Catholic, benefactor of the poor, obsessed by time
In the future, everyone will be famous in the world for 15 minutes.
With that empathetic detachment from the human race he loves to show, Andy Warhol tells us about the ephemeral American consumer society, its celebrities, its artificial nonconformism and its tragedies. He uses the image, that is to say the narrative tool par excellence of that society, to redeem the boundaries between art, advertising and news. He exacerbates figurative serialism and makes it become iconic, heading towards business art.
Andrew Warhola was the son of a couple of humble Slovak immigrants. When he moved from Pittsburg to New York, in 1949, he brought with him only a degree and a strong desire for immortality. In the 1960s, Pop Art painting unseated Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism. That was just the beginning. From Coca Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans to the production of short videos and films, from magazines to books, Andy Warhol’s TV never stopped, not even when Valerie Solanas shot him at point-blank range in 1968.
Despite the serialism of his works Andy was a unique piece: he predicted the transition to virtual art
After surviving miraculously, he shut the doors of the Factory and continued creating old and new painting themes and experimental video initiatives. We all know about this, but there is also something about him that escapes us. Together with the metropolitan dandy there walked another Andy, an obscure man whose “charm is rooted in despair” and who thought he looked ugly (that is how he described himself), a benefactor of the homeless, a practicing Catholic, a time-obsessed man. The curators of the exhibition at Tate Modern aspire to lift the protecting veil of eccentricity and make us know Andy Warhol through documents about immigration, drawings that encapsulate his homosexuality, his wigs and the paintings in which thoughts of death and religion creep in.
The exhibition features a number of painting series, floating Silver Clouds (1966), the multimedia music and psychedelic atmosphere of his first full-length film (Sleep), his 1986 Sixty Last Suppers (which is displayed in the UK for the first time) and works dating from the last period, which were clearly affected by the impact of HIV, an epidemic that infected many of his acquaintances. Everything seems to have weight, even the cardboard Brillo boxes.
Despite serialism, Andy Warhol is a unique piece: in the 1960s, he had already sensed the advent of the culture of the self and of the epochal transition from the real to the virtual: “Holograms are going to be exciting, I think. ( … ) You’ll be able to have this 3-D party in your house, you’ll be able to pretend you’re there and walk in with the people”, he wrote in his 1975 philosophical text, “In the future, everyone will be famous in the world for 15 minutes.” And so it was. Did he also imagine that, one day, it would have been possible to visit one of his exhibition only virtually?
Maria Angela Tiozzi