Progenitor IV

Andy Warhol Rorschach 1984

Warhol synthesizes Sontag’s high-art and camp categories, and this, it seems to me, is the key to the difficult mix of his qualities, methods, and intentions. He’s consciously camp, as everyone has known forever, but transcendentally so, as opposed to, say, the consciously camp Aubrey Beardsley. Warhol can’t be reduced to camp; he has elevated camp to high art. Maybe that’s the wave of the future, a future that may be short-lived for humans, and one in which consciousness of morality becomes meaningless because nothing is real. Everyone does what he or she must do in the mechanistic and random universe (“I want to be a machine,” Warhol said), and reality is a show since we can only perceive what our limited faculties permit, eliminating the possibility of knowing “reality” except as show. (Sontag writes that camp sees everything in quotation marks.)
Here I should acknowledge a distinction between what Sontag means by “high,” “moralistic” art and another common use of the term “high art,” which is simply to distinguish fully ambitious art—art profoundly concerned with how things are—from commercial or decorative or otherwise more practical art. (The category-two artists Bosch, Bellmer, and Schiele are certainly high artists in that sense.) And the point is that Warhol’s camp achievement fits this second “high” definition too—he made commercial, decorative art into high art. [Richard Hell on Andy Warhol]

Andy Warhol Rorschach 1984

Andy Warhol’s Rorschach paintings, produced in a giant spurt of activity in 1984, have the kind of star quality that Warhol always admired. Liquid, protean and seductively vacant, they reflect your own desires and fantasies right back at you. Conceived in the spirit of superstar Nico’s beguiling promise (“I’ll be your mirror”), these pictures will be whatever you want them to be….
Although Warhol professed ignorance about the standardized blots of the official Rorschach Test, he was obviously intrigued by their serial repetitiveness and formulaic impersonality. In his brilliant faux-naive deadpan, he explained: “I was trying to do these to actually read into them and write about them, but I never really had the time to do that. So I was going to hire somebody to read into them, to pretend that it was me, so that they’d be a little more…interesting. Because all I would see would be a dog’s face or something like a tree or a bird or a flower. Somebody else could see a lot more.”
In her rather highbrow catalogue essay, [Rosalind] Krauss reads the Rorschach series as a “parodic vision of Color Field abstraction,” as a sassy corruption of the “stain painting” practiced by Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski. If the Color Field painters wanted to transcend the carnal messiness of Abstract Expressionism, to move painting into the disembodied realm of pure opticality, as Krauss says, then Warhol “pulled the plug” on these sublime aspirations by reminding us that there’s no form so innocently abstract that it can’t be turned back into literary content–like a tree or a bird or a flower. [Mia Fineman on Andy Warhol’s Rorschach Paintings]

Andy Warhol Rorschach 1984

Paul Taylor: You’ve been in trouble for using someone else’s image as far back as 1964. What do you think about the legal situation of appropriated imagery, and the copyright situation?
Andy Warhol: I don’t know. It’s just like a Coca Cola bottle – when you buy it, you always think that it’s yours and you can do whatever you like with it. Now it’s sort of different because you pay a deposit on the bottle. We’re having the same problem now with the John Wayne pictures. I don’t want to get involved, it’s too much trouble. I think that you buy a magazine, you pay for it, it’s yours. I don’t get mad when people take my things.
Paul Taylor: You don’t do anything about it?
Andy Warhol: No. It got a little crazy when people were turning out paintings and signing my name.
Paul Taylor: What did you think about that?
Andy Warhol: Signing my name to it was wrong but other than that I don’t care.
Paul Taylor: The whole appropriation epidemic comes down to who is responsible for for art. If indeed anyone can manufacture the pictures of those flowers, the whole idea of the artist gets lost somewhere in the process.
Andy Warhol: Is that good or bad?
Paul Taylor: Well, first of all, do you agree with me?
Andy Warhol: Yes, if they take my name away. But when I used the flowers, the original photograph was huge and I just used one square inch of the photo and magnified it.
Paul Taylor: What do you ever see that makes you stop in your tracks?
Andy Warhol: A good display in a window… I don’t know, a good-looking face.
Paul Taylor: What’s the feeling when you see a good window display or a good face.
Andy Warhol: You just take longer to look at it. I went to China, I didn’t want to go, and I went to see the Great Wall. You know, you read about it for years. And actually it was great. It was really, really, really great. [Andy Warhol in conversation with Paul Taylor]

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