Los Angeles Letter - Provocative Artist Andy Warhol



Effortlessly, in the eye of the public, Andy Warhol has risen to be one of the most prominent and provocative artists in the world. A very successful commercial artist for over a decade, at one point Warhol decided to start making the art he wanted to, thus emerging as one of this century's prime, profound and disarmingly brilliant creative spirits. At the same time he refused to theorize or verbalize about his art. Warhol gives no succor to the extensions of man. He is perhaps the most widely publicized artist in America today in spite of the fact (difficult for the masses and impossible for the cynical to believe) that he has never expended any deliberate efforts to gain publicity for himself or for his art. This lightest of low-pressure stances seems to have baited even the hardest men in the highest-pressure media control positions—which the suspicious charmingly interpret as an inscrutably clever artifice, designed by Warhol the mastermind publicist, as a ploy in the vicious and highly-competitive game of gaining attention. Even so, this would represent a different sort of achievement for Warhol's highly unlikely methodology—in with such talented pros as L.B. J. and de Gaulle. But alas, Warhol doesn't deserve any applause for super-guile. In personality and product, in act and in his art, Andy Warhol is one of the most thoroughly organized and consistent, modest and self-effacing geniuses in the entire history of art.

Warhol says virtually nothing to the inquisitive scholar, reporter or friend, yet without betraying a hint of discourtesy. He is among the greatest listeners alive. About the only situation in which Warhol will and does talk freely about himself and his art occurs when he is confronted by a better listener than himself. So far this has always turned out to be a tape recorder. The interview published in Artforum (Vol. 4, No. 6, February, 1966) is typical: Bruce Glaser : "How did you get involved with Pop imagery, Andy ?" Andy Warhol: "I'm too high right now. Ask somebody else some­thing else."

Some of the negative and suspicious reaction to Warhol—especially among those committed to "Art" and oriented toward the avant-conservatisme—is provoked by this new stance. However devoid of malice or ambition it may be on Warhol's part, it still poses an understandable threat to the special pleaders for Art. Warhol rejects their pretense; he may very well join with the forces of Madison Ave. for money. (Anticipating his defense, commercially astute artists such as Monet, Rubens, or El Greco could be cited, inter alia. And by the way, Warhol uses most of the money to buy more film to make more movies.) This pattern closely relates to a thesis set out in a most intelligent book, frequently cited with truly creative unintelligence by a great deal of current critical writing on the so-called fine arts—Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Warhol is a super-cool subject, encouraging depth involvement, in contrast to the more conventional "hot" artist-subjects who can all be handled without becoming cynosures. But perhaps inevitably, Warhol has become a villain, just as McLuhan's " cool " medium of TV was characterized as a monster (and the supposed cause of crime waves and juvenile delinquency) by those members of a "hot" literate culture committed to the defense of hot (and competitive) media.

The real failing of the enormous critical and popular attention devoted to Warhol is that it has not yet been able to penetrate its subject to any considerable depth. Recurrently ineffectual, the various analyses and interpretations have attempted to deal with Warhol as they do, in their own hot and otherwise successful way: a work at a time, one gesture here, one exhibition there. The art of others behaves according to the rules. Andy Warhol's does not. Of course, that is part of the reason it is so important.

These notes cannot do service for a monograph, but they may provide the basis for some more effective and comprehensive approach to Warhol's art than has yet appeared. A good point of departure is Warhol's silk-screen self-portrait (top of page) shown at the Ferus Gallery. As Samuel Adams Green has rightly observed: "The silk‑screening method Warhol uses to remove himself further from his work. The more recent of Warhol's painting and sculpture are "mass-produced" by this method. . . Warhol tries to keep any sign of a struggle out of his work. He does not want to be associated with any " creative " activity. He believes that anyone can paint his picture as well as he, a feeling voiced by many viewers of modern art for years." (From the catalogue introduction to the first Warhol retrospective exhibition, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, 1965; reprinted in The New Art, edited by Gregory Battcock.) Warhol deserves credit for reviving the medium of silk-screen, a major technical contribution to contemporary painting, providing a similarly impersonal alternative to hard-edge abstractionism. Even with the most literally personal subject matter (the self-portrait) Warhol remains so detached that the signature is replaced by a rubber stamping of his name, on the back. With each step of the process, the means involving minimal effort are adopted, and the pathway crossing the fewest consciously aesthetic decisions is followed. Warhol's photo-screen paintings are perfectly consistent with his personal stance. The self-portrait and other works succeed because of exquisitely correct choice of the original photographic image—even if Warhol claims to use ones that just catch his eye. Anyone could make such paintings. He wishes they would. Why don't they ?


