-issue PBS verbiage about what it means to be an American can drive me up a wall too. Warhol, you'll be shocked to learn, was "the most American of artists." In him and in his work, "we see ourselves." Actually I was too stunned by the banality of the narration -- delivered in the most banal way by Laurie Anderson -- to rush to my notebook to transcribe passages verbatim. Trust me, though: They were worse than anything you or I could invent on our own.

(Long ago -- here and here -- I had some fun at the expense of what I called "the church of PBS.")

But, y'know, documentaries ... Real subject matter, decent footage, interesting interviews, etc. I stuck the film out, all four hours of it. Although I've never been drawn to Warhol's work (rather the opposite), I did live through the '60s and '70s -- and what the hell was all that about? (Not as settled a question as it's sometimes made out to be!)

Also, watching the film, it dawned on me that Andy and I have our own little history together. At college in the '70s, one of my suitemates was an arty Warhol worshipper. He painted affectless paintings; he spoke in a light, flat, odd voice; and he had a posse of outrageously camp friends from New York City -- he ran his own mini-Factory, in other words. In the '80s, The Wife and I did some writing for Warhol's Interview magazine. We've been to the Warhol Museum. I've read "Edie," as well as a couple of Warhol's own books, and I've gone through many essays about his work. I've watched a few of the movies and seen many of the paintings. The Wife and I live about six blocks from where Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas. As the credits on the PBS show came up, it didn't come as a total surprise to learn that one of the film's producers is someone I know, if in a very-long-ago sort of way.

So, although I'm not a fan and I'm not a scholar either, and though I never encountered Warhol in the flesh, Andy and I have some history together. Interesting! If -- given what a smalltown hetero rube I am at heart -- a little weird. How did this come to pass?

[Small note. A while back I wrote a posting asking if the excesses of '60s and '70s feminism were necessary, and provided quotes from a number of feminists that were really extreme. Valerie Solanas provides additional substance for my case. Here's a woman who shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol; she also shot a visiting art critic. Solanas was found guilty and given a three year sentence. Yet, according to Wikipedia, "Feminist Robin Morgan (later editor of Ms. magazine) demonstrated for Solanas' release from prison. Ti-Grace Atkinson, the New York chapter president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), described Solanas as 'the first outstanding champion of women's rights.' Another member, Florynce Kennedy, represented Solanas at her trial, calling her 'one of the most important spokeswomen of the feminist movement'." That's right: Three prominent feminists argued publicly that Valerie Solanas -- crazy, paranoid, and unquestionably guilty of the attempted murder of a gay man -- was a feminist heroine. Was that really necessary? Did it even help the feminist cause?]

What do you make of Warhol? Perhaps he had Aspergers Syndrome, speculates one interviewee. He was, in any case, such an oddball that he could seem like a creature from another planet. He grew up freakish, imaginative, unattractive, and talented in a poor part of Pittsburgh. He was sickly, and hypersensitive to touch -- he could barely stand to be touched. His mother -- the source of his talent and his drive -- joined him after he moved to NYC, and then shared his house almost until his death. Andy wanted nothing so much as to be a glamorous female movie star. Being swish, male, and ugly, but also visually talented, he turned himself into a star-making artworld star instead.

Ric Burns' interviewees agree on all the above. So far as the facts of Andy go, they're an interesting and insightful bunch. They're also in agreement that what drove Andy was a remarkably pure and powerful desire to succeed.

An aside: This illustrates something that civilians often don't grasp about the NYC art and intellectual worlds. Many of the people in these worlds would do pretty much anything in order to succeed. This is because, in everyday terms, many of these people are such flagrant losers. (As one of them said to me when I asked him what his high school years had been like, "I was the school faggot.") Pursuing life and success in the NYC culture world isn't one option among many to these people, as it might be to someone more conventionally fortunate and well-rounded. They will do everything they can to succeed, because (in their minds, anyway) it's literally their only chance in life. Ferocious! No wonder so many better-balanced culturebuffs bail out of the culture-life. How can they compete?

Warhol was one of the do-or-die people. He was unquestionably talented, ambitious, and astute. And, really, what else did he have going for him but his drive and his talent? He came to NYC in 1949 to pursue a career as a commercial artist, and by 1960 he was one of the most successful commercial artists in the city. When he turned his energies to making a name as a fine artist, he did so with the same kind of intensity and determination.

