Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 5

Warhol MOOC

Week 1: Celebrity
Reading extracts
Gene Swenson, What is Pop Art? Answers from 8 Painters, Part 1, in
Kenneth Goldsmith, ed., Ill Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol
Interviews, New York: Carroll and Graf, 2006, pp.16-18. First published in
ARTnews, November 1963.
AW: Someone said that Brecht wanted everybody to think alike. I want
everybody to think alike. But Brecht wanted to do it through Communism, in a
way. Russia is doing it under government. Its happening here all by itself
without being under a strict government; so if its working without trying, why
cant it work without being Communist? Everybody looks alike and acts alike,
and were getting more and more that way. I think everybody should be a
machine. I think everybody should like everybody.
GS: Is that what Pop Art is all about?
AW: Yes. Its liking things.
GS: And liking things is like being a machine?
AW: Yes, because you do the same thing every time. You do it over and over
GS: And you approve of that?
AW: Yes, because its all fantasy. Its hard to be creative and its also hard not
to think what you do is creative or hard not to be called creative because
everybody is always talking about that and individuality. Everybodys always
being creative. And its so funny when you say things arent, like the shoe I
would draw for an advertisement was called a creation but the drawing of it
was not. But I guess I believe in both ways. All these people who arent very
good should be really good. Everybody is too good now, really. Like, how
many actors are there? There are millions of actors. Theyre all pretty good.
And how many painters are there? Millions of painters and all pretty good.
How can you say one style is better than another? You ought to be able to be
an Abstract Expressionist next week, or a Pop artist, or a realist without
feeling youve given up something. I think the artists who arent very good
should become like everybody else so that people would like things that arent
very good. Its already happening. All you have to do is read the magazines
and the catalogues. Its this style or that style, this or that image of man but
that really doesnt make any difference. Some artists get left out that way, and
why should they?
GS: Is Pop Art a fad?

AW: Yes, its a fad, but I dont see what difference it makes. I heard a rumour
that G. quit working, that shes given up art altogether. And everyone is saying
how awful it is that A. gave up his style and is going it in a different way. I
dont think so at all. If an artist cant do any more, then he should just quit; and
an artist ought to be able to change his style without feeling bad. I heard that
Lichtenstein said he might not be painting comic strips a year or two from now
I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think thats
whats going to happen, thats going to be the whole new scene. Thats
probably one reason Im using silk screens now. I think somebody should be
able to do all my paintings for me. I havent been able to make every image
clear and simple and the same as the first one. I think it would be great if
more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my
picture was mine or somebody elses.
GS: It would turn art history upside down?
AW: Yes.
GS: Is that your aim?
AW: No. The reason Im painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I
feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do.
Callie Angell, Introduction, in Angell, Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The
Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonn, New York: Abrams, 2006,
pp12-13, 15.
The series of Screen Test portrait films that Warhol produced between
1964 and 1966 constitutes one of the most ambitious and long-lasting projects
in his career as a filmmaker and artist. Although the Screen Tests series is a
work of accumulation, not of duration there is no evidence that anyone ever
intended to show all the Screen Tests end to end their collective running
time of thirty-two hours is surpassed in sheer volume only by the forty-six
hours of footage sandwiched into Warhols twenty-five-hour multiscreen epic,
**** (Four Stars), which was projected only once at the end of 1967. The
simplicity of the basic Screen Test format each a silent, black-and-white
close-up of a person lasting three minutes and the casualness and rapidity
with which these films were produced are offset by their conceptual
sophistication and by their centrality to Warhols work as a portrait artist in the
mediums of both film and painting. As rigidly formal as his early minimalist
films, as society-conscious as his silk-screened portraits of the 1970s, as
visually striking as his paintings of Hollywood movie stars, the Screen Tests
are the stem cells of Warhols portraiture: short, simple, and somehow more
direct than his silk-screened paintings, these films not only contain the
technical and conceptual seeds of Warhols later painted portraits, but also
present their subjects to us with an immediacy not often found in his other