A more extreme statement about painting is provided by Warhol's cow-wallpaper (above). (This was shown at the Leo Castelli Gallery earlier in 1966, although it was not included in the exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in May.) A room papered with repeated magenta images of a cow's head on a chartruse ground seems to express Warhol's com­plete acceptance for painting of its picture-making function. Here the traditional picture on the wall has, with vengeful logic, become virtually synonymous with the wall itself—maybe the inevitable conclusion of a direction initiated by Duchamp in Pharmacie (1914), or indeed completing a cycle begun by the first men who painted on the walls of their caves.

Warhol's recent work transcends the anyway-historically-eroding distinctions between fragmented theoretical approaches (concepts of compartmentalized media, such as painting and sculpture) after having stretched each of these to certain extremes. Extraordinary sculptural statements, as for example in the Brillo boxes and the Campbell's soup cans, antedate the floating pillows that filled the Ferus and Castelli Galleries. These helium-filled delicate and ulti­mate kinetic sculptures are silver, like the self-portrait, and in using this "non-color" he parallels the concerns of other sculptors such as Harold Paris and Robert Morris. The shape is a direct result of the easiest way of making such an object, a form betraying the least pos­sible amount of " expressive " effort in design, manufacture, or packaging.

The particular aesthetic image of the pillows was forseen by Bruce Conner in A Movie (1961), in the footage showing a hovering silver airship. But no other sculptural vision extends the boundaries of the medium so ruthlessly: an extreme denial of the conventional sense of sculptural mass, and an extreme incorporation of chance in a kinetic conception. Nevertheless, the pillows were not included in the recent exhibition Directions in Kinetic Sculpture which traveled to Santa Barbara from the University of California at Berkeley; ad­mittedly, the pillows are directionless.

Myth has it that Warhol recently retired from painting and sculp­ture in order to develop the nightclub as a medium for artistic "ex­pression". The concern, anyway, is real. Following a gig in Green­wich Village, Andy Warhol, with his rock and roll group The Vel­vet Underground, the chanteuse Nico, the dancers Gerard Malanga and Mary Woronov, and a retinue of technicians, opened at The Trip on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip. The entire ensemble, with colored lights and a revolving 1930s ballroom, mirrored reflector, strobe lights, and Warhol's movies projected three or five at a time on the band and dancers, and on screens behind them, is known by the epic title of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, California.


Warhol guides the projectors, working constantly, tilting machines, altering speeds and focus, sometimes superimposing overall 35-mm slides of different colors or geometrical patterns. In a general, but also in a final sense, he controls all of the compositional elements in the total scene. Any member of the group is free to improvise within his respective sphere, or even to step outside his non-authori­tarianly determined role. For example, more by circumstance than by design, the technicians participate by their corporeal presence, and contribute to the specific effects by their activities on several levels. Other members of the entourage, or members of the au­dience, may participate and subsequently modify the total character of Warhol's work of art. The creator is laying no claim to godly con­trol over the exigencies of chance; but, incorporating chance as had Duchamp before him, Warhol moves away, even further, from the preciousness and pretension of Art toward the swinging flux of Life. Yet Warhol's control is final because he makes the decisions about the people who make the other decisions.

