Andrew Warhol was born August Sixth, 1928, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He was the youngest son of Julie and Andrej Warhola, both immigrants from Czechoslovakia. After a quiet childhood spent alternately alone and in art classes, Andrew went to college. He then got a job doing commercial art, largely advertisements for large companies. Over time his name was shortened and Andy Warhol changed the face of modern art. Through his silver lined Factory and the many people who frequented it a revolution was born. This paper will discuss some of these people and examine the impact they all made on modern art.
Ruska Dolina was a small Ruthenian suburb of Pittsburgh. It was populated with, of course, eastern European immigrants. Andy Warhol was born into this very close-knit neighborhood speaking his parent’s native tongue. Julia Warhola was herself a bit of an artist, in later years she would collaborate with her youngest son. Andrej Warhola worked in the great steel mills of Pittsburgh. The Warhola household was very typical of the times. Julia would stay home, cook, and read to her boys while Mr. Warhola worked in a steel mill sweatshop with hundreds of other immigrants. The family was strictly Eastern Orthodox Catholics.
On Sunday, the day of rest, no one was allowed to move. These days were passed indoors with Mrs. Warhola telling stories to the boys. Like most children, Andrew collected the pictures and posters of various celebrities that would define such a body of his work in later years. Andrew was a rather small boy. In interviews Andy Warhol said that he was pale and scrawny and that he was thusly bullied on several occasions by his classmates. When he was fourteen Andrew’s father died of tuberculosis, a common malady of the times, especially for the profession. This had a profound affect on young Andrew.
As was the Orthodox tradition, the body was laid out in the house for three days of mourning and visitation. During this span Andrew hid under his bed refusing to look at his father’s body. Despite the poorly paying job, Andrej managed to set aside money for college. However, he saved only enough to send one child, and the general consensus was that this would be Andrew. In Fifth grade Andrew started attending the free Saturday classes that the Carnegie Institute taught. It is noted that even then young Andrew excelled at his art. Due to the bullying by his classmates he stayed inside a great deal, working on his art.
Due to his aptitude in school, Andrew skipped two grades and was admitted into the Carnegie Institute of Technology at the young age of 16. Once in the school Andrew was admitted to the Department of Painting and Design. He studied various aspects of commercial graphic design and after his graduation he moved to New York to seek his fortune. Page 2 Once out of college Andrew of course had very little money and for a brief while he shared a basement apartment with seventeen other individuals. Finding employment demanded a never-ending series of portfolio submissions.
In an interview Andrew said that his name was accidentally changed to Warhol. He says that it was never a conscious decision, it rather happened over time. Regardless, the name change stuck, the first name was shortened, and the world-renowned artist was forming. The basement with seventeen roommates did not last long; Andy was rather fast at finding steady employment. In 1951, two years out of school, Andy Warhol bought a nice apartment for himself. Shortly thereafter his mother and her three cats showed up one evening. Julia Warhola was to live with the son she adored so greatly for her remaining twenty years.
During these two decades Andy kept his home life strikingly separate from his public persona. His time with his mother was cherished. Julia was in fact his first collaborator in art. Andy helped her make a book about cats and “censored heaven”, where all cats went. This book was an interesting mixture of his mother’s folk art background and his unique styling. Over this time Andy Warhol had his world famous silver covered “Factory” and his constantly revolving entourage and hangers-on. One of the so-called crazy people that Andy let hang around was Valerie Solanas.
She surprised him one day in the Factory and shot him twice with a thirty-two. The bullets ripped through his stomach, spleen, liver, esophagus, and both lungs. At one point Andy Warhol was pronounced dead, but it was not yet his time. The more reputable denizens of the Factory, the people who both influenced and were influenced by Andy Warhol, each in their own way made a contribution to art. Everyone who frequented the Factory had his or her own futures and pasts, be it the guy sweeping the floors or the Beat poets who dropped by. Celebrities and United States Presidents, even foreign royalty knew Andy Warhol.
This man’s workshop was both a breeding ground of art and a place for gathering and partying. In a cool and withdrawn manner Andy Warhol governed an empire of art that stretched in every conceivable direction. Curiously, the other prominent artists of the time, such as Jasper Johns, avoided contact with Andy Warhol. This has been largely attributed to his open stance on his homosexuality. At the time it was considered more appropriate for the male painters to be macho. This can be seen in Jasper Johns’ cigarettes hanging out of his mouth as he paints his canvases, and his macho stance in other aspects.
All the while these prominent artists were privately gay, but were rather scared of Warhol’s stance on his public life. This is rather inconsequential, however, as Warhol Page 3 much preferred the fringe of society. He practically collected the outcasts; occasionally promoting artists, such as he did with Jean-Michel Basquait. Yet the promotion and friendship did not stop at painting. Andy Warhol had an association with the Velvet Underground, and was friends with the Rolling Stones. Andy Warhol’s commercial art background was still put to use after he became the new art sensation.
Perhaps the only reason he put these skills to use was because of his involvement with his friends in the music industry, the Velvet Underground and to some extent the Rolling Stones. Andy actively participated in the rise of the Velvet Underground. In the early Seventies they were quite stylish, in large part due to their interaction with Warhol and his various associates. Andy Warhol even designed the cover for their albums. One cover specifically evokes Pop Art. One might say the large, plain banana with the dotted pattern more resembles Liechtenstein than Warhol. Regardless, this was not the only album cover Andy Warhol did.
