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ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY PREFACE
ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY TEXT
WORKS ON CANVAS
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"Still-Life" Gelatin silver print 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8" x 10") "Sign ""Mind your Head"", 1982 Gelatin silver print 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8" x 10") ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY
BY BRUNO BISCHOFBERGER
It has been a great pleasure to immerse myself once again in the work of Andy Warhol. I have been involved with the artist for a large part of my life as an art dealer, collector and friend. It came as a huge surprise to me that, fourteen years after the artists death, there is still so much to discover and to learn.
This catalogue accompanies the first exhibition devoted solely to the full range of Andys 8 by 10 black and white photographs, a large but still little-known body of work made between 1976 and 1987.
While my interest in Andys 35 mm photography dates back to 1979 and the publication of Exposures, my involvement with Andy goes back a lot further. Please allow me to indulge myself in a brief history of my relationship with the artist.
I exhibited some of Andys paintings in a group show of Pop Art at my gallery in Zurich in 1965, but I did not meet Andy in person until the following year when I visited the Factory for the first time. During a subsequent trip to New York in 1968 I tried to buy some paintings from him. He told me that he had given up painting, but he agreed to offer me some of the early paintings which he had kept. He let me choose from a group of about twenty, and I bought eleven of them: hand-painted works including Superman, Batman and a colourful Coca-Cola, and several large Disasters and serial portraits. I had to pay what seemed a very high price at the time to convince him to part with them. He also granted me a <<right of first refusal>>, which started a long professional and personal relationship that lasted until his untimely death in 1987.
At around this time I asked him about doing portrait commissions for clients of mine, and we worked out a simple standardised system of size and price per panel. In 1971, after I had brought in a number of portrait commissions, I asked him to make me a series of portraits of a well-known person in a large size to offer for sale to the public. I wanted him to use Albert Einstein, but Warhol suggested Mao Tse Tung as he had recently read in the newspapers that Mao was the most famous living person. Mao it was, and Warhol made his ten big blue Maos for me in 1972, which were exhibited at the Kunstmuseum Basel in the same year.
In 1969 I was one of the founding partners of Interview magazine, with twenty-five percent interest. I maintained my stake until 1986, when I traded it with Andy for a group of paintings. In 1971, I published Andys Electric Chairs portfolio, which was printed in Zurich. I was also the producer of LAmour, a Warhol movie which was shot mostly in Paris in 1970, though it was not edited and screened until 1972.
In 1970, the first serious catalogue raisonné of the works of Andy Warhol was published, a laudable but not entirely complete effort. It was compiled by Rainer Crone, an academic whose research I had supported. After publication, I suggested to Warhol that I would assemble an ongoing archive with a view to publishing a comprehensive and complete catalogue raisonné at some point in the future. I entrusted Thomas Ammann, who had started working for me in 1971, with the day-to-day activity of archiving the material as it accumulated. When Thomas left my Gallery in 1976 to become an independent art dealer, he asked me if he could continue the project on his own. I agreed, and he kept working on it until his premature death in 1993. Work on the catalogue was continued by his collaborator George Frei in partnership with Neil Printz at the Andy Warhol Foundation. The first volume will be published shortly.
Andy and I traveled a lot together in the 1970s and 1980s, frequently accompanied by Fred Hughes and Andys ever-changing entourage, for openings of exhibitions and to visit collectors who had commissioned portraits. Warhol came to Switzerland on numerous occasions, the most special visit on a personal level being for the christening of my son Magnus, for whom Andy had agreed to become godfather.
I bought paintings on a regular basis and sometimes an entire series such as the Reversals, which Andy made in the winter of 1979/1980. This series culminated in a group of horizontal paintings which are almost thirty-six feet wide. In 1982 I asked him to create a group of small works for children. Andy responded with the Toy paintings, which I showed in my gallery in Zurich in 1983. Warhol designed wallpaper of silver fish swimming on a blue background which made the gallery look like an aquarium, and the paintings were hung at eye level for three- to five-year-old children. Adults had to squat to examine the paintings closely, the opposite of me having to lift up my little children when looking at paintings in museums. We even went so far as to charge an entry fee for adults not accompanied by children under six, the proceeds being donated to a Swiss childrens charity.
In 1984 I commissioned Andy, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente to create a group of collaborative works, which were exhibited in Zurich in the same year. After this show, Andy and Jean-Michel went on to create a further group of mostly large collaborative paintings, the majority of which I subsequently acquired. In these paintings, at Jean-Michels urging, Andy returned to painting by hand, picking up where he left off in 1962.
I came to New York eight to ten times every year in the 1970s and 1980s, and Warhols Factory was like a second home to my wife Yoyo and me. I have always considered New York to be Andys town, and since his death, it has never been quite the same.
