All images © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc.
This exhibition was made possible by a donation of photographs from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., and it's Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program.
The Black & White Prints
Pulling it out when the moment struck, Andy would photograph anything from the sublime to the mundane. The 8"x10" gelatin silver prints in this exhibition reveal more of his personal side. But a lack of documentation leaves us guessing why at any given moment he decided to push the shutter button. Are Warhol photographs part of a holistic vision made important because he conceived and took them? Or are they mere documentations of his daily half thoughts, now re-evaluated to avoid being heaped upon the recycle bin of art history?
Whether intended or not, these images from the late 1970s and 1980s are like time capsules that show us fashions, hairstyles, street signs, graffiti and the well-known people he socialized with. They are snapshots of low and high life, taken by a man who moved between the grimy outside world of New York City and the plush stylings of its high society interiors with the ease of a cab ride. Due to the sheer number of images left behind, Andy and his work have easily outlasted the 15 minutes of world fame he predicted for everyone else.
Some of the black and white photos, like that of a lone woman on a bench, a vacant store, a barren New Jersey waterfront, and a stranded pup (below) repeatedly portray solitude one wouldn't expect from an artist always surrounded by others. They counter-balance Warhol's more sociable people-filled photos. Friends say that Andy went out every night because he was lonely and didn't feel comfortable at home by himself. He could be equally uncomfortable with relatives after his mother Julia, who lived with him until 1971, passed away. Warhol generally kept his Pennsylvania family members separated from his New York life.
Andy Warhol Photo Gallery
The Color Polaroids
Warhol's Polaroids tell a different story, that of a busy artist with lots of work orders on his plate. Because Polaroids were instant cameras that could process a color print in one minute, he relied on them to capture the faces of almost everyone who sought him out for a portrait. In the early years Andy worked from images made by somebody else. His Marilyn Monroes and Elvis Presleys were created using standard publicity photos.
But Warhol's first paid commissioned portrait, 1963's "Ethel Scull 36 Times," was a breakthrough. Andy and the wife of a taxi tycoon improvised in a Times Square photo booth. He shoved quarters into the machine and told jokes to Ethel to keep her posing until he had over 300 shots, four at a time on tiny vertical strips. From those he made his large 24 by 5 foot screen-painted masterpiece. It led to the birth of Warhol's Polaroid-based portraits. Perfect for his needs, when hearing that Polaroid would discontinue the Big Shot camera after only two years, he contacted the company and bought several more. After shooting scores of Polaroids, Andy would choose which images to use, then make acetate prints that could be transferred onto a canvas along with the color patches he selected. Adding some hand-done brush work, each finished portrait included at least one 40"x40" canvas and started at $25,000.
Sometimes extra silkscreen prints were produced for Warhol to sell himself. When Mick Jagger commissioned a portrait in 1975, Andy made an additional 2,500 prints, then asked Mick to come over and sign them with him. Not that Jagger minded. "It was fun staying up all night," Andy made Mick a part of the history of American art.
Warhol photographed celebrities, artists, writers, athletes, CEOs, art collectors, children, dogs, nudes, and mythical characters. He never strayed far from commercial jobs, designing album covers for example, and sometimes the portraits look formulaic. But his subjects were always relevant to their times. When he photographed Ron Duguay in 1983 (below), the New York Rangers hockey star led the NHL in scoring, while partying with Andy in Manhattan discotheques. Duguay said of Andy, "He'd always be quiet, in the background taking pictures."
Robert Hughes' book on modern art, Shock of the New, claimed that Warhol's art had a "half-life," and that by the 1970s Andy was little more than a "perfunctory social portraitist." But Hughes ate those words later, when Andy's influences lasted well beyond the next generation of New York artists. Warhol's visual ideas, however simplistic, helped inspire the very onrush of electronic images that now invades our daily world." -Ken Magri, ARC Art History Professor Emeritus.
"When I have to think about it I know a picture is wrong... as soon as you have to decide and choose, it's wrong. And the more you decide about it, the more wrong it gets. Some people, they paint abstract, so they sit there thinking about it because their thinking makes them feel they're doing something. But my thinking never makes me feel like I'm doing anything. Leonardo da Vinci used to convince his patrons that his thinking time was worth something-even more than his painting time-And that may have been true for him, but I know that my thinking time isn't worth anything. I only expect to get paid for my 'doing' time." - Andy Warhol
Warhol's New York- by Ken Magri
Born in 1928 and raised in Pittsburgh, Andrew Warhola moved to New York City in 1949 to work as an artist. In those next four decades, which many call the golden years of American Modernism, New York City was a Mecca for both commercial and fine art. It was a time when the self-assured styles of Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Photo-Realism and street art would place young American image makers at the apex of Western culture.
When Warhol died in 1987 he was estimated to have owned at least 65,000 photographs, most of which he took himself as potential inspiration for artworks. A tireless voyeur, he carried Leicas, Minoltas or other point-and-shoot cameras around Manhattan the same way people now have cameras on their cell phones.
I was a full time faculty at ARC for 25 years. At ARC, I started the Andy Warhol Legacy program, which was instituted by the Andy Warhol foundation by the visual arts. At the 20th anniversary of Warhol's death, they decided to donate thousands of photographs to colleges, which they picked across the country. ARC was not on the list, and when I heard about it, I got jealous and decided to write to them and say that we have a permanent art collection, an art gallery, a foundation that can receive donations, and we have 34 thousand
students. It took a year of working with Kristen Dubray at the Art department and the President, David Viar. And after two years of waiting, they contacted us saying that they will be sending us 150 photos. It was exactly the same amount of photos as they donated to the other 180 colleges and so it was perfectly equitable. They also chose to send photos of people that the college can relates to, such as former First Lady of California, Maria Shriver. This program will be beneficial for ARC students in two different ways; For photography students, it will show them Cinema Virite photography, which was Warhol's style of photography; Art history students can benefit from the program as well because they get to play the role of art history detectives to understand the deeper meaning behind those photos. When we did the Warhol's New York show in 2012, we linked the photos with Warhol's diary so we can get the full meaning behind the photos. During that event, we brought a camera like the polaroid that Warhol used so we can see replicas of the camera he was using. When I contacted the Warhol's foundation, I was looking for something spectacular to add to the ARC permanent collection and I am proud to say that we were picked to receive those astonishing photos. By being among the selected colleges, new doors opened. After few years we received silk screen portraits, and they gave us five just for being on the list. We placed those silk screens in different locations around the campus. My words of inspiration to current and future students is "never stop pushing boundaries to find out what is too much and what is too far and never stop asking because somebody might say yes." I believe Warhol's message was to keep asking and keep pushing and then eventually he trusted his own creativity that he would find something there.
The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program's
mission is "to spark interest, discussion and future scholarship about the essential role photography played in Warhol's artistic production and to draw attention to the lifelong commitment he had to the medium." Begun in 2007 on the 20th anniversary of the artist's death, the program has donated Warhol photographs to over 180 American colleges, universities and museums.
Special thanks to: Don Reid, Ken Magri, Kirsten Dubray, Samantha Gale and David Viar
American River College
4700 College Oak Drive
Sacramento, CA 95841
Los Rios Community College District