One of the most challenging hurdles he faced was his commercial-art background. Commercial artists simply weren't taken seriously; they were viewed as tainted. Should he pretend to be something else? Should he change entirely? Perhaps he could renounce his past. Warhol applied his canniness instead: Why not treat fine art the same way I treated commercial art? Keep it all on the surface. Give it cleverness and kapow. Churn it out by the yard. Listen to advice. (It wasn't Andy's inspiration to make paintings of Campbell's Soup cans, for example, it was one of his friends who had the idea.) And let others make of the results what they will.

The times were right, of course, and Warhol and his work became sensations. The coverage was enormous; with his odd appearance, his weird public manner, his diet pills, and his blonde wigs, Andy became as much of an icon of the era as his paintings were. His zoned-out persona -- so much the reverse of conventional charisma that it became powerfully charismatic in its own right -- attracted enthusiasm, imitators, and followers.

Even so: Good lord, the shortsightedness and self-importance of the art world! Interviewee after interviewee, for instance, offers a variation on "Everyone who came to New York stopped by The Factory," Warhol's foil-covered open studio, where he played passive-aggresive ringmaster to a crowd of addicts, heiresses, and drag queens. "Everyone" sure didn't include me, my family, or my friends. And where do so many artworld people get their bizarre semi-English / semi-Bronx accents anyway? But the Factory considered itself -- and its survivors evidently still think that they were -- the epicenter of all '60s culture. Sigh: Something happens in the art world and, as far as artsies are concerned, the entire universe quakes and trembles. Is there a crowd of people with less sense of perspective?

What did it all -- or any of it -- really mean? Here's where Burns' subjects, to my mind, fall on their faces. Warhol's career was a comment about this, or a statement about that, or a reconception of art as we've always known it. In any event, we've never seen the world the same way since, and Andy was the single greatest artist of the second half of the 20th century. Etc, etc. Even the excellent Dave Hickey manages (IMHO) to make a pretentious fool of himself as he spins out "Why Andy was a genius" theories.

Most of the intellectuals Ric Burns consults make the apparently-inevitable intellectuals' mistake of assuming that the artist in question is first a philosopher and only then a visual guy. But was Andy Warhol really first a thinker, who somehow arrived at "something important to say," and who then picked up tools in order to say it? Forgive me, but it seems far truer to my artworld experience (as well as to the evidence presented in the film) to assume that Warhol was 1) a visual talent, 2) who was eager to make it as an artist, and 3) who maybe (or maybe not) developed something to say as he made his way in the art world.

Of course, most of the "something to say" stuff that artists are discussed as contributing gets put there by the critics, profs, curators, gallery owners, and audiences. And that's OK. In Warhol's case, though, this was even-more-than-usually-so the case. Warhol did what he did, it was about as deep as a peanut-butter sandwich, and that's all there was to it -- and that made him catnip to the "let's read into it" crowd. They're busy projecting into him still. So: Was playing the blank a canny artworld move on Warhol's part? Or was it an expression of well-thought-out and infinitely-profound genius?

What to make of Andy as a person? When stardom hit, he changed. He seemed to turn from an uneasy, anxious nebbish into the media's version of himself. And isn't that a little creepy? Sitting back and taking it all in -- being the blank screen onto which everyone madly projects -- is all well and fine. But doesn't even a blank screen bear some responsibility when unstable people projecting onto it start to toss themselves out of windows instead? Ronald Tavel, who wrote screenplays for some of Warhol's early movies, recalls that Andy's reaction to the news of one of his posse's suicides was, "Oh, how beautiful it must have been, it's too bad we couldn't have been there to film it!"

So Andy really was a bit of a chilly user. OK, perhaps calling him "a bloodsucker" wouldn't be off-base. (It's hard not to come away from "Edie" wishing Andy ill.) The portrayal of Andy that I've found most convincing (not that I have any special knowledge) has been Mary Woronov's. Woronov, best-known for her far-out performances in cult films like "Eating Raoul," was a Factory girl herself, and she depicts Andy as, essentially, a brilliant and destructive vampire. Woronov, by the way, turns out to be a hell of a writer. I also loved her hardboiled suspense thriller "Snake." Here's Mary Woronov's own website.

How do you feel about Warhol's art? I like the work he did as a commercial illustrator in the '50s much more than his '60s artworld-art, let alone the cashing-in '70s and '80s celebrity stuff. The illustrations he made have a beauty and a whimsicality that beguiles and touches me -- although spacey, they're also half-human. Meanwhile, his later deadpan gamesmanship doesn't speak to me at all, and the famous air he projected of being blanked-out in the face of media culture I find amusing but also annoying.