The scene, which is Warhol's medium and his work of art, paral­lels McLuhan's concept of " cool", and reunifies fragmented ele­ments to offer a total experience in depth, in place of the conven­tional gallery and museum experience of linear perceptions. The history of this notion is rich, and includes the Wagnerian concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk and its immediate sources in the theories of Philipp Otto Runge and German Romanticism, proceeding back to Baroque concepts of opera and inclusive architectural programs. Modern counterparts include, of course, Dada events, the "happen­ings" of Claes Oldenburg, James Dine, and Alan Kaprow, and, more recently, the dance programs of Robert Rauschenburg.

Warhol has entered the field of rock and roll music as a creator by choosing a group of musicians. Members of the Velvet Underground are all technically excellent musicians: they include a former outstanding student at London's Royal Conservatory of Music, a Columbia graduate, and a Syracuse University graduate who has been recording professionally since he was fourteen.. The group had been playing in Greenwich Village with little appreciation or success and virtually no understanding of their sometimes far-out musical innovations, when they were " discovered " by Warhol. Their title, was assumed (typically) without any iconographical associations, rather because they liked the way it sounded.

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable was formed when a New York disk jockey, Murray the K, invited Warhol to participate in one of his discotheque shows—although subsequent limitations of time, space, equipment and budget (or primarily perhaps a lack of con­fidence in Warhol's audacious creative vision) prevented the total concept from being realized. So Warhol took the group to the cavernous mirror-walled ballroom on St. Mark's Place, and the EPI became the hit of last Spring's New York art and swinging social set season. From there the group was booked for an opening at The Trip which coincided with Warhol's pillow opening at the nearby Ferus Gallery. The Los Angeles season has seen exhibitions by great living artists, such as Robert Morris, Ellsworth Kelly, and now Robert Irwin, concerts by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Little Stevie Wonder, performances by Robert Rauschenburg's dance troupe, two major league baseball teams, and the LA T-Birds, although the only event so far to approach Warhol's scene in signifi­cance was Joseph Byrd's extraordinary but curiously underrated presentation, the International Steamed Spring Vegetable Pie, by the New Music Workshop, UCLA.


Lewis Reed (above) lead guitarist of the Velvet Underground, composes all the group's music. The most impressive pieces in terms of what happens with sound are "Heroin" and "Black Angel's Death Song". Instrumentation is lead and bass guitars, drums, and alter­natively a second guitar, organ, or electrified viola. Feedback and controlled electronic distortion are utilized, as in the music of some more interesting contemporary British groups such as The Who, or in the Stones' recent work. There is a pervading quality of relentless but curiously understated deliberate monotony, also expressed by phrasing of the lyrics—both of which are perfect counterparts stylistically of Warhol's graphic, sculptural, and cinematic work.

Gerard Malanga is a widely published poet and an incisive literary critic who dances with fervent " cool " in the EPI, C scene. Malanga has such a unique and impressive style of dancing that he usually draws more critical attention than the historically important music of the group. Yet the music is not functionally dance-accompaniment stuff at all—one can indeed dance to it, but basically it retains a classical orientation toward concert performance. And then along comes Mary, with compelling iconography, particularly in "Venus in Furs", with black leather, chains, whips, screams, and other delights—the whole Sado-Masochistic fetishist bag as seen again (with a dubious hyper-seriousness) in Warhol's film Vinyl, which is sometimes projected behind and on Malanga and Miss Woronov when they dance. Malanga also stars in this film, and other members of the group appear throughout Warhol's recent films, creating a beautifully complex series of image: reality prob­lems on different levels of art, life, and put-on. The costumes and implements help create the scene (which offends some delicate sen­sibilities and inordinately absorbs some indelicate ones) but they are as unessential to the Velvet Underground's music as the Beatles' hair is to their's.

An example of this aggressive-cool syndrome is also provided by Nico's voice and singing style, patterned after Dietrich perhaps, in her best songs and potential hits, "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "Mirror". She fulfills a "star" function for the group as one of Warhol's Pop discovery-creations. A few years ago Warhol shot footage of Baby Jane Holzer, presenting her as " Girl of the Year" in his first major creation in the medium of Pop people. She was fol­lowed by Edie Sedgewick who was a star because she wanted to be a star. The choice of Edie as the second Girl of the Year (she is actually an actress and dancer) involved even less active a sense of
participation for Warhol. With Nico, Warhol has achieved an even greater removal by incorporating the idea of ready-mades with the creation of Pop people.

