Friday, 6 May 2011

Profile: Andy Warhol

By Lisa Cowell

Andy Warhol has been branded one of the most influential artists of all time for founding the new wave art movement, pop art.

Warhol talents stretched further than just a painter. He was a renowned filmmaker, print maker, and also was an author of several books.

As a young boy born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1928), Warhol became an outcast at school after contracting Cholera in Third Grade. The months spent in recovery gave Warhol a fear Hospitals and he later became a hypochondriac. He spent most of his time at home with his Mother and fantasised about the Hollywood lifestyle often gathering magazine cut-outs of movie-stars.

In 1949 Warhol realised his passion for art and went on to study commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Here he experimented with modest ink drawings of shoes which would be taken with him when he moved to New York in 1949.

Warhol’s flare for art began to peak and RCA records employed him to design LP covers. During the first few years of the 1950s Warhol was starting to imagine a new commercial art movement which would be branded, pop art.

The famous pop art collection first exhibited at numerous New York galleries. In the exhibition was iconic works of 100 Soup Cans and 100 Coke Bottles. In the 60s both the soup cans and the Coke bottles were later turned into silk-screened prints and would both auction for millions in future years.

Warhol’s work was heavily criticised as ‘unoriginal’ but the world was taking notice and soon the birth of the Factory appeared in the early 60s.

The aluminium lined Factory was a place for artistic, upcoming underground bohemians, who basked in the swinging decade. Warhol branded his people “Superstars” which included Ultra Violet, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and Edie Sedgwick to name a few. More than 2000 photos of the Factory were shot during its time.

The Hollywood fantasy lifestyle was quickly coming true for Warhol as he regularly mixed with the famous and even carried his love into paintings making further silk-screened prints of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Filmmaking became a usual scene in the Factory where Warhol would direct hundreds of critically acclaimed films like Poor Little Rich Girl, featuring Edie Sedgwick, and the well-known Chelsea Girls.

Some critics coined Warhol’s films as pornographic as themes of nudity, homosexuality, and fetishism often came into play.

The Factory was thriving full of eccentrics many who were under the influence of drugs. But all that was short lived when Valerie Solanas entered the Factory shooting Warhol in the chest. The attacked was sparked after being rejected from the Factory when asking for the script she wrote for S.C.U.M Manifesto and was never given payment for her appearance in the Warhol film I, a Man. Solanas stressed she thought Warhol had “too much control” on her life, which was a popular scenario found with other “Superstars” of the Factory, like Edie Sedgwick who committed suicide aged 28.

Since the attack the Factory became quiet and gained unwanted media attention which aided the demise of the art world’s hub.

From the 70s onward Warhol’s media image decreased and was known for doing business collaborations for musician album covers like Mick Jagger and Aretha Franklin. He also published his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

Warhol died in February 1987 from a persisting gallbladder problem. He gave the majority of his earnings to the “advancement of the visual arts”. Most of his work now lies in museums sharing a creative legacy around the world.

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