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4 cm (8" x 10")
"Sign ""Mind your Head"", 1982
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4 cm (8" x 10")
ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY
ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY
BY BRUNO BISCHOFBERGER
In this text I will write about Andy Warhols main photographic work, which he executed in the last eleven years of his life, between 1976 and 1987. It consists of a large number of black and white
8 x 10 photographs. I choose to reproduce a representative cross-section of 68 photographs from the photographs he made in this period. To the entire group I gave the title: Andy Warhols Visual Memory1 .
Photography always played a big part in Warhols life. In his diaries he went as far as saying I told them I didnt believe in art, that I believed in photography2 . As a boy he had collected pictures of movie stars from publications and publicity shots. In the 1950s, as a commercial artist in New York, Warhol saw the transition from handmade graphic concepts into ones where photography played the main role. In the last interview that Warhol gave3 he comments that photography was one reason why he switched from commercial to fine art: illustrators of advertisements and magazine covers were being put out of business by photographers. In the 1950s Warhol collected photography by Man Ray, which he admired. He was also interested in the fashion and portrait photography of Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn.
Warhols early works as an artist, from 1960 to early 1962, were handpainted canvases or drawings on paper. He would project a photograph on the canvas or on the paper which the artist then would paint or draw. In early 1962 he switched to an almost exclusive use of silkscreening for his paintings. This innovative process was used for most of Warhols mature works. After the important and large group of handmade projection drawings of 1962 he only used this technique for drawings, starting with the Mao drawings in 1972. 22 years later the artist returned to projection in painting in a group of collaborations with Jean Michel Basquiat, when the younger artist convinced the older to start painting by hand again.
In Warhols silkscreen paintings from the 1960s the artist used photographic images he found in magazines or newspapers and prints from photo-archives. For me his most important works are the silkscreens of stars like Elvis and Marilyn, the 1963 Disaster paintings which I always regarded as Warhols absolute artistic culmination, in particular the Electric Chairs, Suicides and Car Crashes. Also important are the 1964 Flowers, Most Wanted Men, Self Portraits and Jackies.
During this period Warhol made a handful of commissioned silkscreen portraits for private collectors such as Ethel Scull and Judith Green, as well as a few others in the later 1960s. For these silkscreens and for some of his Self Portraits of that time Warhol used photographs made in photo booths.
In 1963 Warhol started to make highly experimental films, a continuation of photography and of the radical multiplicative concept he used in his paintings of the time. In some of the first films the camera was stationary and the image remains practically unchanged. The first film was Sleep, 1963 (6 hours). It consists of 10 minute parts which are always repeated twice. The camera shows a different shot of a sleeping man in each part. The result of this and similar early films like Kiss, 1963 (50 minutes) or Empire, 1964 (8 hours) are projected images which are repeated thousands of times instead of a few times as in his paintings. Two stills from the films Sleep and Kiss were silkscreened in double repetition by Warhol on a sheet of plexiglass. In 1965, at the opening of his European show of the Flower paintings at the Ileana Sonnabend Gallery in Paris, Warhol announced that he would retire as a painter in order to concentrate on his film making. Until 1968 Warhol produced approximately 75 films4 , but his retirement from painting did not actually happen. However, the iconography of most paintings of the years to come are variations and permutations of works done between 1962 and 1964: the coloured Campells Soup Cans of 1964, more small Electric Chairs in the mid-sixties and in 1967, for his first big retrospective exhibition, starting in the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in February 1968, Warhol produced three substantial groups of enlargements of images, Flowers, Electric Chairs and Self Portraits.
In 1967 I met the artist myself after I had exhibited some of his paintings in 1965 in Zurich. In 1968 I tried to buy paintings from him. He declared to me that he would not make paintings any more. Warhol agreed however, to sell me some of his few early paintings which he had kept. He let me choose from about twenty works and I bought eleven of them, several early handpainted ones like Superman, Batman and a colourful Coca Cola Painting and several large Disaster paintings and multiple portraits. I had to pay what seemed a very high price at the time to convince the artist to part with. At the same time he granted me a first right of refusal, which started a long relationship between us and he honoured it until he died.
In the same year I asked Warhol to do my portrait and asked him also whether he would do portrait commissions which I could offer to clients. Warhol liked the idea and we worked out a standard size together, 40 x 40, and a standard price for each panel. I remember that Warhol, when I asked him, mentioned that he would love to do a Galerie Contemporaine of his time, a title which was used in the 19th century in France for collections of photographic portraits of famous people such as writers, artists, philosophers, politicians and actors in book form. In the years to come the making of this Galerie Contemporaine became a large undertaking and the main source of income for the artist. To make the portraits Warhol took colour polaroids. During most sitting sessions the artist produced dozens of them. He chose, sometimes together with the sitter, three or four polaroids to use for the silkscreens, but he carefully kept all the others. In 1971, after having brought him a number of portrait commissions, I asked him to make for me a number of portrait paintings in a larger size to offer for sale to the public. I wanted him to use Albert Einstein, but Warhol offered to do Mao Tse Tung as he had read in the newspaper that Mao was the most well-known person on earth. I accepted, and Warhol did his big Mao paintings in 1972.
