IMAGES AT A REMOVE, A GRAVE, MYSTERY BUS!
IMAGES AT A REMOVE
The texture of the story of the original Warhol silkscreen painting, currently undergoing appraisal in our office, feels surreal and lovely like, I imagine, the shock of red velvet in a booth made for Andy Warhol and his groupies, in the back room at Max’s Kansas City. The reason that coming to understand the provenance of the piece registers as so unreal, mythical(see blog from two weeks past) is simply that it’s hard to believe the iconic images of and surrounding Warhol have an actual source, a beginning—it’s hard to feel the human heat in these sometimes icy, removed images.
The marriage between the infinite replicas of images surrounding Warhol and his Factory, and the replicas Warhol perpetuated himself in his silkscreen paintings and prints, build a mountainous, somewhat forbidding presence at times—the cultural fall-out of the experiences of the famous and the now dead, repeated infinitely. (A great Late Modern Art history professor I had a few years back related the story of a Warhol retrospective in LA, remarking that rather than showcasing a varied oeuvre, it would have been more effective to show one repeated motif—to just fill the museum with various replicas of the his tireless Marilyn series or his Flowers.
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“…repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.”
—Marianne Moore, from “A Grave”
Marianne Moore signals the deathlike nature of the sea, the sea as a “collector” of lost items and men—Warhol was this, too—the all-encompassing, non-emotive, powerful collector. Pat Hackett recalls his Time Capsules, simple 10” X 18” X 14” brown cardboard boxes—hundreds of them. The boxes held anything he found interesting “Which to Andy, who was interested in everything, meant literally everything” (Hackett xv).” When a box was filled, it would be taped up, dated, put in storage and immediately replaced with an identical looking box. “Dropped things are bound to sink/” continues Moore in “A Grave,” “if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor/ consciousness” (Moore 49).
“THERE IS NOTHING DEEPER THAN THE SUPERFICIAL”
This maxim seems to apply to Warhol’s desire to be seen simply. In his own words: “If you want to know who Andy Warhol is, just look at my face, or at the surface of my work. It’s all there” (Danto 9). Indeed his own rather pat description of the Marilyns which follows both “flattens” the concept of celebrity, at the same time making all materials democratically available for consternation and aesthetic meditation: “I just see Monroe as another person. As for whether it’s symbolical to paint Monroe in such violent colors: it’s beauty, and she’s beautiful and if something’s beautiful, it’s pretty colors, that’s all… this is only the beginning, it’ll get better, and everything will be useful decoration” (Goldsmith 88).
Art critic David Bourdon poetically described the effect of the Marilyn Diptych: “The portraits seemed to fade away to some ethereal place… like the persistence of memory after something is gone, or the anticipation of forgetting something before it is gone” (Goldsmith 9).
Warhol’s use of prolific celebrity images creates a strange paradox—maximum exposure of a superficial image. “Warhol’s painting of Marilyn did not impinge on the private person so constantly sought by the curious…The publicity picture itself—and only this picture—is Warhol’s subject” (Shanes 118, Honnef 59). In the words of Warhol: “I did meet Marilyn Monroe, at a party. I thought she was really great. Her movie image was quite different from her personal image though. She was quite quiet” (Wrenn 18).
Eric Shanes reads the Marilyn Diptych from 1962 (now at the Tate Modern in London) as a commentary about exteriority and interiority—the bold colors representing public personality, the black and whites a more hermetic, tragic atmosphere (Shanes 118). Yet maybe this private/public fissure is related to the artist himself; if, in Andy’s words, “Every painting is the same painting. The subject (be it Taylor, Kennedy or Monroe) is not significant,” perhaps it is Andy’s personal concerns with public affectations and private desires, the motifs perhaps of his psyche, which tend to dominate the image (Wrenn 21).
A few Sundays past in Chicago:
I’m on State Street, returning from the Patti Smith reading and singing (awesome and strong, and the inclusion of songs such a lovely surprise!), thinking about life in New York in the late ‘60s for these myriad artists, musicians, poets, photographers. I catch the 147 CTA bus just in the nick of time. Totally empty bus, on the beginning of a new run. I sit down and stare at the window, and mark my words, dear readers, this is entirely true—someone had “written” on the window with their finger: “ANDY”—smudged vertically down the glass—there was the name, right in front of my baffled eyes. I spend the next half hour trying to get the photograph, the street lights all blushy or blueish, shining just so behind “ANDY”:
OUR IN-OFFICE MARILYN
Written and Researched by Jessica Savitz
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Danto, Arthur C. Andy Warhol. Yale University Press: New Haven, 2009.
Goldsmith, Kenneth, Ed. I’ll Be Your Mirror:_The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, Thirty-Seven Conversations with the Pop Master_. Carroll & Graf Publishers: New York, 2004.
Hackett, Pat. The Andy Warhol Diaries. Warner Books: New York, 1989.
Honnef, Klaus. Andy Warhol:_Commerce into Art_. Taschen: Germany, 1993.
Moore, Marianne. The Collected Poems of Marianne Moore. Penguin Booke: New York, 1977.
Shanes, Eeric. Warhol: The Life and Masterworks. Arkstone Press Ltd: New York, 2004.
Wrenn, Mike. Andy Warhol: In His Own Words. Omnibus Press: London, 1991.