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ANDY WARHOL BIOGRAPHY
More than twenty years after his death, Andy Warhol remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. Warhol’s life and work inspires creative thinkers worldwide thanks to his enduring imagery, his artfully cultivated celebrity, and the ongoing research of dedicated scholars. His impact as an artist is far deeper and greater than his one prescient observation that “everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” His omnivorous curiosity resulted in an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture.
A skilled (analog) social networker, Warhol parlayed his fame, one connection at a time, to the status of a globally recognized brand. Decades before widespread reliance on portable media devices, he documented his daily activities and interactions on his traveling audio tape recorder and beloved Minox 35EL camera. Predating the hyper-personal outlets now provided online, Warhol captured life’s every minute detail in all its messy, ordinary glamour and broadcast it through his work, to a wide and receptive audience.
The youngest child of three, Andy was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in the working-class neighborhood of Oakland, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Stricken at an early age with a rare neurological disorder, the young Andy Warhol found solace and escape in the form of popular celebrity magazines and DC comic books, imagery he would return to years later. Predating the multiple silver wigs and deadpan demeanor of later years, Andy experimented with inventing personae during his college years. He signed greeting cards “André”, and ultimately dropped the “a” from his last name, shortly after moving to New York and following his graduation with a degree in Pictorial Design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1949.
Work came quickly to Warhol in New York, a city he made his home and studio for the rest of his life. Within a year of arriving, Warhol garnered top assignments as a commercial artist for a variety of clients including Columbia Records, Glamour magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, NBC, Tiffany & Co., Vogue, and others. He also designed fetching window displays for Bonwit Teller and I. Miller department stores. After establishing himself as an acclaimed graphic artist, Warhol turned to painting and drawing in the 1950s, and in 1952 he had his first solo exhibition at the Hugo Gallery, with Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote. As he matured, his paintings incorporated photo-based techniques he had developed as a commercial illustrator. The Museum of Modern Art (among others) took notice, and in 1956 the institution included his work in his first group show.
The turbulent 1960s ignited an impressive and wildly prolific time in Warhol’s life. It is this period, extending into the early 1970s, which saw the production of many of Warhol’s most iconic works. Building on the emerging movement of Pop Art, wherein artists used everyday consumer objects as subjects, Warhol started painting readily found, mass-produced objects, drawing on his extensive advertising background. When asked about the impulse to paint Campbell’s soup cans, Warhol replied, “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it”. The humble soup cans would soon take their place among the Marilyn Monroes, Dollar Signs, Disasters, and Coca Cola Bottles as essential, exemplary works of contemporary art.
Operating out of a silver-painted, and foil-draped studio nicknamed The Factory, located at 231 East 47th Street, (his second studio space to hold that title), Warhol embraced work in film and video. He made his first films with a newly purchased Bolex camera in 1963 and began experimenting with video as early as 1965. Now considered avant-garde cinema classics, Warhol’s early films include Sleep (1963), Blow Job (1964), Empire (1963), and Kiss (1963-64). With sold out screenings in New York, Los Angeles, and Cannes, the split-screen, pseudo documentary Chelsea Girls (1966) brought new attention to Warhol from the film world. Art critic David Bourdon wrote, “word around town was underground cinema had finally found its Sound of Music in Chelsea Girls.” Warhol would make nearly 600 films and nearly 2500 videos. Among these are the 500, 4-minute films that comprise Warhol’s Screen Tests, which feature unflinching portraits of friends, associates and visitors to the Factory, all deemed by Warhol to be in possession of “star quality”.
Adapted from ANDY WARHOL BIOGRAPHY http://www.warholfoundation.org/legacy/biography.html
Comprehension and interpretation
Answer the following questions by using complete sentences and your own words.
Who is Andy Warhol?
Why is Andy Warhol still an inspirational artist?
Explain the expression “skilled (analog) social worker” (line 8) by referring to the text.
What kind of things make up the essence of Warhol’s art?
What did Warhol do during his college years?
What movement did he follow?
What are the different stages in Warhol’s career?
What is Warhol’s thought behind his paintings of Campbell’s soup cans?
What are Warhol’s most iconic works?
How are Warhol’s films judged now?
Choose one of the following questions.
Number your answer clearly to show which question you have attempted.
1. “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and All the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
Andy Warhol, source of artist quotes and Pop Art philosophy: “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (from A to B and Back again)”, Andy Warhol; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York 1975, pp. 100 – 101
Comment on the statement above by referring to your knowledge and your experience. (300 words max)
2. Do you have any favourite artists? It could a musician or a painter or an inventor either modern or old. Talk about him or her and describe what his or her artistic production consists of. Write some 300 words max on the topic.