Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There

by Gary Comenas

Pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

page sixteen

Donna De Salvo (Chief Curator, Whitney Museum): It was around 1951 that Warhol first met Otto Fenn, the fashion photographer… The two had been introduced through mutual industry friends and Warhol brought his portfolio to Fenn, who immediately liked it. Before turning to photography, Fenn had been an artist, at one point doing set designs for summer stock. After the war, he travelled to Paris to photograph the collections, and also worked a stint as assistant to the photographer, Louise Dahl-Wolfe. At his 58th Street studio, Fenn photographed the high-cheeked and slim females who then populated (and still do) the pages of women’s fashion magazines. This was a time of cool and elegant sophistication, the time of names such as Cecil Beaton, Diana Vreeland, Richard Avedon, Leo Lerman and Christian Dior. Warhol had few friends in his early New York days and, according to Fenn, was a nearly daily visitor at the conveniently located mid-town studio. Warhol was fascinated by photography, and also concerned that it might supplant illustration…(DDD9-10)

From Otto Fenn’s NY Times obituary: Mr. Fenn photographed fashions, decorations and food for Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, House Beautiful and House and Garden magazines… Early in his career he made sets for summer theater and backgrounds for fashion sittings and painted murals for the 1939 World's Fair and the passenger ship America. (OF)

[Note: Later, in 1964 Fenn opened an antiques shop in Sag Harbour with his long-term companion, John Krug. He also served as the chairman of the Sag Harbor Historic Landmarks District. g.c.]

Donna De Salvo: Within this world of restrained elegance, Fenn’s studio became a place for playful and creative collaboration. It was here that Warhol produced folding screens painted with huge and vividly coloured butterflies. He offered to make backdrops for Fenn’s photo shoots, using the seamless paper common in fashion studios. In one of their collaborations, Warhol’s drawings of flowers and butterflies were projected onto the faces of models as Fenn photographed them. The event brings to mind Warhol’s later projection of films onto the Velvet Underground. Warhol also asked Fenn to photograph him, a casual sitting resulting in a series of images of a very young, shy, but precocious young man. (DDD9-10)

Justin Wolf (art writer): In the autumn of 1952, the first two of what would be several co-op art galleries opened in downtown Manhattan; the Tanager on 90 East 10th Street, located next door to the home of Willem de Kooning, who had recently taken an apartment on 10th Street, and the Hansa on 70 East 12th Street… Membership at the Tanager included American Realists Alex Katz and Philip Pearlstein, and the Pop art/found-art collagist Tom Wesselmann. (JWT)

Charles Cajori/Lois Dood (two of the founding members of the Tanager Gallery): In the spring of 1952 Angelo Ippolito and Fred Mitchell found a store front on East 4th Street and persuaded Lois Dodd, Bill King and myself to fix it up and start a gallery… From the beginning we thought of the Tanager as a place to show artists whom we respected, not simply ourselves… Artists, I think, always knew it was theirs: a place to leave messages, meet friends and hang out. There was a quality about the place – and it was part of an extraordinary time and community… it was the policy of the membership to invite guest artists… (JB1)

[Note: In a 1977 exhibition devoted to the gallery co-ops of the 1950s, the Tanager was listed as being in existence from the summer of 1952. From summer 1952 to fall 1953 the gallery was located at 51 East 4th Street. From fall 1953 to summer 1962 it was located at 90 East 10th Street.

Founding members of the Tanager Gallery were Charles Cajori, Lois, Angelo Ippolito, William King and Fred Mitchell. Other members were Perle Fine, Sidney Geist, Joseph Groell, Nanno de Groot, Sally Hazelet, Ben Isquith, Lester Johnson, Alex Katz, Nicholas Marsicano, George Ortman, Philip Pearlstein, Raymond Rocklin, Sal Sirugo and Tom Wesselmann. (JB1)]

Tony Scherman/David Dalton: … Warhol misjudged the art world climate badly enough to twice submit his ‘boy drawings’ to the Tanager, an influential collective gallery operated by and for second-generation Abstract Expressionists. Predictably, his work was refused both times. Not only was the content unacceptable to fifties mores, but in the heyday of abstraction art this literary was laughably retrograde. As Joseph Groell, a Tanager member, recalled, Andy asked him in 1952 or 1953 to submit some Warhol drawings for a guest show. (SC33)

Joseph Groell: [The drawings] weren’t really erotic, they were head drawings. Because I was a friend, I promised him I’d take the drawings down. I was very embarrassed, but I did it. Of course, they wouldn’t show them. I told Andy nicely that people weren’t interested. If he was hurt, he didn’t show it. (SC33)

[Note: According to Scherman/Dalton, Warhol attempted to submit work again in about 1956 through Philip Pearlstein. According to John Giorno, in Andy Warhol Private Drawings from the 1950s, it was in 1958 that Philip Pearlstein nominated him for the Tanager. According to Trevor Fairbrother, the work was submitted during the 1959-1960 season - see Fairbrother's comments in next chapter. g.c.]

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