Andy Warhol,” Feet with Campbell’s Soup Can ,”( c. 1961)( politenes of Paul Kasmin, collecting of Paul Kasmin)
Andy Warhol left much more than his iconic paintings and films behind when he died; he was constantly inducing something and saving everything. Sifting through it all, like panning for gold, has proven irresistible to institutions and commercial galleries. While the Whitney Museum celebrates his long career with a major retrospective, two smaller New York presents cull from Warhol Factory closets important ephemera that illuminate his body of work and his relationship with art construction. At the New York Academy of Art, a selection from around forty years of Warhol’s draws offer a glimpse of the unique nature of his talents, and a show of his Polaroids at the Kasmin Gallery — glossy, vivid pictures of the swells Andy loved and surrounded himself with — represents the better known, mechanistic part of Andy’s craft and the unapologetic, money-making apparatus of the Factory. Between them, Warhol the person and Warhol the art industrialist from Pittsburgh are on display, his hand wholly erased in the photographs, but revealed in its most intimate moments with the drawings.
Installation view of Andy Warhol: By Hand; Depicts 1950 s- 1980 s at the New York Academy of Art( photo by the author)
An innate artistic voice, raw and unaffected, resides in Warhol’s drawings. In them he stands entirely naked — figuratively speaking — shorn of the costumes and inventions, the cameras, the silkscreens, the publication, and the renown. They’re a side of him and his craft he kept mostly to himself( except for the very few people he was closest to) part of his art practise, but also a record of his day-to-day existence. We’re familiar with the depicts now, thirty-two years after his death, but at the time he made them the issue is private.
Installation view of Andy Warhol: By Hand; Depicts 1950 s- 1980 s at the New York Academy of Art( images courtesy the NYAA)
In Andy Warhol: By Hand, we see how Warhol moved fluidly back and forth between pencil, pen and ink, blotted ink, graphite, and even magic marker, in travel sketches and portraits, still lifes, and life depict. The exhibition, arranged more like an index than a chronology, has one grouping of nine ballpoint pen sketches from the early 1960 s, in which a series of disembodied feet and legs show off Warhol’s instinct for simplicity, and his quick, decisive decision making. But they expose the transgressive and humorous Warhol too, with those feet just as expressive as any artist’s study of hands. In “Nude Lower Torso”( c. 1957 ), Warhol suspended a pair of hands in space, just behind the back of an ass and leg, letting our imaginations fill in the arms, back, and shoulders of the model. If one notion is repeated over and over again in the exhibition, it’s Andy’s frugality: how sparing he is with an explanation, exposing his clear understanding that less is more interesting. There’s also a guilelessness about this describe and many of the others, divorced from Warhol the artist-cum-capitalist.
Andy Warhol, “Nude Lower Torso”( c. 1957) collecting of Daniel Blau( photo by the author for Hyperallergic
Travel sketches from a 1956 journey to Asia are equally economic and charming. A cluster of small triangles and squares along a pencil-thin shoreline are all you need to recognize Hong Kong from the mountains above and behind the city and harbor. In a few gem-like pictures from his stop in Cambodia, the “A.W.” he initialed the draws with match the “A” and “W” of Angkor Wat in his captions. It’s easy to imagine young Andy, sitting on a stone in the humid jungle, detecting the coincidence, and the graphic designer in him playing around with it.
His now ubiquitous depicts are recognizable from a mile away — the curly-cues, almond eyes, pursed lips, the subtly sputtering line and jagged edges of the earliest run, and the exquisite confidence in the long gestures of his last, traced pieces — and though there are few revelations at the Academy, it’s a compelling collect. An insipid question asked for decades about his draws and his distinct hand — does his jaunty line somehow expose his homosexuality? — now sounds the same as stereotyping someone for his” lesbian voice” or how he dresses. His sexuality does come through in the depict loud and clear, however, in the content of the homoerotic imagery, as opposed to any particular style of drawing.
Andy Warhol,” Serious Girl ,”( c. 1954) collection of Daniel Blau( photo by writer for Hyperallergic)
The Academy included a lion’s share of intimate photographs of individual men that Andy drew — nude and clothed — from life, casually during an evening together, after or before sex, across a coffeehouse table, formal studies from life describing sessions. There are just enough cocks on the walls to drive home the point that Andy was gay, but the knowledge that many more exist attains the Academy seem a bit timid in this regard. Portion of Warhol’s allure in 2019 is his having flouted so many obstacles — the strictures in what then constituted fine art and those of American society — with heroic chutzpa. When he was young and on the rise in New York, being gay was strictly illegal, and the run hanging in galleries, Abstract Expressionism in particular, was chiefly made by one human or woman, a handful of brushes, and a huge canvas.( It’s well known how Andy took it on the chin from Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg about how both he and his run were more open than they about being lesbian and John Giorno confirmed this in a recent panel discussion at the NYAA .) Warhol’s adventurousness, ambition, and curiosity are just as evident as his sexual preferences in these drawings.