And the paintings are so flat and so loud, aren't they? What has surprised me in nearly all the discussions of Warhol's art that I've read is the way that an aspect of it that's obvious to me gets ignored. I find his artworks horrifying and grotesque. However colorful they are, they're also airless and lightless; they bespeak a life obsessed with tackiness, celebrity, and cheap horror. They suggest a barren, drugged-out, and glaring mindscape. Can I be forgiven for thinking "Yucko"?

Am I alone in reacting to his art in this way? Warhol's celebrity portraits, for instance, are supposedly loads of irresistable fun -- celebrations of pop celebrity that are also catty underminings of it. I "get" all that reasonably well. But I get something else too, which is that a Warhol celeb portrait turns its subject into a drag-queen version of himself or herself. A little gaudy and depressing, no? Not something I'm eager to have happen to me or mine, in any case. Yet many people paid good money for these images and were delighted to hang them over their fireplaces. My mind starts to feel a little seasick thinking about all this. I start to feel like the mental / emotional world that Warhol inhabited, serviced, and excelled in was a genuine nuthouse.

By the way, I have no quarrel with the idea that Warhol was very talented, and that he was a landmark artist of some sort. Personal reactions are not critical / historical judgments!

I confess that I'm not entirely sure what I've gotten from my long, inadvertent wrestle with Andy Warhol. I do come away from it with a lot of respect for the toughness and audacity of some gay guys, though. Warhol himself had approximately a zillion times the work ethic that I do, as well as the guts to be himself, whatever that was, and to push it on the world hard. No apologies, baby.

I come away too with the occasional bout of self-doubt. Perhaps I'd have had a better life not trying to be part of the NYC culture-media world, which -- as Shouting Thomas likes to stress -- has become overwhelmingly Warhol-ish and gay in the last few decades. Too late to turn back now!

But I've also learned from Warhol about the strategic advantages of superficiality, and about how to welcome input and accidents. Why let ego get in the way of a good idea, after all? God knows that we straight people can be awfully earnest, blustering, and cloddish. Why don't we let ourselves live chilled-out and on-the-surface a bit more? Warhol once said that it took him years to learn a key lesson: how to say "So what?" and then move on. It's not a bad resource for anyone to be able to draw on.

As far as art goes, my own taste in gay, pop, New York, mischievous painting runs far more towards Joe Brainard than it does towards Warhol. Brainard, who isn't very well-known, was lyrical, sweet, impish, witty, and fluent. And his paintings and other artworks are cheery and warm, as well as free of the kind of poison that Warhol's seem to me to be full of. Here's the Joe Brainard website. You can see some of his paintings here. And, so far as gay / glam portraiture goes, I'll take Don Bachardy over Warhol any day: here, here, here, here. Casual yet jewel-like, incisive and sympathetic, Bachardy's drawings and paintings are informal classicism at its best.

Note to self: Write a posting about "gays and me" at some point ...

Do you have any special feelings for Andy Warhol? And how do you react to his art?



UPDATE: Alicatte expresses more enthusiasm for the documentary than I could summon up.

posted by Michael at September 27, 2006


Really nice article. Really nice. The more you read it, the better it gets. Not a Warhol fan, either. Your description of the arts/intellectual scene in NYC was spot on. Been there, done that. You nailed it.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on September 27, 2006 4:20 PM

My own take (for what it's worth) is that Warhol was a very talented guy, who could have been a great artist, had he lived in a time that was both free enough to allow him to express his own idiosyncratic vision, and "traditional" enough to keep him focussed, a time that would have made him reach deeper. Unfortunately, he came to fame in the 1960's.....

Oh, well. He wasn't the only potentially great artist lost in that mish-mash of a decade.

Posted by: tschafer on September 27, 2006 4:22 PM

Having recently been at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and rather ashamed at how little of knew of the "20th century genius", I thought Ric Burns' documentary was great for filling in a lot of holes. The number of folks he interviewed and filmed seemed limited in number but they came off well as characters that made Warhol's story interesting. What with the short lifespan of the Factory hanger-on's I guess it was tough getting more faces in front of the camera. So, at least one thumb up from me on the film since it provided a lot of info that was easliy digestible. My favorite portion of the four hours was the first hour or so where Warhol's Pittsburgh life was traced. The tie-in to the effect of Church and his immediate family explained a lot for me when I remembered some of the pieces I'd seen at the Warhol Museum.

