Friday, August 3, 2012

Designer of the Month: Andy Warhol

Celebrity is a curious thing. Some people are known for what they create - their art both characterizes and defines them. For others, its a larger-than-life personality that leads to fame, with their words and deeds exerting an almost gravitational pull upon the world. And then, there's August's Designer of the Month, Andy Warhol (1928-1987), who, with his masterfully cultivated philosophy, endless curiosity and enduring artistic career that both spanned and defined genres, held a rarer sort of esteem.
When I did my self-portrait, I left all the pimples out because you always should. Pimples are a temporary condition and they don't have anything to do with what you really look like. Always omit the blemishes - they're not part of the good picture you want.[1]
Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait (Passport Photographs, one with Altered Nose), 1956. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

As The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts describes of Warhol's early years:
The youngest child of three, Andy was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in the working-class neighborhood of Oakland, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Stricken at an early age with a rare neurological disorder, the young Andy Warhol found solace and escape in the form of popular celebrity magazines and DC comic books, imagery he would return to years later.  Predating the multiple silver wigs and deadpan demeanor of later years, Andy experimented with inventing personae during his college years. He signed greeting cards “AndrĂ©”, and ultimately dropped the “a” from his last name, shortly after moving to New York and following his graduation with a degree in Pictorial Design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1949.[2]
What would Warhol have been without New York, and what would New York have been without Warhol? It's impossible to consider one without the other, particularly as Warhol's career was successful from the onset. Not only did he manage to garner top assignments as a commercial artist for a variety of high-profile clients within a year of arriving in the city, winning acclaim as a graphic artist, but he also received accolades for his department store window display designs; this impressive artistic range was a hallmark of his career.[3] Warhol turned to painting and drawing during the 1950s and quickly made a name for himself, going from newcomer, with his first solo show at the Hugo Gallery in 1952, to being included in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art only four years later.[4] His first Pop paintings, and global celebrity, soon followed.

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Movie Camera, ca. 1971. Polaroid™ Polacolor Type 108, 4 1/4 x 3 3/8 in. (10.8 x 8.6 cm.). The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

As you can imagine, it would be impossible to look at the entirety of Warhol's work in just one month. Whole monographs have been written and exhibitions mounted on just his drawings of dancers, for instance. As Warhol was such a prolific artist, there's just so much to love, hate and consider, that's its difficult to distill it all down into four short weeks. Which is why, for the month of August, rather than focusing on just one aspect of Warhol's life and work, I'm going to take an overarching, if greatly abridged look at the man, the myth, and especially, the art of Andy Warhol. I hope you'll join me. 

[1]  Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again), (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1928), 62.

[2] The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. online, "Warhol's Legacy: Andy Warhol Biography," (accessed August 1, 2012).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. 

Special thanks this month goes to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, a foundation created from Warhol's estate and dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts, who were kind enough to lend me the books that I used in my research. To read more about the remarkable work of this wonderful foundation, please visit 

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