Andy Warhol, the high priest of Pop Art, presented everyday images, from soup cans to celebrity photos, as high art, in repetitious silkscreen reproductions.
His preoccupation with the popular led to his famed remark that “in the future, everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes”.
Andrew Warhola was born in Newport, Rhode Island, of Czechoslovakian parents.
He grew up in Pittsburgh where he attended Schenley High School and graduated in 1949 with a degree in Fine Arts and Pictorial Design from the Carnegie Institute and began a career as a commercial artist in New York City – where he dropped the final ‘a’ from his surname – until 1962 when he pioneered his mechanical screen-printing style.
He soon became king of the art underground, churning out paintings from his East 47th Street studio, known as “The Factory”.
This was the era of giant Campbell’s soup cans and replicas of Brillo cartons, silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe, gangster broads, accidents, and balloons filled with helium and painted silver.
And then in 1963 he turned his eye to a movie camera and gathered eccentric, beautiful characters such as Edie Sedgwick, Ultra Violet, Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, and the Velvet Underground (who he managed) to star in his avant-garde films.
His first film was Tarzan and Jane Revisited . . . Sort Of. Taylor Mead, a famous poet of the underground, took the part of Tarzan in this parody of the famous series.
Then came Sleep, filmed over a period of six weeks with a static camera. When all the shots were joined together Warhol had a six-hour film of a man asleep.
As the ’60s wore on, Warhol introduced sound and began to distribute films such as Lonesome Cowboys, Bike Boy, Flesh, Trash and Heat.
Joe D’Allesandro was the most famous face to emerge from the underground and was a mainstay of the Warhol repertory company, appearing in three Warhol films which resulted in widely publicised censorship battles; Flesh, Trash and Heat.
Warhol also produced artwork and ideas for over 60 album covers during his career, including the iconic white cover with the big yellow banana for The Velvet Underground & Nico.
By the 1980s Andy Warhol was a mainstream figure, painting society portraits and flattering the famous. However, shortly before his death, in February 1987 his artistic work was rejuvenated by association with young New York graffiti artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat.