Friday, August 06, 2010

In Memoriam: Andy Warhol

The father of Pop, Andy Warhol, was both revered and reviled in his lifetime; how he was seen in the years between his birth - on this day in 1928 - and his untimely death in February 1987 is pretty much how he's been regarded ever since, although to be fair there's a little more reverence and a little less revulsion in the ongoing cultural assessment of him with each passing year. Not that we here at the Pop Culture Institute have ever been anything less than reverent towards him - in our own irreverent way, of course...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBecause he took art seriously but refused to afford himself the same, because he skewered pomposity at every turn with a certain cheeky pomposity of his own, because he wouldn't kiss the ass of gallery directors and owners and the art buying elite but preferred to create and sell his art at his own Factory (let alone because he dared to call his studio - his sacred atelier! - anything as honest as a factory!) and because his earliest successes came as a commercial artist, the Art Establishment at the time often jeered at his work. Not that it mattered; the louder they jeered the more (and better) it sold! If anything he was living proof of the maxim 'you can't sell out if you don't buy in'.

It's just as likely, though, that because he never starved, never really visibly or outwardly suffered for his art*, both he and it lacked the necessary gravitas to be taken seriously by the same pretentious blowhards who shivered in garrets while living on a diet of coffee and cigarettes because they didn't understand art and culture (let alone how they could be marketed and sold) as well as Warhol did. Jealousy, pure jealousy, explains away so much...

Yet his influence on all aspects of culture - including of course pop culture, which he can be said to have founded - cannot be ignored. His famous maxim, stating that 'in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' has been taken utterly to heart, at least on television, where legions of maladjusted attention whores routinely threaten to crowd out genuinely talented people whether with their head games, sociopathic neediness, and/or off-key warbling... Each of them dreaming of being famous not for their talent or achievements (which is as it should be) but simply for being famous. One wonders what Warhol would have thought of the world he has wrought; likely he'd think it was 'neat' - the most commonly used word in his diaries, which around here have taken on Biblical overtones since they were edited together by Pat Hackett and published in 1989**.

One also wonders what he'd have thought of the plethora of pop culture portrayals of him his extraordinary persona has yielded... Thanks to such performances as Crispin Glover in Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors, David Bowie in Julian Schnabel's 1996 film Basquiat, Jared Harris in Mary Harron's 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol, or even Guy Pearce in George Hickenlooper's 2007 film Factory Girl, which was about the life of Warhol's brightest superstar (and Pop Culture Institute fave) Edie Sedgwick, Warhol's distinctive affect is as recognizable today as it ever was. I think he'd think that was 'neat'...
*He was shot, by Valerie Solanas, in June 1968 - but he was already famous by then, so it sort of doesn't count.
**Plus, they have one all-important thing the Bible doesn't - an index!
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