I'm still not a big fan. I appreciate his effect and his view, but, hard as I try, I see very little uplifting in his body of work. There's so much moroseness a person could take. At the end of the movie I felt the same as I did when I exited the Warhol Museum. Glad to have seen it but generally depressed about the human condition.

What I need is a long hard hit of Red Grooms!

Posted by: DarkoV on September 27, 2006 4:36 PM

Hm, I DVR'd that doc too, and haven't seen it yet, so maybe not now... as for Warhol, I think you're right about the gaudy and depressing, but isn't that what he meant? I mean, everyone being famous for 15 minutes, it's kind of vile, and a lot of art is vile now. And that does seem to be a gay theme, arch enjoyment of the nauseating (am I being gayist? whatever).

Posted by: Alice on September 27, 2006 4:47 PM

Saw the doc. I enjoyed it for the salacious (and sad) details, but mostly for the 50s commercial work of Warhol's. I'd never seen any of that stuff. It's truly brilliant. Never really cared for his more famous stuff, but as a cultural figure, it's hard to overstate his importance, for better or worse. I think someon in the film called him the Duchamp of the 60s or something, which is a pretty good description. He, along with some others, reinvented what could be considered art. Again, for better or worse.

Posted by: the patriarch on September 27, 2006 5:03 PM

I think Warhol was a genius, flat out, one of the greatest if not the greatest post-WWII American visual artists. There's a certain pained, grudging undercurrent to your article that implies the same thing -- you don't want to admit the guy's greatness but in spite of yourself you're sort of dragged to do it.

You say that Warhol said to himself: "Why not treat fine art the same way I treated commercial art? Keep it all on the surface. Give it cleverness and kapow." You seem to feel that this is somehow cheating. But it's precisely it's greatness! He saw the culture moving toward a certain kind of obsession with superficiality and glamour, and he both predicted and reflected that in his art. Not just in a removed conceptual way or a condemnatory way. But in a way that reflected also the aesthetic strengths of commerical pop mass visual products. I find much of his work to be charming and whimsical and witty in the way it records the visual brashness of the commercial aesthetic. I'm a little mystified why a number of the commentators here find him depressing. He can be so if you're looking for a particular kind of old-European thing out of your artists, but on his own terms I don't find him so.

I must say, MB, as someone who goes on and on about questioning the lines between high and low art and the popular and the elite, I would think you would appreciate something of what Warhol did. Sometimes I wonder whether your own personal sense of alienation from the people you've known in the NY art scene also affects your aesthetic judgement of people who are particularly identified with that scene.

BTW, I agree with you about the solemn and humorless PBS aesthetic. NPR has some of the same problem. It's the last stronghold of middlebrow, I guess.

Posted by: MQ on September 27, 2006 5:04 PM

And someone like Bachardy is *of course* a better and more pleasant classicist than Warhol was, but Warhol was doing just a completely different and hard-to-compare thing. Warhol really was a conceptual artist, but he had a level of artistic talent that was far greater than the utterly dry and cold stick-an-essay-on-the-wall types that term has been associated with. Warhol felt and conveyed some of the aesthetic force of his concepts, or perhaps one could say he aesthetically experienced the conceptual revolution of mass commercial visual production, instead of just intellectualizing it. And permitted his viewers to experience that revolution in a new way as well.

Posted by: MQ on September 27, 2006 5:13 PM

A lot of art now is not vile in the least. The stuff that gets a lot of press is, though. FWIW, I cannot stand Warhol. Talented? Could have been good if...? Well, his potential is now irrelevant. What we have is what he was. And what we have is a picture of Warhol the man--an obsessive who obsessed about many things, fame being upmost. Hence his preoccupations with celebrity and "mass production". MB is right that a lot of people in the arts are obsessed with "making it", fame being the "it". They will do anything, hence the outrageous shock art, the backstabbing, the name-dropping and "scene"-chasing, etc. It doesn't surprise me that gay men are now a big part of this--insecure outsiders. What is distinctly missing in our culture is "insider art"--art made by normal people in a craftsmanlike fashion for the enrichment and enjoyment of other normal people. It still exists all over the place, but is usually not given much press, as the media fame chasers (who are of the same ilk as the other kind) are not particularly interested. Very sad really.

