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Chapter 1: The Window at Bonwit's. It refers, rather, to a set of changes in Warhol's identity — the breakthrough, in effect, through which he became an icon.
One of the works that helps visualize the breakthrough is a painting done in , which consists in a greatly enlarged version of a simple black-and-white advertisement of the kind that appears in side columns and back pages of cheap newspapers. It advertised the services of a plastic surgeon, and showed two profiles of the same woman, before and after an operation on her nose. The left profile shows her with a large, witchlike nose, the right one with a cute turned-up nose, like a cheerleader's or a starlet's — the kind of nose that readers with beaky noses dream of having.
Since we read from left to right, there is a relationship of before and after between the two images, and indeed Warhol titled his work Before and After, of which he painted several versions.
As such, it was the embodiment of the kind of dream that haunts people concerned with changing their looks in order to be, they think, more attractive. Replacing before with after is the path to beauty as they conceive it, and to happiness. The years and constitute a zone of biographical change between two stages of Warhol's life, a zone of transfiguration.
He was transformed from a highly successful commercial artist into a member of the New York avant-garde — something he lusted after with all the passion of Miss Big Nose yearning for the look of Miss Tiny Turned-up Nose. It was a transformation underscored by the imagery of Before and After as art. Before Warhol, Before and After would have been a piece of boilerplate commercial art, whose maker would be long forgotten.
By , greatly enlarged, it became a work of high art. Reproductions of Before and After before and after this transformation took place look exactly alike. The difference, one might say, is invisible. Part of what made Warhol the icon he became has to do with the fact that initially almost nobody would have acknowledged a difference between the two images.
Warhol did not simply replicate a grungy piece of commercial art. He made the distinction between a piece of grungy art and a piece of high art at once invisible and momentous. But that meant that he changed not so much the way we look at art but the way art was understood. That meant that between and , the seeds of a visual and indeed a cultural revolution were planted.
What happened when Andy Warhol became the cultural icon Andy Warhol was not simply a biographical transition, in which a successful commercial artist became a serious avant-garde artist. It was a social transition, in that certain individuals of great importance in keeping track of the frontiers of art recognized that Warhol had done something of significance as far as the shape of that frontier was concerned. Artistic change has to be recognized and accepted as such by what we shall designate to follow usage as "the art world " of that time — certain curators, dealers, critics, collectors, and, of course, other artists.
That art world was in this respect prepared for Andy Warhol. He entered an ongoing discourse, and contributed to the direction this discourse took over the next years. By itself, that did not suffice, of course, to make him an icon. For that, a culture far wider than the art world of the very early s was required, and Warhol himself had to be perceived in ways that went far beyond questions of the frontiers of art.
Certainly, his being an artist was central in his becoming an icon — but how many artists, after all, go on to become icons? Very few. Only Warhol, for example, in the Pop art movement, who collectively changed the face of art in the mids, in fact rose to iconic stature. Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Tom Wesselman, and James Rosenquist were the chief Pop artists, and none of them really became icons save within some sector of the art world, if even there.
They were each wonderful artists. But Warhol was to become the artist of the second half of the twentieth century. He became an artist for people who knew very little about art. He represented an ideal form of life that touched his world from many sides.
He embodied a concept of life that embraced the values of an era that we are still living in. In certain ways he created an iconic image of what life was all about. No other artist came close to doing that. The change from artist to icon happened fairly rapidly. By , for example, the transformation was complete. In October of that year, Andy and his "Superstar," Edie Sedgwick, attended his first American retrospective exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
There was a crowd of at least two thousand rapturous persons, most of them students. No one had expected a crowd that large, and the curator, Sam Green, to be prudent, removed most of the paintings from the walls, leaving the gallery all but bare.
But the crowd had not come so much to look at the art as to see Warhol and his consort. Chants of "Andy and Edie!
Andy and Edie! People were jostled and trampled. It became a problem of crowd control much like what was happening at rock concerts. Andy, Edie, and their party found safety on an iron staircase, where, like demagogues on balconies, they waved at the crowds below.
Finally a hole was axed in the ceiling, and the celebrities were able to escape to the floor above. Crowd behavior like that was almost standard with certain dreamboat musicians, like the Beatles, or Frank Sinatra before them.
But it was unheard of at art events, where the institutional atmosphere of the museum enjoined quiet and respect. The change did not escape Warhol's notice. But then, we weren't just at the art exhibit — we were the exhibit" Bourdon, The history of Modernist art was a history of anger and resentment. As far back as the Salon des Refuses of , on the instruction of Louis Napoleon, paintings rejected by the selection committee were hung in a separate gallery, where viewers could make up their own minds.
Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe was the target of jeers and shouts of derision. There was jeering in the gallery where Matisse and the Fauves were displayed in the Salon of This did not happen with art in the s. On the contrary, it was felt, particularly by younger audiences, to be their art, to be part of their culture.
By , everyone knew in a general way the kind of art Warhol was making. The crowds at the ICA created, spontaneously, an event that would not have arisen with Lichtenstein or Oldenburg, and certainly not for the painters in the previous generation of Abstract Expressionists. Nor really did it happen anywhere with Minimalist art, which replaced Pop as the mainstream avant-garde art in the mids. Pop art's successor was pretty much a big yawn as far as the general population was concerned.
