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Andy Warhol website

Andy Warhol

ANDY WARHOL NEWS
MARCH 2006
(PAGE 2)

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DOES SIZE MATTER?

Andy Warhol Giant Size

First there was the 500+ page Super Warhol exhibition catalogue weighing over 10 pounds. Then there was the Andy Warhol's Interview magazine compilation consisting of more than 900 pages weighing over 42 pounds and housed in a wooden trolley. Then there was The Andy Warhol Show - by comparison an almost modest book of more than 300 pages. Now there is Andy Warhol Giant Size - over 600 large pages of Warholiana, weighing more than 14 pounds. If these books get any bigger they are going to have to come with a new apartment in order for readers to accommodate them. Andy Warhol Giant Size is not your average art coffee table book. It's more of a dining table book. It's huge.

So does size matter? Yes - at least in regard to Andy Warhol Giant Size. It's an amazing book with a large amount of photographs and full-size reproductions of Warhol ephemera. Some of the reproductions have been seen before - in books like Pre-Pop Warhol by Jesse Kornbluth or Andy Warhol 365 Takes by the staff at The Warhol (museum). However, they have never been reproduced this large before. The size draws the reader into Warhol's world - and its great being able to read the small print on the various ephemera that is reproduced. There are also quite a few items that appear in this book for the first time. Particularly interesting are the pages from Warhol's high school annual and the letters he received in the hospital while recuperating from the gun shot wounds inflicted by Valerie Solanas. (Note to publisher: Pre-Pop Warhol was written by Jesse Kornbluth, not Kornblum as listed in the Bibliography.)

The actual text contained in the book is kept short and simple, with contributions by Dave Hickey, David Dalton, Peggy Phelan and Ronnie Cutrone. Kenneth Goldsmith (who previously authored I'll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews) provides brief introductions to different periods of Warhol's life and art dealer Bruno Bischofberger writes a page about Warhol's late works - his Reversal series and the collaboration between Warhol and Basquiat.

There is also a short account by Ivan Karp about how he first met Warhol. It is interesting to note how Karp's account has varied over the years. The account published in Andy Warhol Giant Size is similar to the account he gave in an interview with Patrick S. Smith in 1978 which appeared in Andy Warhol's Art and Films. Karp talks about Warhol coming into the Castelli Gallery with two other people and purchasing a Jasper Johns Light Bulb drawing - with Karp agreeing to visit Warhol at his studio the next day. This is slightly different than an earlier version given by Karp in an interview that appeared in John Wilcock's The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol in 1971. During that interview Karp does not mention three people and says that "apparently he [Warhol] had been in the gallery before" and had "apparently" purchased a Jasper Johns Light Bulb. Karp's use of "apparently" indicates that he was either not actually there when the light bulb drawing was purchased or, at least, did not remember it. Karp does not mention seeing any Soup Cans in those interviews. However, in 1984, another version of the story by Karp appeared in the book, The Art Dealers. In that version, Karp says that when he got to Warhol's studio, he was shown "twenty-five paintings of Campbell's soup cans and cartoon paintings." This is highly unlikely since Warhol probably started painting the soup cans in early February 1962 (see "The Soup Cans (1962)"). Andy Warhol purchased his Johns' Light Bulb drawing in May 1961. (A receipt for the purchase dated May 8, 1961 appears in the excellent Andy Warhol's Time Capsule 21.)