Interview Magazine, which I co-founded in 1969, by financing 25%, allowed Warhol to pursue his interest in photography. It focused on famous people and the documentation of events, initially by recording verbal exchanges. The magazine became a showcase for young photographers. People like Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts published their work first or almost first in Interview. The name Interview was related to one of Warhols main activities in those days and the years before. In his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol which was published in 1975 Warhol wrote that after his love affair which he had with his television in the late 50s, he got married in 1964 to his first tape recorder. Warhol did not only tape interviews for the magazine but for a number of years carried this tape recorder with him and every word he spoke or which was spoken to him was recorded from morning to evening. I remember many times the strange feeling I had talking with Andy, knowing every word was recorded and somehow immortalized. This created an atmosphere of artificiality and vibrancy. A similar sensation is created for the sitter when he is being photographed.
In 1976 Warhol divorced his tape recorder and remarried his camera instead. The shrinking of camera technology allowed Warhol to carry around and use a simple but effective 35mm camera. Bob Colacello describes5 Warhols first contact with the camera: On our way to St.Moritz, where the Bruno Bischofberger Gallery was showing a small selection of paintings ... we stopped in Zurich for a night. Thomas Ammann, who was working for Bischofberger then, came by Andys suite at the Dolder Grand and immediately sent Andy into a paroxysm of envy when he pulled a sleek little black camera from his pocket and snapped a picture. It was the new Minox 35EL, then the smallest camera available that took full-frame 35mm photographs. Where did you get that! Andy wanted to know. Its so great. It looks like a James Bond camera. Arent you going to give it to me? Ammann said he would try to buy one for Andy, but they were completely sold out in Zurich and St.Moritz. As soon as we got to our next stop, Bonn ... we went to a camera shop and bought two Minoxes: one for Andy and one for me. With the buying of this camera, Warhol started a major new activity which led to the production of a vast, complex and independent body of work of the highest concentration. Bob Colacello writes in Social Disease that the polaroids were not conceived by Warhol as artworks on their own, but rather served as raw material for his portrait paintings. The black and white 8 x 10 (20,4 x 25,4 cm) photographs, he continues, were Warhols first photographs as photographs.
In 1976, at the same time Warhol gave up his tape recording activity and started his 35mm photo production, he began to dictate his diaries by telephone to Pat Hackett, an activity which was also continued until 1987. His intellectual memory, the activity with his tape recorder, was replaced by his diaries and another memory, the visual memory of his photographs. From 1976 onwards Warhol was constantly using his camera to shoot several rolls of films per week. He chose an average of approximately five photographs of each roll of film which he had printed by Christopher Makos and later by Terry Miriello. Makos printed the pictures in a stark contrast and with blurred margins, a style of blunt directness which Warhol liked. If you look at the selection of the photographs in this book you can see a lot of parallels with the whole artistic concept of the artist. Let us ask what is it that makes the art of Andy Warhol historically and philosophically so important. It is first the form and structure of his paintings, of his films and of his photographs, the kind reproduced in this book, which all have a radical new look, a new form and represent an outstanding achievement in late modernist art. The works use a technology, photography, which is important to everyone in our time. It is secondly the philosophical or human outlook of Warhol which is reflected in all his activities, in his writings and in his artworks. For me the quintessential approach that Warhol had to his life and our lives is cool, a popular expression today, which I find to be the most desirable state for most of us, at least since the days of Warhol. In all his works and in his thinking about life the artist shows the most direct and blunt approach. He never tries to give interpretations. He only reproduces what is there. He does not want to show us things behind the works. Far distant seem the days of Abstract Expressionism where the lonely artist starts an existential battle between the canvas and himself. Here is Warhol who says he wants to be a machine, that everything has the same importance for him, that he has no memory, that the ugly is beautiful and the beautiful ugly, that the common is heroic and vice versa, and that birth is a disaster6 as much as death is. This way of thinking enables him to concentrate on the form and not on the meaning of a photograph or a painting. He explained this himself: Just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, there I am. There is nothing behind it. Because of this outlook on life and on his own work Warhol was often called a voyeur. I think this is too trivial an expression. Although being often an obsessive observer and recorder, Warhols work stays serene. His person and his work are rich in complexity and contradiction7 . Warhol can be described as a voyeur in one way and as a holy fool in another way. His indifference to subject matters seems to me similar to what Socrates tried to achieve, to have no wishes. The reason for all the silly things Warhol used to say in the 60s in a number of interviews must derive from the fact that the journalists, in their professional search for interpretations of Warhols work, should have known that the artists new style was to have no interpretation. To ridicule the stupid questions he tried to give the most absurd answers.
