Book #2: Andy Warhol: Phaidon Focus

Eclectic, different and commercially appealing is how I describe the style of art created by the “Prince of Pop”, Andy Warhol (1928-1987).

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It is apt to say Warhol’s art is more famous today than it was during the “Pop Art” revolution of the early 1960s, an era which Warhol dominated. 

In fact, at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year Dior’s Raf Simons presented a Warhol inspired collection, featuring his prints on the fabrics which adorned the catwalk models strutting the runway.

I personally had been unfamiliar with Warhol’s history, although I had heard of his name and viewed reproductions of his most popular artworks at various exhibits (i.e. the Campbell's soup cans and pop art images of Marilyn Monroe).  When I walked into a bookshop in Surry Hills the other week and noticed the edition on Warhol prepared by Phaidon as part of its artists’ introduction series, I suddenly became curious to learn more about this intriguing artist.

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Born to Czech immigrants in 1928, Andrew Warhola (as he was then known) had been raised in an immigrant working class family in Pennsylvania, USA.  It was discovered early in his life that he had an incredible artistic ability – an ability which ultimately enabled him to outgrow his somewhat humble beginnings into a renowned artist.  Warhol’s phenomenal success as an artist surpassed many people’s expectations. His artistic style evolved continuously throughout his life. 

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Following completion of a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the prestigious Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol commenced his career as a commercial illustrator, in particular creating images for popular fashion magazines.  Thereafter, he moved into the role of society portraitist, before successfully pushing the boundaries of art by experimenting with photo-mechanical processes to create his pop art iconography. 

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For some time, Warhol also took an interest in filmmaking, creating a number of short films at his famous New York studio, “The Factory”.  Warhol famously threw many outlandish parties at The Factory, inviting a diverse and seemingly unusual mix of bohemians, intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, celebrities and socialites to attend.

It is undeniable he had an unhealthy obsession with “celebrity”, “beauty” and “glamour”, openly admitting:

“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful . Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

He also survived a failed assassination attempt by a scorned film actress in 1968; an event he never truly recovered from.

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To Warhol, classifying the creation of “art” as “work” was complex:

“I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of “work”, because I think that just being alive is so much work at something you don’t always want to do.  The machinery is always going.  Even when you sleep.”

Phaidon’s text on Warhol chronicles his successes and failures both as a person and as an artist.  If you are interested in reading it, you can purchase it online from Penguin (RRP $24.95).

- Michelle x

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