Karp's accounts of when he first met Warhol are important because they may help to date when Warhol was first exposed to Roy Lichtenstein's work. In Andy Warhol Giant Size Karp says that he showed Warhol the Lichtenstein paintings during the same visit he first met him which was during the same visit that Warhol bought the Jasper John's Light Bulb. But it appears that Karp is possibly combining several visits into one. All of his versions differ from the more detailed account given by Warhol's friend and fellow artist, Ted Carey, which also appeared in Patrick S. Smith's book. In Carey's version, it was Carey who was first shown the Lichtensteins by Karp. Carey then rang Warhol to tell him about them. It was then that Warhol expressed his suspicion that Lichtenstein may have seen Warhol's cartoon paintings in the window of Bonwit Teller and that Lichtenstein then started painting his own cartoon images. At the time of their telephone conversation, Warhol was unaware that Lichtenstein had already been using comic book imagery before the Bonwit Teller display. But Lichtenstein had not yet included a speech balloon in his paintings. Warhol did speech balloons before Lichtenstein and chronologically it is possible that Lichtenstein got the idea of speech balloons from Warhol (see Roy Lichtenstein).

Karp is not the only Warhol cohort to give different versions of the same story to different interviewers. Human memory is not infallible. Given the chaotic world of the 1960s, documentary evidence can often be more helpful when approaching Andy Warhol than the memories of people who were there at the time. Andy Warhol Giant Size is not about the text. It's about the pictures. And the full-size documents that are reproduced in it. The editors at Phaidon and the book's designer, Julia Hastings, are to be congratulated for creating this massive tome of Warholiana. Highly recommended.

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RED GROOMS IN MEMPHIS

Red Grooms Elvis 87
Elvis 87
by Red Grooms

"Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work" opened on March 3, 2006 at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis. Grooms ran one of the earliest artist-run galleries in New York in the late 1950s and created some of the early "Happenings" of the 1960s. He helped to blur the distinction between art and life as he extended the canvas from the easel into the audience.

Grooms moved to New York from Nashville in 1956 and in 1958, with Jay Milder, opened the City Gallery. Both Claes Oldenburg and Jim Dine first exhibited there. In 1959 Grooms moved his gallery to the Lower East Side, calling it the Delancey Street Museum. It was part of the bourgeoning alternative art scene in downtown N.Y. which included the Judson Gallery which opened in late 1958. Warhol was known to attend at least some of the events at the Judson, including the joint exhibition, "Ray-Gun" by Claes Oldenburg and Jim Dine in January 1960. Warhol's choice of cartoon images for his early Pop work may have been influenced by the use of comic book and found imagery by the downtown artists (see comic strip imagery).

In the summer of 1958 Grooms presented a performance event called Play Called Fire at the Sun Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts where he arrived with cans of paint and proceeded to paint a picture in twenty-five minutes while the audience looked on. He had been inspired by a Life magazine article which featured photographs of the French action painter, Mathieu, being filmed by television cameras while creating a painting. Extending action painting into performance art had earlier been attempted by a group of avant-garde artists in Japan - the Gutai group - and their activities had been mentioned in the New York Times in 1957.

In c. summer 1958 , the artist most associated with "Happenings," Allan Kaprow, staged a performance event at George Segal's farm in New Jersey during a picnic for members of the Hansa Gallery. The Hansa Gallery had been founded as an artists' cooperative in 1952 by former students of Hans Hofmann. Kaprow's event at the picnic was a percursor to his later "Happenings" and was reminiscent of an interdisciplinary performance organized by John Cage in the summer of 1952 at Black Mountain College. Participants in the Cage event included Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg. According to Barbara Haskell in Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism and Performance 1958 - 1964, Kaprow's event in 1958 was "structurally similar" to Cage's event at Black Mountain. Kaprow "called for members of the group to perform simultaneous but unrelated tasks: jumping through the props Kaprow and Segal had made from lumber and plastic sheeting; sitting in chicken coops rattling noisemakers; collectively painting a picture." Grooms had heard about Kaprow's event at Segal's farm, later saying that it had "opened things up for me by giving me license to do dumb things." (BL32/25)

In the Autumn of 1959 Allan Kaprow performed what has become known as the first "Happening" - 18 Happenings in Six Parts - at the opening of the Reuben Gallery. Later that year, in December 1959, Grooms presented the first of his own "Happenings." Grooms' The Burning Building took place at the Delancey Street Museum in December 1959, followed by The Magic Train Ride in January 1960 at the Reuben Gallery. The Grooms' "Happenings" included spoken references to comic strip characters such as Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie.

