Wednesday, October 15, 2008


i'm a little embarrassed to admit it and still trying to figure out why this is happening just now, but i'm just now getting around to watching Ric Burns' Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. i'm fairly well wrapped up in it, i must say. about 1/2 way through the 4 hour film at this point, i'll probably say things that have already been said. but so.

Burns does a fantastic job of seeing Warhol as an artist with a history that shaped his art (duh), rather than simply a Fab New Thing who pops onto the scene from out of nowhere and is all about The Now and commercial culture.

i'm amazed at how much i have not known about Andy (jeez w/ my ego!). and although some readings of Warhol's personal history reach a bit to get after what his art is about, it's hard to ignore those readings in light of Andy's long history as a commercial artist and his studies of fine(r) art, all combined with his aching desire for fame as a "real" artist. in Burns' portrayal, Andy finally discovers (after many failed attempts at hanging with Jasper Johns, et al; they rejected him because of his commerical past [come on. that's funny] and because of his gayness, although Johns and Rauschenberg were quietly lovers) . . . so but Andy sees that fame isn't always or necessarily manipulated into being (although . . .) but rather evolves organically as an artist (re)cognizes and deploys in the most straightforward manner his self, his personal history, his ways of seeing and the circumstances that shape them, and etc. , etc.

on that last thought: i make so complicated a claim that i can't begin to rewind and replay it in a more detailed manner, here, now. and surely, the art historians have long disputed the meaning of Warhol's work and its emergence. i'm simply giving my quick impressions on Burns' take (screened through the perspectives of family members, friends, and associates), 1/2-way through my home-screening experience.

so but back to my response to the first 1/2 of Burns' film and picking up on Warhol's art as more than merely snarky commentary on commercialism: even if, say, the soup can and the cow trace to Andy's personal history and a time of deep personal difficulty and struggle and the life-altering emergence of shame (over his looks, marred by a childhood case of St. Vitus Dance), we see also that Andy's refinement of the images were about more than personal memory or projecting from within, as the Abstract Expressionists who'd dominated the just-prior art scene had allegedly (i mean, it's the quick-and-dirty reading of Abstract Expressionism) done. we see that Warhol's processes of refining his iconic images were about craft, experience, and a skilled awareness of how to design a page/frame/object in terms of line, proportion, color, and etc., etc.

so but this is an interesting and exhaustively detailed documentary. i do have questions about some of the hindsighted observations, but i'm nevertheless intrigued and pretty much see this film as necessary viewing. because the one thing we keep hearing from the many voices in the film is that Andy is the most important artist of the post-war period, and although later Rothko is my guy, i have to go there re: Andy, as well.


bdegenaro said...

if you haven't been, DO check out the Warhol gallery in Pittsburgh. i think i remember reading it's the largest single-artist gallery in the world. not sure if that's (still) accurate or not, but it's an amazing experience! i have no idea why i haven't been there in ages.

bonnie lenore kyburz said...

i haven't been and need to go. and to the Rothko Chapel. so much to do! ;)

stand up straight & let me get a look at you

It's awards show Sunday, so i'm giving Margot. I'm through with the wishfulness and angst and regret, and Margot, more than an...