Andy Warhol Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Andy Warhol 1928–

American director, artist, and author.

Warhol's controversial work stems from his conviction that he is empty and what he creates is meaningless. Critics seem to interpret his films for him, since they lack any composition or traditional qualities of beauty. His films appear to be mass-produced; Warhol's studio is, in fact, named the Factory because of its high production rate. While his early films were silent, overly long, and inert, later works included characters and minor activity. These films featured Warhol's "superstars": a group of minimally-talented people instructed only to "act normally." Warhol felt the presence of these "stars" far outshone their performances, that people are more interesting than stories. Though many find him a forerunner of minimalist cinematic expression and graphic screen sexuality, Warhol sees the camera only as a recorder of reality, not as an artistic tool.

Warhol studied art at Carnegie Institute of Technology, then worked as a commercial designer in New York. Warhol's early work popularized the reproduction of everyday objects, reflecting his preference for recreation over creation. In 1964, Warhol began making films because "Movies are easier to do than pictures. All you have to do is turn on the camera." Early films such as Sleep and Empire survey a motionless object for an extended period. Warhol stated that he "wanted the Empire State Building to be a star."

The films of 1964–65, such as My Hustler and Vinyl, further demonstrate Warhol's belief that everyone is a star. Consequently the quality of the film mattered little. Warhol, in fact, has often incorporated purposely anticinematic techniques, allowing the camera to wander and refusing to edit the film. Warhol also allows his team to collaborate as much or as little as they wish. Regardless of a film's critical reception, Warhol takes little credit for the finished result.

Warhol had his first commercial hit with Chelsea Girls. Many critics find its disjointed structure and disdain for cinematic technique an overbearing put-on. Devotees of underground movies, however, have applauded Warhol's use of twin screens as well as both black and white and color film. Warhol attributed this twin usage to the fact that he "finally had enough money for color film."

Lonesome Cowboys involves more plot and was shot on location. While action is more extensive in this film, characters are no deeper than before. Blue Movie follows a couple around an apartment and plays the passive observer as they talk, make love, shower, and eat. Warhol feels his greatest contribution to cinema has been in the area of sexual permissiveness on screen; since Blue Movie is a film of a real rather than enacted encounters, its documentary-like depiction of sex is noteworthy.

In 1968, a member of Warhol's Factory attempted to murder him. Though he survived, his creative output lessened, and successive films have been credited solely to his collaborator, Paul Morrissey. Warhol is the embodiment of his "nothing" philosophy. While others find artistic merit in his work, Warhol terms it "turning on a camera and letting people talk." When asked what the purpose of his films is, Warhol replied, "To take up time." (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 89-92.)