The sublime sphinx show that has been Andy Warhol’s career: the films and the paintings, the Brillo boxes and the balloons, the Factory and its repertory company of underprivileged agents provocateurs—isn’t that, finally, what we expect a certain ineptness christened with a certain audacity would amount to? Robert Indiana munching an apple; Mario Montez as Harlow in Harlot (in drag) munching (or mouthing) a banana; Nico moaning and mumbling or brushing her hair; Roger Trudeau and Edie Sedgwick, god and goddess of Formica Heights, the super-stars, that is, of Kitchen, sneezing at one another—memorable moments from the story of Andy Warhol, museum pieces or conversation pieces, arresting and inane.
The things I want to show are mechanical. Machines have less problems. I’d like to be a machine, wouldn’t you?…
Warhol is piquant, I suppose (particularly in the one or two public statements he has made), but then, I think, like all novelty, he has to be. A literalist not of the imagination, but of the “shockingly” banal, the ineffably “real,” “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”—in him, indifference pushes itself to such a Hegelian pitch as to appear to be insolence. To literary people, no doubt, Warhol is an artist seemingly denuded of any redeeming value whatever, a magician without magic, though not an act. A Warhol pumpkin, unlike that of the lady with the wand, doesn’t transform itself into a stagecoach; the pumpkin becomes…a Pumpkin. And yet, with wit, with luck, with appalling foresight, with the help of Rivers and Rauschenberg and Jaspar Johns, perhaps even a Polish jig, it was, let us remember, Andy Warhol who turned to the trash of the times, to the ad, the debased documentary—and what is more naturalistic than Blow Job, more commercial that Martinson’s Coffee?—and made “art” of the unredeemable. Or as they say, anti-art, Pop art, cinéma verité.
Warhol’s literal-mindedness is splashed over everything he has ever done, from the stereotypical silkscreen sequences of Marilyn and Liz, to the tape-recorded “novel” he chooses to call a, a total environment of typos and sputterings, hellish hymns from Amphetamine Heaven, the vox populi of the Velvet Underground: “Please, basta, with the tape Drella, for a little while. Shut it off, let’s relax ‘cause we’ll go crazy.” The literal-mindedness is so tyrannical it seems obscure, so blank it suggests the revelatory. In the old days, after the galling pace of a Warhol film, the baffling redundancy of a Warhol painting, one always awaited something else, a mystery message d’outre-tombe. That the message, as it turned out, was the simplest sort; that it resembles, in whatever form, shape, or dialectical seasoning, nothing so much as Miss Ethel Barrymore at her sweetest: “That’s all there is; there isn’t any more”—well, these are facts all of us now know. But alas the message never ends…
Warhol is an inevitable “creation,” an inevitable “genius,” it seems to me, a haute vulgarisation …
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