Warhol's concern is so much with people (even more than with Pop objects), that his historical influence may well be ascribed to his revitalization and expansion of portraiture as much as to any other of his several contributions to contemporary art. Warhol's movies are intimately and almost exclusively focused on people—his essential approach to the cinema is clearly contained in the hun­dreds of three-minute film portraits he makes in lieu of snapshots or conventional sketches. From this it follows that casting is the most important part of his films, and provides, at the same time, the basis for a film criticism which ranks John Wayne, Vincent Price, and Troy Donohue, or Kim Novak and Annette Funicello, as the greatest of non-acting actors. In making films the key is simply to choose beautiful people (always nice to watch) who are at least marginally interesting as human beings--they will then act (or react in the film-making  situation creating more than enough visual and psychological involvement for the finished film.

Warhol's films violate most canons of -"good directing" too. He doesn't really direct anyone, and only rarely will he give the subjects ("actors") more than rudimentary clues as to what he "wants". He just shoots—in earlier films without even moving the camera. Of course many films have been made this way when the medium was young, but they were the result of technical limitations, and not, as with Warhol, the result of a deliberate approach based on a consis­tent aesthetic stance of demonstrating minimal effort and as little personal expressiveness on the part of the artist as possible. His early films are "primitive", such as someone might have made who discovered the camera around 1900 and didn't know or hadn't yet been told what to do with it. There are a series of such films, their "subjects" often suggested by other people, which are accepted by Warhol on the basis of anyone's idea being about as good as anyone else's. The best known are Empire, Haircut, Kiss, Blowjob, Eat and Sleep. Despite the catholicity of inspiration, challenging subjects appeared to be nearly exhausted, about the same time as the cine­matic approach itself became more complex. Vinyl, one of those newer films starring Gerard Malanga, has already been mentioned; two others, Closet and Hedy, Miss Lamar, the Shoplifter deserve attention here.

Closet stars Nico and a young college student named Lee who dropped into Warhol's Silver Dream Factory in New York on shooting day. The first fifteen minutes of the film concentrates upon a doorknob. The door then opens to show Nico and Lee sitting side by side in a closet. The camera moves around seemingly arbitrarily, avoiding " arty " compositions or self-conscious camera angles, shifting when the framing of subject matter is too neat or pretty, sometimes tilting inexplicably, and sometimes zooming out of focus. It is as artificial a situation as we encounter in any other film other than a documentary. Warhol accepts this one artificiality in a straightforward way, while still sidestepping most of the other deci­sions tempered by the temptations of "good taste". No dialogue was written beforehand. Lee was told (lies) that Nico would be very nervous in front of the camera, and that he should ask her questions or otherwise make conversation, having had a little time to get to know her first. But the dialogue between the strangers was embar­rassed, forced, and cliché ridden, as our conversation in real life would be, but which we would fail to realize in terms of aesthetic consequence without the statements of artists like James Joyce, Eugene Ionesco and Andy Warhol. The dialogue in Closet is inane, but it does not parody Life so much as it points up the fantastic artificiality of usual screen dialogues with their slick scripts and neat sequences. There is dramatic tension in the film (will they leave the closet ?) and philosophical ambiguity (what are they doing there anyway ?). Warhol keeps his camera running no matter what hap­pens, and most of his films are made with no cutting or editing. But the personalities of both Nico and Lee, even in such a low-pressure presentation, manage to come through with an almost irresistable clarity. It is in precisely this way that Andy Warhol always manages to achieve the results he presumably does want, by paradoxically exerting a minimum effort, giving no explicit orders or instructions, making no laws.