But with Pop, the change in art was perceived as radical, the meaning of art for ordinary persons had changed, and much of this was something that Warhol had done. At least, in his case, because of his art he had begun the ascent to the status of an icon. No one can have known that, with the change in decade, from the s to the s, the whole of Western culture was entering a period of convulsive change. No one could have anticipated the tremendous change in attitude that lay ahead, especially in youth culture, in It was a decade in which boundary after boundary was broken and washed away.
The boundary between vernacular and high art was breached in the very early s. It was a way of overcoming the gap between art and life. My theory is that when there is a period of deep cultural change, it shows up first in art. The age of Romanticism first became visible in the way English gardens were laid out, "natural" as opposed to formal. In , the Beatles made their first visit to America, wearing long hair, testing a boundary between the genders.
That very year, the boundary between the races was attacked as Freedom Riders went into the American South to help black citizens redeem their civil rights. The campus upheavals of put under attack the boundaries between the generations, and young people claimed a right to determine the curriculum, and to study the subjects closest to them, including courses in ethnic and gender studies that would have been unheard of in the previous decade.
But their demands went beyond the institution of the university, into the region where the most far-reaching political decisions were made. Meanwhile, radical feminism emerged in the late s, putting under attack traditional boundaries between the lives of men and women, the latter demanding equality or even more, autonomy. In , the Stonewall Riots put under attack the boundaries between straight and gay sexual differences, deeming them irrelevant to civil life.
Late in the decade, Warhol created a kind of cabaret, with the in-house rock group The Velvet Underground, and other entertainments, which he called "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
But the transition from Andy Warhol, commercial artist, to Andy Warhol, art icon, while perhaps inevitable, was not explosive. It was, initially, an uncertain kind of groping toward an art that did not really exist yet, and an identity neither Warhol nor anyone close to him would have been able to pin down. And the "discourse" I spoke of, which he ultimately found a way to enter, was as yet ill defined and uncertain.
That makes Bockris's metaphor of birth particularly apt. The fetus gropes blindly in the dark, heading toward a world it could not have visualized, in the warm cavity that had so far constituted its entire atmosphere. There had to have been, in or , some kind of internal change in Warhol.
He had come to New York City as a graduate from art school, and had made it as an immensely successful commercial artist. The song says that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, but what Warhol meant to do was to make it in New York in a different way, at a different level and at whatever cost. He wanted to make it as a very different kind of artist. It is difficult to imagine that what he wanted to become was one of the Abstract Expressionists, who dominated the New York art world in those years.
As we shall see, his first moves were made under the protective coloration of an Abstract Expressionist philosophy of pigment. But what one might call the Abstract Expressionist philosophy of art had, and could have had, no appeal for Warhol.
The view was that the painter reaches deep into his or her unconscious mind and finds ways to translate what Robert Motherwell called "the original creative impulse" into marks, impulsively deposited through broad gestures, onto the painting or drawing's surface.
When Warhol said, in his aphoristic style, "If you want to know who Andy Warhol is, just look at my face, or at the surface of my work.
It's all there," he was rejecting this romantic view of the artist's soul Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, The Pop artists and the Abstract Expressionists had markedly opposed conceptions of what artists did. The Pop artist had no inner secrets. If he revealed things to viewers, they were things the viewer already knew or knew about. For this reason, there was already a natural bond between artist and viewer, which entered, in Warhol's case, into the way he became an icon.
Arthur C. Danto dies at 89; art critic lauded Warhol
Learn more about our health and safety measures. The Warhol Museum mourns the loss of a brilliant mind whom many of us were fortunate to call a colleague, Arthur Danto, who passed on October 25, His perspectives on art shaped the aesthetic discourse of his times. Arthur Danto was a famous, much published philosopher.
Learn more about the actions Yale University Press is taking. Danto traces the evolution of the pop artist, including his early reception, relationships with artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and the Factory phenomenon. He offers close readings of individual Warhol works, including their social context and philosophical dimensions, key differences with predecessors such as Marcel Duchamp, and parallels with successors like Jeff Koons. Danto suggests that "what makes him an American icon is that his subject matter is always something that the ordinary American understands: everything, or nearly everything he made art out of came straight out of the daily lives of very ordinary Americans. The tastes and values of ordinary persons all at once were inseparable from advanced art. It's as if Danto has been waiting all these years to produce this magnificent synthesis.
Arthur C. Danto, a provocative and influential philosopher and critic who championed Andy Warhol and other avant-garde artists and upended the study of art history by declaring that the history of art was over, has died. He was Danto, an art critic for the Nation magazine from to and a professor emeritus at Columbia University, died of heart failure Friday at his Manhattan apartment, his daughter Ginger Danto said. An academically trained philosopher, Danto became as central to debates about art in the s and after as critic Clement Greenberg had been during the previous generation. And the whole world consisting of latent art works waiting, like the bread and wine of reality, to be transfigured, through some dark mystery, into the indiscernible flesh and blood of the sacrament?
Chapter 1: The Window at Bonwit's. It refers, rather, to a set of changes in Warhol's identity — the breakthrough, in effect, through which he became an icon. One of the works that helps visualize the breakthrough is a painting done in , which consists in a greatly enlarged version of a simple black-and-white advertisement of the kind that appears in side columns and back pages of cheap newspapers. It advertised the services of a plastic surgeon, and showed two profiles of the same woman, before and after an operation on her nose.