on 8 December 2007
POPism - first published in 1980 and re-issued in 2007 with Factory superstar Edie Sedgwick on the cover - is an interesting read not only for Warhol fanatics or art historians, but also for devotees of Nico's music and The Velvet Underground, fans of icon Edie Sedgwick and those simply interested in 1960s US-American culture. Warhol's deadpan humour, so evident in his Diaries, does not quite find full expression here; the book as a whole comes across as more ephemeral than that heavy door-stopper. And yet the reflections found here on the decade that became so pivotal not only in terms of his career but also for the course of the second half of the 20th century are riveting. Key events in Warhol's life and the Factory scene are commented on: the birth of the female "superstar" (Baby Jane, Naomi Levine), the arrival of monied socialite Edie Sedgwick at the Factory, the "underground" movies that made his name as a filmmaker (Chelsea Girls, Vinyl, Lonesome Cowboys), the release of the famous banana-skinned Velvet Underground & Nico record, Warhol being seriously injured by Valerie Solanas, and the professionalisation of the Factory in the late 1960s.
We hear his account of cultural icon Edie Sedgwick who, Warhol explains, felt humiliated by her roles in his movies (such as Screen Tests, Beauty #2, Vinyl). Sedgwick told him: "These movies are making a complete fool out of me! Everyone knows I just stand around in them doing nothing and you film it and what kind of talent is that! Try to imagine how I feel!" Their relationship - having been wined & dined as the celebrity couple par excellence from August to December 1965 - deteriorated because of her serious drug use and growing alliance with the Dylan crowd as well as Warhol's notorious inability to deal with personal conflicts. Arrival of German-born model and singer Nico provided the Factory with a new type of superstar: "Nico was weird and untalkative...mysterious and European, a real moon goddess type".
Warhol vividly describes the resistance and ridicule which Pop Art first encountered when it began to flourish in the 1960s: "you weren't supposed to have anything to do with commercial art...They expected us to take the things we believed in seriously, which we never did - we weren't intellectuals". On his art he is as soundbitten as ever: "I can't see how I was ever 'underground' since I've always wanted people to notice me". His money hunger is also evident here, as is a certain kind of casual racism (e.g. still referring to African-Americans as "Negroes") and a faint misogyny. His borderline anorexic behaviour (e.g. taking sleeping pills to lose weight), his adoration of sexually explicit material ("I loved porno and I bought lots of it all the time") and his knack for making cruel remarks ("Naturally I was disappointed, but with Viva, I was getting used to disappointment") are also apparent. It should be said that there has been some controversy as to how much of POPism is from the horse's mouth itself. Although it is written in the first person as though Warhol wrote it, Truman Capote has gone on record claiming that it was mostly written by Pat Hackett, who was Warhol's secretary from 1968 to 1976. Therefore, although peppered with fascinating comments, POPism should probably be taken - in true Warholian style - with a pinch of salt.
on 25 October 2007
Why wait for others to come along years later to write your Gospels? With Pat Hackett, Andy got out the Word.
If you've only read what others wrote about Warhol, you might be surprised to learn here to what extent the others seem to be using "Popism" as a source. You may wish you'd saved the money you spent on the other accounts. Few seem to present Warhol as well as he and Pat did.
It is to be wondered how many of the biographers and critics understood him. This guy who "lacked social skills" but somehow during the 60's seemed to have 10-20 friends with him whenever he went out for dinner shows in "Popism" what an extraordinary social magnet AND social observer he was. Sex and drugs and rock n' roll rarely get pushed this far.
"Popism" is surprising conventional in form, however unusual the people it describes. It flows easily. It is among the best publicity of Warhol and his circle. There's a helpful 8 page index of the people mentioned. To name a few: Brigid Polk, International Velvet, John Cale, Ultra Violet, Jackie Curtis, Joe Dallesandro, Candy Darling, Duchess, Baby Jane Holzer, Fred Hughes, Gerard Malanga, Mario Montez, Paul Morrissey, Billy Name, Nico, Ondine, Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Ingrid Superstar, and Viva. You may never have been to The Factory, never seen a Warhol movie, never even seen a Warhol silkscreen, never heard Velvet Underground music, but, if you read "Popism" you'll feel like you know all these people and more.
Warhol's description of being shot and his recovery is especially fascinating. How was he able to be so objective? Andy and Pat are among the best storytellers.
After reading this book, treat yourself to watching "I Shot Andy Warhol" for another good presentation of what this scene may have been like.
on 27 September 2011
This is an account of Andy Warhol's decade through the 1960's, from his rise from relative obscurity to his attempted murder by a delusional bit-part player.
Although at times Warhol's name-dropping is a little nebulous and irrelevant to the point of confusion, it provides an insight into the artistic (art-cinema and music, as well as painting) crowd he moved in, and indeed a skewed portrayal of artistic society in the 1960's.
Warhol seems to take the part of a fly on the wall, watching, listening, connecting people with each other and at times provoking. Warhol moves in a society of, at one end, rich and famous celebrity, and at the other, emotionally disturbed and desperate hand-to-mouth misfits; this appears to be what provides the fertile agar-jelly medium (namely his establishment The Factory), from which his art was cultured.
For anyone interested in the interface between artistic and celebrity culture, especially that in the 1960's, this is a gem. If you're not, then you'd probably find this a little boring, and it's not a good place to start if you need converting.
on 7 August 2009
A great book - I had a copy some years ago but I think I gave it to my cousin, along with lots of my Warhol collection, when she was studying art at university.
So, I had already read it - just adding it back into my collection.
Go buy it!