The ascendancy of the Twisted in the 1950's and 60's (and later) was really just a part of the overall ethos of the outsiders whose outsiderness was celebrated by a press intent on overturning the existing order, and looking for something new to erect in its place. It was a nightmare in the visual art world. And now you can see it seeping into other art forms as well, as the outiders migrate to those media--advertising, television, movies, etc. Name any art form and the outsider degenerates are there, tearing normality down. I believe it really is a cultural war. And what feeds the degenerates is our habituation to media and passive entertainment. And I beleive they know this too.

Past generations never had to deal with this, as the artists were mostly employed to celebrate the existing culture. Cultures were only overturned by outide conquest, not inside conquest. Now the enemies are within.

How Warhol is regarded in the future will largely be determined by who wins this cultural war. I hope he is seen for what he was--an oddball freak degenerate opportunist. I'm sure he has more normal qualities, but you don't praise your enemies. It creates moral confusion, in the form of equivocation. I don't find that analysis interesting either. There are many other biographies that I think are more deserving of attention and sympathy.

So I hope in the future we give Warhol, who tried to destroy and mock us, what he most feared--anonymity and oversight. Its truly what he and his work deserve.

Posted by: btm on September 27, 2006 5:41 PM

Michael: And the apparatus that PBS loads on top of so many of their prestige documentaries drives me nuts. The mournful music is a particular annoyance. That noodling solo piano (or solo violin) seems meant to convey, "When did America go so wrong?"

I guess you've prolly seen this by now, Michael, but if you haven't...

Posted by: Brian on September 27, 2006 7:23 PM

oh man, brilliant piece Michael . . .

Posted by: Kirsten on September 27, 2006 7:38 PM

Another thing: there's a two hour documentary on Youtube about Warhol's personal archive. First hour here , second hour here. (You'll notice that he straight-laced his shoes.)

Oddly enough, Warhol's pictures - while hardly my thing - always struck me as funny and accessible and full of pep, while also being right-wing in a funny sort of a way - Campbell's Soup as the only egalitarianism worth fighting for, that kind of thing. The Bachardy pictures, on the other hand, strike me as squalid and grotesque - and not in a good way. THey seem like something only an artist could love, and I left that page "depressed about the human condition". I hate to say eye of the beholder, but there you are.

Posted by: Brian on September 27, 2006 9:19 PM

It might be a result of the fact that the peak of Warhol's fame was just a bit before my time, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him is the seemingly endless legal battle over his estate. What a lousy legacy.

Posted by: Peter on September 27, 2006 9:31 PM

Gee, the PBS movie sounds like one of Warhol's own. Sleep, maybe, which was a several hour long shot of a person sleeping. As for the lady who shot Warhol, I believe she was a member of that esteemed feminist group SCUM (Society to Cut Up Men). At least they had a sense of humor.

Posted by: Lea Luke on September 27, 2006 10:16 PM

Haven't seen the documentary, and therefore I am sure am under-informed. But, boy, I wouldn't want to watch it---viscerally, Warhol stands for me as "the symbol of everything wrong with the sixties and early seventies (and I am someone who was in elementary school , then). He's Bianca Jagger, Liza, Studio 54, Truman-Capote-after-"In Cold Blood", terminal shallowness personified. He's the "it's cool to be so hip that you don't even care if you destroy yourself" mentality---which led a lot of young people genuinely astray. Plus---those celebrity silk screenings---what don't I get? So its talented to basically do a very superficial outline of Liza from a photograph, and then print it in six different colors?? The most admirable part of Warhol to me is how he branded himself---like a Gucci watch---so that it was a "Warhol" and therefore "cool". He was a marketing phenomenon, more than an art phenomenon.

Posted by: annette on September 28, 2006 9:41 AM

I disagree with every single word you wrote. but this only goes to show how true the old internet adage is...

Opinions are like assholes... everyone's got one.

Posted by: Michael Oldfield on September 28, 2006 1:43 PM

Charlton -- I notice that you aren't in the NYC arts world any longer. Hmmmm.

Tschaefer -- "Mishmash of a decade" sounds just about right.

DarkoV -- "Uplift"? You want uplift from art? What are you, a man from another age?

Alice -- "Gayist" is good too!

Patriarch -- Indeed.

MQ -- They should have had you on the show, you make a better case for Warhol than the onscreen crew did. As for me, nah, I don't resist Warhol, I've just never resonated to him, even before I came to NYC. Actually I shrink from his art some.

BTM -- Art made by normal people? Exhibiting craftsmanship? Lordy. Do you want us living without electricity too?