He also did the original work for the Rolling Stones album, Sticky Fingers. It featured an actual canvas depiction of blue jeans complete with a working zipper. This was more in line with Warhol, keeping with his shock value ideas. The Sticky Fingers album cover was not the only interaction Andy Warhol had with the Rolling Stones. Warhol did a number of unique portraits for his friends and colleagues, largely as favors and gifts. The list perhaps reads like a virtual who’s who of the day. Truman Capote, Mick Jagger, Princess Caroline and Michael Jackson were in the number of the sitters for Andy Warhol.
As self-restrained and quiet Andy Warhol was, he still somehow managed to interact with an amazing number of artists of the day. The list of Andy Warhol’s friends and colleagues is perhaps best started with Jed Johnson. Jed was a very young man when he was adopted into the Factory. He was admitted on the condition that he swept the floors daily. This he gratefully agreed to do. Over time he and Andy Warhol grew very close, eventually he moved in with Andy and his mother. Some say that they became lovers, but this is rather inconsequential. It was discovered at some point that Jed Johnson was a great interior decorator.
Jed beautifully decorated the interior of Warhol’s spacious seventeen bedroom flat in New York. In later years Jed Johnson became quite sought after, decorating for Mick Jagger, Barbra Striesand, and Richard Gere. Jed’s life, however, was cut short when he was traveling in the TWA flight that wrecked off of New York in 1996. The next to be talked about, perhaps the next adoption of the factory, was Jean-Michel Basquait. A high school dropout at the age of seventeen, Basquait developed his unique style in Page 4 the subway system of New York. Jean-Michel was absorbed in the newest wave of fashion, graffiti.
His style blended an eye catching grouping of short poetic messages and odd symbols. Eventually he and Warhol met, Basquait had a show, and moved onto marking on a variety of different surfaces. The prevalent, reoccurring object in his work is an African-like mask. His work was largely schematic and filled with interesting color patterns. The colors and variety of lines and symbols gave his work an amazing vibration. The work also meshed classical influences with an almost childlike primitivism. Keith Haring was the other main graffiti artist on the scene at the time.
He also frequented the Factory, but was much less a fixture than Basquait. Keith Haring’s main schooling came in the subway system, as did Basquait. Haring, however, also had formal teachings. This and his insatiable appetite for tagging everything around him earned him the title of the Dean of Graffiti. Eventually he got out of the subways and started showing his work. Also like Basquait, there are certain things that remain prevalent in all of his work. For example, the radiant baby and barking dog are repeated and perfected. Keith Haring’s style, like so many others from the Pop era, has been copied over and over.
The most recent duplication was perhaps by the automobile conglomerate Honda for a commercial promoting one of their vehicles. Regardless, Keith Haring had a uniqueness and productivity that eventually became planted in the world psyche. Another artist that frequented the Factory was Kenny Scharf. Kenny Scharf was also briefly a graffiti artist. He, however, grew tired of this and moved on to create whole environments. These environments were largely influenced by popular culture television; they were filled with modified electronic gear and other appliances.
Everything in these environments was influenced by television science fiction, in that they closely resembled the quasi-futuristic backdrops of shows such as Buck Rogers and The Jetsons. At first Kenny Scharf worked in closet sized spaces, but he moved on to do whole installations in galleries. One of his more famous involved these mechanical and electronic objects painted uniformly with kitsch items glued to them. For example, Kenny Scharf would glue plastic dinosaur toys and robots and so on to the tops of the televisions and so on.
While Kenny Scharf was a rather regular visitor at the Factory, he and Warhol did not have entirely too much in common with each other. Perhaps the artist most similar in appearance to Andy Warhol was David Hockney. Much like Warhol, Hockney’s appearance brought him a great deal of notoriety and press coverage. David Hockney also emerged at the same time as the Beatles and rode, perhaps, on Page 5 their shock value. The early nineteen sixty’s was a time of artists coming into their own, the beginning of the explosion of the artistic counterculture, with which Andy Warhol fit right in.
Hockney wore “granny glasses”, gold lame, and peroxided his hair. He was perhaps destined for stardom; he in fact already had notoriety before even emerging from college. This was mostly due to his amazing productivity. His work had a unique photographic quality, due, of course, mostly to the fact the he worked largely from photos. He and Warhol were not exactly close friends but nonetheless they had a bond, as can be seen in their personal style. The next few artists had little really in common with Andy Warhol both stylistically and personally. They did however frequent the Factory, which makes them worthwhile to mention.
It is not beyond speculation that the mere socializing at Warhol’s personal studio influenced them in some form or another. Richard Serra had a very simple and very unique form of sculpture. He would balance large sheets of lead or steal. These sheets were very rough both texturally and visually. Richard Serra purposely left them this way; he did not feel that they needed to be molested in any way. Rather, the beauty in his pieces was that he would balance them in various ways. In one piece, entitled One ton Prop, he balanced four five hundred-pound sheets of lead on each other.