Hedy, Miss Lamar, the Shoplifter stars Mario Montez in drag (above), Gerard Malanga, Mary Woronov, and Ingrid Superstar, with music by the Velvet Underground. It is a movie about Mario playing the part of Hedy Lamar who, it is suggested, herself played the part of the " other " movie star Miss Lamar. It is also simply a movie with beautiful people doing things interestingly, without it making much difference what is done, or in what sequence. A plot was written, but it is of limited importance. In fact, the film becomes most truly humorous when Mario forgets his lines, misses the prominently whispered promptings, and when certain key expository elements of the story (such as why Hedy gives people poison) are somehow totally lost in the shuffle. Obviously, this would destroy any film which depended on the plot. Significantly, the only one to become upset during the filming (in Warhol's Factory studio) was the author (not Warhol) who at one point rushes in front of the cameras (still running) to attempt a desperate, on-the-spot reconstruction of the plot (which fails). Discovering himself there, he improvises a scene by taking a draught of poison and quite inexplicably dies on the set—after moving over the presumably dead, but still gum-chewing body of Miss Superstar, in order to have room to fall. It seems as though it is just this extraordinary behaviour of people non-acting before a camera, when their humanity is so accentuated, that Warhol seeks to capture on film; and there is every difference between this and the stock fabrications of slapstick. Thus, when the scored slapstick elements of the plot enter, such as in the heavy Ger­manic facelifting sequence with which the film opens, or in the moving-day shoplifting sequence that follows, they tend to be accepted as deadpan "reality" in the context of Warhol's easy-going inscrutability. For whatever comes out in the end, we somehow get the feeling that this was exactly what Warhol wanted, in the back of his mind, all along.

The recurrent enigma of expectations presented by Warhol and his disarming art is perhaps nowhere more clearly expressed than by his novel, still in preparation. This was " written" by Warhol holding a tape recorder microphone up to his subject, Ondine(below) and turning on the switch. His creative intelligence is demonstrated by knowing exactly what to expect when his subject reacted to the recording situation. His creative brilliance is in his choice of subject, who blossoms with magnificent wit and vitality through his re­corded, post-Joycean day. Compared to our daily speech, Ondine's is poetry; compared to poetry, Ondine is alive.


Throughout all of these disparate activities—innovating and creating not only subjects and " expressions", but also entirely new media and revolutionary techniques—Warhol's stance is entirely consistent artistically, as well as being in complete accord with his basic personality. Precisely those characteristics of shyness, modesty, and unassertiveness that could, and do, seriously handicap others in similarly competitive, exposed situations, Warhol has carefully developed stylistically in the structure of his own image and being. Characteristically taking full advantage of apparent limitations, he creates, with minimal effort (or, evidence of effort) on the basis of brilliant perceptions regarding natural dispositions, a very deliber­ate, coherent, and impressive aesthetic experience. Andy Warhol is actually his own greatest work of art.

The EPI, C is a difficult act to follow. After the blast, The Trip closed for recuperation. The Ferus Gallery rebounded with a group show: in addition to a few helium-filled Warhol pillows still floating up around the rafters, other artists included Lichtenstein, Kelly, Judd, and Stella. Then Ferus closed for the summer while moving to new, larger quarters.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Museum presented an exhi­bition devoted to Robert Irwin and Kenneth Price. Irwin is a major painter, whose work, when it becomes known, is certain to command impressive international stature. Irwin's painting is so thoroughly thought out and exquisitely executed that it provides one of the few viable critical pendants (of comparable quality and depth of im­plication, if not equal in range and richness of innovation) to the work of Andy Warhol.

Left: Painted discs by Robert Irwin (1966) - Right: Sculpture by Kenneth Price (1965)

Left: Painted discs by Robert Irwin (1966) - Right: Sculpture by Kenneth Price (1965)