Brian -- Thanks (as so often) for inspired linking. I'm surprised Bachardy struck you that way, but glad to hear you enjoy Warhol's images.

Peter -- I seem to remember that Warhol left significant dough to the New York Academy of Art, a hyper-traditionalist art school. Warhol himself liked living among neoclassicism. What to make of this?

Luke -- Maybe Warhol's spirit endures at PBS. God knows they produce a lot of snoozers. But maybe they're just playing with our idea of time and duration!

Annette -- But but but ... (Sputter, sputter) Can't you see the brilliance in everything that you're denouncing?

Kirsten -- Thanks! And thanks for stopping by and having a read.

Michael -- Never have truer words been uttered.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 28, 2006 2:20 PM

"Andy wanted nothing more than to be a glamorous female movie star."

And yet, he ridiculed fame and those who seek it and achieve it---his infamous 15 minutes remark. Elevating self-loathing to new heights...Maybe its the self-loathing that was so obvious within these people that I am reacting to. Hardly elevating the human condition.

Posted by: annette on September 28, 2006 3:27 PM

Andy Warhol has now been famous for 38 years for saying that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Warhol's career was a lesson in how to extend your 15 minutes of fame forever, and many other celebrities have since learned it.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on September 28, 2006 5:36 PM

Perhaps what one rock critic once said about Rod Stewart applies to Warhol and the other NY arts types you mention. He was trying to explain how Stewart could make such wonderful music in the early 1970s and be turning out such crap by the end of the decade, and pointed out that when Rod was young and hungry, the point of being famous was to get rich and screw movie stars. (Still strong motivations, clearly). And if the shortest route for him to become famous was to be a legitimately great artist, well, Rod was willing. But he didn't stay one for one minute longer than he had to once the fame kicked in.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on September 29, 2006 9:10 AM

I gave up on the Burns Warhol doc after about twenty minutes; too much "same old same old" art babble and conventional wisdom.

That said, Warhol was important from an art historical/conceptual perspective but also his art is compelling on a purely visual level, which is what we look for, after all, from a visual artist. Having been at one art event where he was in attendance and seeing many of his works "in the flesh" (as opposed to in reproduction) over the years, I admire the way he managed to both create an immediate visual jolt and also offer some sophisticated and intriguing depth in terms of color relations, etc. Among my personal favorites were the works in the "Diamond Dust Shoes" series. These were black painted grounds on which were screened images of shoes (recalling some of Warhol's advertising illustrations); the screens were done in glue then industrial diamond dust was poured over them, sticking to the glue. All in all they were wondrous to look at and had plenty of layers of irony and "content" for the art critics to chew on.

I wonder, reading some of the comments, why it is that artists are supposed to be above or beyond the sort of ambition that drives top achievers in other fields. Aren't major athletes, doctors, lawyers, and so on as driven by a desire for wealth and prominence in their fields as top artists? I also wonder what Warhol's sexuality, or the cast of characters that developed around him, ultimately has to do with Warhol's art or how we perceive him as an artist.

Posted by: Chris White on September 29, 2006 4:52 PM

Very interesting post. Despite that, I still liked the documentary. However, I would like to propose a new law that would ban the word "genius" from the English language.

Posted by: Alicatte on September 29, 2006 5:29 PM

Annette -- It's funny how the self-loathingness that you and I and some others detect in Warhol's art just isn't apparent to some other people, isn't it? Are we reading in? Are they beng dense? And another question: What makes some self-loathing art compelling (Munch, maybe?), and some not?

Steve -- I think you're right: a lot of people look to Andy as a kind of career and attitude-guru. The man played the game shrewdly and successfully.

Derek -- So true. If you're getting everything you want, why bother really putting out any longer? Sigh: fortune, adoration, blowjobs ... I suppose the oomph would go out of me too ...

Chris -- I'd imagine you'd have been through all that stuff about a zillion times before. As for ambitious and gay, others will speak for themselves, but I certainly have no trouble with it.

Alicatte -- Where can I sign your petition?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 29, 2006 5:39 PM

Considering Mr. Warhol's status as the Duchamp of the 1960s...

Having already had Duchamp himself, I could never really see what the need was for Warhol, or Rauschenberg or conceptual art really was. After all, the concept of conceptual art was already on display for all to see at MOMA and its kindred institutions. More importantly, most of the humor in conceptual art--which is its only real juice--had already been pressed by the first vintner.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 3, 2006 2:42 PM

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