The current show of Grooms' graphic work - mostly posters and prints - continues in Memphis until April 15, 2006. The website for the gallery is at www.people.memphis.edu/~artmuseum/AMHome.html.

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RICHARD HAMILTON: "SAVE THE MERZ BARN"

Merz Barn Office
Merzbarn Office, Ambleside 1999
Part of the ArtBarns - After Kurt Schwitters project

Richard Hamilton will be giving a presentation about Kurt Schwitters and the Merz barn to help launch the "Save the Merz barn" fundraising campaign at the Tate Britain on Tuesday, March 28, 2006. The campaign is being organized by Littoral - a non-profit art trust based in Ramsbottom and sponsored by the Arts Council of Great Britain. More about the Merz barn can be found on their website at www.littoral.org.uk.

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TRAPPED LIKE A RAT IN ROME: THE CHE GUEVARA EPISODE

Che Guevara poster
One of the Che Guevara images from the
exhibition at The Warhol. The image was created
by Robin Brunelle based on a description in one
of Gerard Malanga's letters from December 1967

The Warhol museum in Pittsburgh is currently hosting an exhibition in their Archives Study Center focusing on Gerard Malanga's attempt to sell fake Warhol paintings (of Che Guevara) in Italy that were actually created by Malanga and not Warhol. The title of the exhibition "... trapped like a rat in Rome," is a quote from one of Malanga's letters featured in the show.

Malanga was hoping to sell his Che Guevara paintings in order to finance a film he was trying to make in Italy - The Recording Zone Operator. Much of the exhibition consists of letters and other materials which Malanga sent to Warhol about the paintings. Malanga had interpreted a comment made by Ronna Page as meaning that Warhol gave his tacit approval for the forgeries when, in fact, the opposite was true. (Page was the woman in The Chelsea Girls who got slapped by Ondine.) Malanga admitted in the letters that he was engaged in an illegal act. The last letters he sent, after the forgeries were discovered, dramatically revealed the extent of his problem: a possible 20 year prison sentence. The forgeries were discovered when Italian art dealer, Plinio de Martiss, contacted Warhol's NY dealer, Leo Castelli, to make sure that it was okay to exhibit and sell the works. Castelli rang Warhol and Warhol identified them as fakes. In order to keep Gerard out of prison, however, Warhol agreed they were his, but that Gerard was not allowed to sell them.

The exhibition, curated by Matt Wrbican, includes two half-size digital facsimile reproductions of the two large paintings that Malanga produced of the Che images, based on his descriptions of them in a letter from December 1967. The Che images produced by Malanga are not the Pop-like images of the revolutionary that are often seen on t-shirts and posters. Those images were actually done by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, based on Alberto Korda's photograph of Che Guevara taken in March 1960 at a Cuban funeral service. Andy Warhol never did his own paintings of the Che image although the Fitzpatrick paintings are sometimes incorrectly attributed to him.
Included in the exhibition at The Warhol are:
- 12 letters and postcards from Malanga (dated between September 1967 and March 1968)
- 1 poster for Malanga's unfinished film The Recording Zone Operator
- 1 handbill for a Roman nightclub at which Malanga performed
- The announcement card for the Che show at Galeria La Tartaruga
- 2 telegrams
- 3 original photocopied documents (in which Malanga falsely attests to the authenticity of the works, and Warhol saves him from prison by declaring that they are authentic, but that Malanga isn't authorized to sell them)
- 5 magazine and newspaper clippings regarding the event and some of its characters
- 2 letters regarding the denial of publication of Malanga's poetry about the Barzini family
- 2 half-size digital facsimile reproductions of the two large paintings that Malanga produced of the images, based on his descriptions of them in a letter from December 1967
The website for The Warhol is at www.warhol.org.

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Andy Warhol