When he began making his Screen Test portrait films, Warhol was a
young and successful artist hard at work in the midst of the New York art
scene during one of the most exciting and explosive decades in its history.
Sally Banes described the significance of the New York scene in her book
Greenwich Village 1963, when
numerous small, overlapping, sometimes rival networks of artists were
forming the multifaceted base of an alternative culture that would flower
in the counter-culture of the late 1960s, seed the art movements of the
1970s, and shape the debates about postmodernism in the 1980s and
Given the time and place, it is not surprising that the people Warhol filmed
were a talented and fascinating group. Intricately interconnected and
multithreaded, the network of individuals whose pictures Warhol collected in
the Screen Tests offers a unique map of the New York downtown arts scene
during a watershed period. Like a yearbook of the mid-1960s avant-garde, the
Screen Tests contain photographic portraits of a diverse population of cultural
figures, all linked through their shared connection, however brief, with Warhol
and his camera: poets, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers,
models, speed freaks, opera queens, street people, performers, a smattering
of celebrities and the wealthy as well as all grades of Factory personnel, from
anonymous freshmen to superstars and other seniors.
Although the Screen Tests were not all-inclusive it is interesting to
consider who among Warhols friends and acquaintances does not appear in
these films they do show Warhol, somewhat surprisingly, in the role of social
historian or ethnographer, systematically documenting the parade of talented
artists and other significant characters he encountered at his studio and
assembling a group portrait of considerable cultural and physiognomic
complexity. The Screen Tests can also be read as a portrait of the artist
himself, delineating the breadth of his friendships, his social connections and
professional associations, his range of interests, his egalitarianism and
opportunism, his eye for beauty and for talent, his appreciation of intelligence,
his fascination with personality and the human face.
The Warhol Screen Tests were never real screen tests in the
conventional sense of the word; that is, these films were not test rolls used to
determine whether or not people would be chosen to perform in other Warhol
films. These films were not even called Screen Tests at first, but were
usually referred to as film portraits or stillies, a playful Factory term derived
from the static nature of these famously unmoving movies
The making of Screen Tests at the Factory was a casual and irregular
process. Although some people recall being specifically invited by Warhol to
come to the Factory so he could film their Screen Test, other portraits were
filmed more spontaneously, arranged on the spot when subjects dropped by.
Most people recall that the shooting of their Screen Test took place in a
matter-of-fact way, without drawing much attention from others at the Factory,
in a small space against the wall where the tripod-mounted camera, lights,
and a chair had already been set up. Some people recall Warhol adjusting
and starting up the camera and then walking away to work on other projects

until their three-minute roll was finished, a kind of desertion that could be very
Lucy Lippard, New York Pop, in Lippard, Pop Art, London: Thames and
Hudson, 1992 (first published 1966), pp.82, 87-92.
Pop chose to depict everything previously considered unworthy of
notice, let alone of art: every level of advertising, magazine and newspaper
illustration, Times Square jokes, tasteless bric-a-brac and gaudy furnishings,
ordinary clothes and foods, film stars, pin-ups, cartoons. Nothing was sacred,
and the cheaper and more despicable the better. Nor were the time-honoured
methods of creating art respected. Lichtenstein and Warhol did not even
invent their images, and it was generally agreed that they did nothing about
them once they had selected them. The former used a projector to enlarge his
sources, filled in the Ben Day dots with a screen, and had his baked-enamel
paintings produced in multiple editions. Warhol hand-painted his products at
first but then began to silk-screen them by commercial techniques, hiring
others to duplicate and even to execute his work; it too has appeared in
editions. [] Roy Lichtenstein was called the comic-strip man and Life billed
him as the worst artist in the US. Andy Warhol was the Campbells soup guy
and titillated the experts by nonchalantly signing ordinary soup cans and
selling them as souvenirs.
This was all a bitter pill for many people to swallow. They assumed that
the intention in subjecting the viewer to such indignities could only be satirical.
What else could it be? Surely there was no other reason to paint such vulgar
images, from which all sensitive souls recoiled in horror. Critics and curators
who endorsed Pop Art as an aggressively optimistic and original style were
accused of jumping on the commercial bandwagon and trying to make their
suspect allegiance respectable.
the Pop artists do not naively idealize their subjects. They know what
they are handling since they all have backgrounds in commercial art. Warhol
was a successful fashion illustrator of shoes; Rosenquist learned billboard
painting as a trade; Lichtenstein worked in design and display, Oldenburg in
magazine illustration and design; and Wesselmann studied to be a cartoonist.
Yet all of them were artists first and foremost, devoting their energies to
serious painting. They were aware of the continuing ambiguous relationship
between commercial and fine art, and that there are still areas they have not
touched in their work. They have all steered away from the slick
advertisement that imitates the modern fine arts. [] The Brillo box, for
instance, was designed by an Abstract Expressionist artist James Harvey
but its effective design is directed at saleability rather than attractiveness
the Pop artists do not simply portray common objects or take stylistic
leads from folk cultures, but operate at one remove from actuality. Life as
represented in the comic strips or advertisements bears little resemblance to
real life. Already separated from life by the cellophane barrier of
commercialism, Pop Art can function with detachment and still retain a hold

on the emotional or sensorial reactions of the viewer. As Lichtenstein has

said, the closer my work is to the original, the more threatening and critical
the content. At the same time, it is the narrow distance between the original
and the Lichtenstein that provokes the tension and the great drama of his best
work. For some reason, the problem of transformation has been raised more
often in regard to Lichtenstein that to Warhol, perhaps because Warhols work
is so ultimate in its rejection of involvement that it must be accepted as a fait
accompli, while Lichtensteins is still art and therefore the more irritating.