WARHOL’S DEVOTION TO THE REPEATED FRAME
If we begin to dramatically repeat an image, does the image begin to feel like it always has been? Is repetition life-giving or essentially violent? Do we torture an image through repetition; do we torture the subject through endless representation? Warhol commented, “The more you look at the exact same thing, the more the meaning goes away. And the better and emptier you feel” (Wrenn 16).
In the ‘60s, John Cage “declared repetition a fundamental principle of twentieth century art,” and Warhol thought repetition to be at the center of the life principle, philosophizing: “Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?” (Bockris 112, PBS, part 1). Warhol’s oeuvre is like a magnet for further repetition—in response to his images, the culture heaps more repeated ideas, more repeated notions about Warhol and more analysis concerning repetition itself. (But someone probably has already said that, and many times!)
Warhol, as a cultural cataloguer, instigates an infinite body of our own assessments and catalogues—of the celebrities of the ‘60s and ‘70s, of our own philosophies about what the Pop movement meant or made way for. Perhaps because his art is so accessible, so many of us have turned to it with our own desires and analyses, breeding more heated repetition. Many of my own excited thoughts that arose while researching the Marilyns I would soon discover have mostly been addressed, and with fervor: Warhol’s work is wrought with the Freudian concept of repetition compulsion (already been voiced and repeated many times!), his democratic approach to fame is particularly American (taken!), his near-religious adoration of the stars is set in the medium of the iconography of his early religious life (noted and expressed in many, many books!), the sense of the restorative in his use of repetition (taken! And stated oh so eloquently by the brilliant Wayne Koestenbaum: “maximum redemption of lost material”) (PBS, part 1). Is it possible to state something unique about Warhol’s sensibilities? A fitting problem, perhaps, for those of us who seek to speak with individual flair about the Pop Art icon who, in the words of Peter Krapp, “originally debunked originality” (Krapp 72).
This morning I thought, “Wow, what would Andy Warhol have made of the Internet—the ultimate democratic realm of highbrow and lowbrow, the repetition of language and image, the co-opting of images. Can you imagine what Warhol’s relationship with the Internet would have been? He was kind of like a living Internet before it existed—with all of its fragmentation, repetition, openness and democratic acceptance of every piece of information. Of course, when I typed this into Google, millions of people had already wondered about this very thing—an article in the Washington Post questioned some of his cohorts about this very matter— Bob Colacello: “With no exaggeration, the Internet would have suited his voice very well, but I don’t think he would have been a blogger — first of all, he couldn’t even type, and he evaded opinions. He wasn’t a person who was going to sit around a dinner table and say why he was for Obama’s health-care program. His idea of an opinion was ‘she’s a beauty,’ ‘he’s a beauty’” (Dry Washington Post).
A rather funny note: repetition became “personal/impersonal” when Warhol’s own double, Allen Midgette, posed as Warhol when Warhol’s own schedule could not permit travel. In a hilarious article entitled “Andy Warhol or Someone Gives a Non-Lecture Tour,” (writer Dan Bishoff) Warhol commented on Midgette’s “performance,” asserting, “He was better than I am. He was what the people expected” (PBS, part 2).
REPETITION MAKES FOR A GREAT UNIFORM, REPETITION MAKES FOR A MEDITATION
What does it mean when iconic images become washed in our own repetitive sensing of them? How to feel in our blood that in the ‘60s, Warhol’s approach exemplified a totally radical approach to working with imagery?
To really look at Marilyn’s widow’s peak, the gaze itself, and the beauty mark, doubled with Warhol’s own pink mark. To witness the Marilyns as utterances of repeated prayers. “Garish” is the word that seems to come to so many of us when we witness the Marilyns—diamond-studded moles, strange and beautiful colors like twenty-six layers of paint on the wall of a New York apartment. In the extra strokes of color Warhol asserts upon her face off-set, diagonal makeup; perhaps he is saying, This is my creation, I have decorated this person, she’s my own (or our own) now. Only her face, not her body—only the “mask”, as some have identified it. While his work such as Before and After
Before and After
speaks as a narrative, linear arrangement, his Marilyns and Lizzes are perched in a liminal state. The unaligned look that occurs in these images repeated upon countless canvases makes it seem as if the real spirit of the person might be in motion, yet “between” the frames of the repeated image.
Arthur Danto beautifully describes the “transformative” repetition in his work and the repetition as evocative of “recurrent memory” (Danto 39-41). Indeed the violence of the repetitive image, the repetition compulsion, created a strange marriage of art and life in the instance of the Shot Marilyns, the event marking a distilled meditation on the artist as a deconstructionist/violent presence, the audience as artist-participant, and the boundary-free notion of performance art.
Dorothy Podber is reported to have asked Warhol for permission to “shoot” the Marilyns; rather than using a camera, she removed her gloves, pulled a revolver from her purse, and shot a stack of Marilyns through the forehead (Danto 99-100).
OUR TEMPORARY IN-OFFICE MARILYN
We are honored to serve as appraiser for this original Warhol masterpiece. For the time being, the striking, original Warhol silkscreen painting will remain in our client’s private collection.
Please visit our blog site again soon! Next week, I will reveal a little mystical event on the 147Bus…
Written and Researched by Jessica Savitz
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Bockris, Victor. The Life and Death of Andy Warhol. Bantam Books: New York, 1989.
Burns, Ric. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. PBS, 2006.
Danto, Arthur C. Andy Warhol. Yale University Press: New Haven, 2009.
Dry, Rachel. “What Would Warhol Blog?” Washington Post. Sunday Aug 16 2009
Koestenbaum, Wayne. Andy Warhol. Viking: New York, 2001.
Krapp, Peter. Deja vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory. Universty of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2004.
Wrenn, Mike. Andy Warhol: In His Own Words. Omnibus Press: London, 1991.