Andy Warhol,” Two Male Heads Face to Face, Outline ,” c. 1952( photo by the author)
This exhibition comes full circle with Warhol’s tracings. A massive, brown, epidiascope became his tool of selection for projecting compositions he wanted to capture by hand using graphite on sheets of newspaper videotapeed to the wall of his studio. In the 1970 s, Andy traced Mick Jagger from acetates made from the same Polaroid the painted portrait was derived from, just as he did with a instead menacing handgun, a transvestite from the Ladies and Gentleman series, and an exquisite, never before exhibited drawing of the status of women nurse a child. But he also traced at the start of his career, outlining imagery he liked, presumably as a kind of workout. The show includes examples of these: children and families lifted immediately from the pages of Life Magazine in the 1950 s.
Warhol’s depicts survive as a visual publication far more expose than the trivial( but amusing) Diariespublished just after his death, and they remain a sort of pure example of Warholian self-expression, the contemplations of the dreamer sans technology. They also link him to the great tradition of the past, that of an artist carrying a notebook, stopping, seeming and sketching what they see, grabbing images and memories by describing them. During his lifetime, however, Andy, just like the culture at large, replaced his pencil and paper with a camera.
Andy Warhol, “Foot ,” c. 1960,( courtesy of Paul Kasmin, collecting of Paul Kasmin)
Photography became Warhol’s wellspring. Every iconic run he made thereafter, including his films, in some manner count on darkroom chemistry. Polaroids have a specific role from the early’ 70 s up to his death in 1987. He use the instant scenes as preliminary sketches for most of his paintings, from the Hammer and Sickle series, to the knives, Guns, dollar signs, Fiesta Pigs and Myths. During the last seven years of his life, when I worked for him at Interview Magazine, Polaroids always lay scattered on the floor or on his desk: dozens of head and shoulder shootings he’d taken of an artist or celebrity friend for a painted portrait, or for one of the many commissions the Factory team solicited that maintained the operation afloat.( Painted portraits then expense $25,000 for one or $40,000 for a pair .) It’s safe to say that Andy, a veteran marksman with the” Big Shot” model( Polaroid’s product name) he favored, always got the picture he wanted right at the start. But an overflow of extra images, and the time it took to take them, devoted the sitter a longer audience with the master and conveyed the sense of Andy’s having labored over the run. It was good customer service.
Andy Warhol, “Debbie Harry”( undated) (( c) 2019 the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ licensed by Artists Rights Society( ARS ), New York, image politenes of Kasmin Gallery) Andy Warhol, “Debbie Harry”( undated) (( c) 2019 the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ licensed by Artists Rights Society( ARS ), New York, image courtesy of Kasmin Gallery)
Kasmin chose well, with twenty-five significant Polaroid images currently in one of the gallery spaces. Much about them is spellbinding: their size, like precious miniatures, so small you have to walk up and stare them right in the face; the smooth radiance and peculiar colorings of the Polaroid chemistry; the subjects themselves and their places in cultural history. There’s Debbie Harry in an elegant frame, emitting all her punk appeal; Bianca Jagger with her trademark scowl; the art trader Pat Hearn, as glamorous as any movie star; Keith Haring in the arms of his partner Juan Dubose and vice versa; Robert Mapplethorpe, the grinning delinquent; Dolly Parton, made up for a party but seeming more like she’d just been arrested. And there are eight self-portraits of Andy himself, experimenting with light and shadow, mugging for his own camera, fooling around with it like a teen. They’re confections filled with everything Warhol: beauty, celebrity and perfect control, with hints of irony, cliche, and detachment, unique works of art but also artifacts of a time — a place and a crucial arts community now largely dust except for the work left behind.
Andy Warhol: By Hand; Depicts 1950 s- 1980 s, curated by Vincent Freemont and David Kratz, continues at the New York Academy of Art( 111 Franklin Street, Tribeca, Manhattan) through March 10. Andy Warhol; Polaroid Portraits, continued in Kasmin Gallery( 297 Tenth Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan) through March 2.
Read more: hyperallergic.com