Warhols introduction of photography into painting and film, in the way he did, is probably his most important legacy for the future. While most people believe photography, Warhol believed in it. A lot of his work is based on this fine distinction. His radical and pioneering use of photography helped pave the way for the broader acceptance of photography as an art form and the use of photography in fine art which we know today.
The black and white photographs which Andy did between 1976 and 1987 are practically all printed only one time and are all vintage. There are several thousands of them in the archives. It was a big experience and pleasure for me to see them all and select them for this publication and for some more volumes I want to publish this fall. I knew some photographs which belong to this group, which were published by Warhol in his photography book Andy Warhols Exposures in 1979 with an interesting text by Andy Warhol with Bob Colacello, Grosset & Dunlop, New York. When the book came out, I asked Andy to sell me all the photographs published in the book. He proposed to make a series of large prints but I asked for the small 8 x 10 works, which were used for the book. Andy agreed and sold me the set which is annotated with captions and in which each photograph is signed on the reverse. Back in Zurich I wrote to eight European museums and asked them whether they would like to show some of these photographs. All eight responded positively. When I told Warhol about it he again proposed to make large prints to show in the museums. This led to the printing of the only portfolios of photography that Warhol did. I published two portfolios of selected works from the Exposure series. The first portfolio contains 11 photos from Exposures and one photo Andy had done shortly before of Pope Paul II, which he wanted to go with the others. The photographs which are all signed by Warhol, were printed by Christopher Makos and are in the large size of 20 x 16 (50,8 x 40,7cm). It is an edition of 250 copies, the same number of copies I printed for the Electric Chair-Portfolio, which I published in 1971. Because we needed more than 12 large prints for the planned museum shows, Warhol and I decided to publish a second portfolio in two boxes with 40 further selected prints from Exposures, this time in an edition of only 15 copies. When I asked the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to show the 52 works they both preferred to exhibit the original 8 x 10 photographs with the captions. The whole 52 large photographs were later shown under the title of Social Disease between 1992 and 1994 in 11 German museums.
In 1985 Warhol published his second and last photographic book America, Harper & Row, New York. Unlike in Andy Warhols Exposures, which almost entirely shows Warhols friends, the stars of art, rock film, literature, sports, politics, fashion and of society, America includes a mixture of things: Exposures type celebrity, anonymous people, the poor and homeless, buildings, billboards, town and country landscapes, monuments and shots from cars and aeroplanes. In this publication and in Andy Warhol Photography, published in 1999, to accompany an interesting exhibition which started in the Kunsthalle Hamburg, curated by Christoph Heinrich, I saw reproductions of 8 x 10 black and white photos which were very different from the celebrity photographs that I knew. There were pictures of objects, architecture, still lifes, billboards, details of Warhols hotel rooms or bathrooms, details of all kinds of structures, consumer products, Mona Lisas in shop windows, details of department stores and supermarkets, cutlery or fridges. In these photographs Warhol uses similar images to those in his paintings and films to create works reflecting his unmistakable strong sensibility. Like in his paintings, Warhol shows us things in a new way, direct, blunt, uncritical, never trivial and capturing reality with his great sense for structure and form. He stays on the surface which enables him to focus all his efforts on artistic appearance rather than concentrating on the meaning of the work. Looking at this selection of photographs we can see how trivial and heroic subject matters have the same importance for the artist.
In these photographs we find a lot of iconography which we can relate to Warhols early Pop-Art images: tragedies of the unknown, suicides, death and riots like in the Disaster paintings, food and drinks like in the early product paintings. Warhols consumate talent as a commercial artist and as a painter and filmmaker allows him to choose what might appear to be random, almost automatic choices of strong formal compositions. Everything is in his unmistakable, unique and personal language, is said without irony nor sarcasm or glorification. Nothing seems hot - everything is cool. In his structured images Warhol selects a part of a larger structure in the frame of the photograph and gets solutions of strength and beauty, comparable to his important silkscreen paintings with repeated images.
Looking at these works we might think of a long list of ancestors: Atget, Walker Evans, Renger-Patsch, Cartier-Bresson or Weegee, to name just a few.Only Warhols works reflect his unmistakable philosophy. Perhaps the most radical works of Andy Warhols last ten years, these black and white photographs, are the artists Visual Memory and became his visual legacy.
ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY PREFACE
ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY TEXT
WORKS ON CANVAS
ANDY WARHOL'S VISUAL MEMORY
HOMEPAGE / WORKS FOR SALE / GALLERY PUBLICATIONS / UP