Price is a high quality and historically influential Los Angeles sculptor. Despite his relative youth, through his work and through his teaching in the area, he was instrumental in the formation of the now characteristic Southern California fetish-finish. Price early collaborated with Billy Al Bengston and John Mason, and was a key figure in the founding and development of the LA Cool School. As Lucy Lippard describes the sculpture in her catalogue introduction, " The shells of his sculpture are always clay, the tendrils clay or wood, but the surfaces can be oil, lacquer, enamel, glaze, grainy, shiny, pitted, dented, or scored, streaked or nuanced, matte or chatoyant, and are wholly determined by formal concept. The clear-cut, strongly colored outer form conveys a toughness and modernity while the dark, glassy orifice and tendrils . . . bring to bear most strongly the organic metaphor that is responsible for the sculpture's extra-formal fascination." We could go further than " toughness " ; in contrast to the purity and aloofness of Irwin's paintings, Price's pieces are prime examples of the aesthetic of nastiness. But the work of the two artists differs in even more important ways. Price's sculpture always presents us with self-contained pieces, while Irwin's works open outward, necessarily involving us and the rest of the world as a condition of their existence.

Philip Leider wrote a perceptive essay on Irwin for the catalogue, although by the artist's request no illustrations of his work are per­mitted. The installation can roughly be described as a white-walled room, with access through a single wide entrance arch. There are five paintings : one each (on the walls flanking the entrance) of a smaller size (42 x 43 inches), and one of the larger paintings (82 1/2 x 84 1/2  inches) on each of the remaining three walls. There is nothing else in the room, not even identifying labels, except the carpet and the meticulously installed lighting system (supervised by Irwin himself). Every aspect of the environment is controlled to the greatest degree practicable, in contrast to Warhol's free-swinging scene. The paintings are on beautifully constructed stretched can­vas, which has a subtly curved surface, slightly raised toward the center. On a white ground Irwin has painted, in various combina­tions of two hues, a grid of dots that become smaller, more widely spaced, and progressively less intensely pigmented away from the center. The effect from an optimum viewing distance, somewhat over ten feet away, is a "haze of color-energy", which after eliminat­ing "incident of any kind ", leaves us with "an experience of space and light".

Leider's observations, together with the paintings themselves and what they seem to manifest of Irwin's approach to art, suggest a series of stimulating problems and comments. Some of these are outlined in the following notes, not just to provide a critical foil to Warhol's art—however, when this does happen, new insights and understandings of both artists sometimes result. For example, Robert Irwin—keenly intelligent and aware of the contemporary scene, in addition to being well grounded in the history and theory of art—also writes, as does Warhol. But Irwin's prose is articulate and carefully reasoned criticism, in contrast to the tape novel. Granting that both Irwin and Warhol are serious artists of high caliber, the difference between them is that we know, and we can be sure that Irwin himself knows, exactly where he stands. But with Warhol's almost total non-assertiveness, with the chance, the humor, and the possible elements of self-mockery, we can never be sure just where he stands. Irwin takes himself very seriously, and his art demands this seriousness from us, limiting itself to a very special and controlled realm of existence. Seriousness for Warhol is a hang-up, and his art is inclusive, opening out into the world, and en­couraging us in our human suspicions never to take seriousness quite so seriously again.

Kenneth Price creates mean-beautiful things : works of art; Leider is right when he emphasizes Irwin's art rather than his works of art, "the dedication of the work of art to the creation of an immensely human esthetic encounter between viewer and painting". But these are still special objects in a special (museum) situation. Andy Warhol is wider, in that art, as a work of life, now leads to involve­ment in life itself; but the specialness of this encounter (hence its aesthetic nature) is no longer concerned with carefully controlled things on carefully controlled walls.

Irwin eliminates chance, thus reducing experience to art. Warhol absorbs chance, thus transforming experience into art. Neither way is necessarily to be preferred over the other, but they do lead to essential stylistic distinctions in the art itself. Irwin has developed a meticulous technique; Warhol is at least superficially careless about execution and technique. Each one of Irwin's paintings is a testa­ment of time and labor, a document of patience and precision; Warhol's are the contrary, with all of the work and care preceding the work of art itself, concentrated in the act of inspiration. This is naturally all quite independent from problems of relative aesthetic merit. In this context we could also consider Bruce Nauman's strangely moving, rugged, funky sculpture shown recently at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery, which provides another example of work made in the easiest way possible (with virtual indifference to tech­nique). In contrast to Warhol and Nauman, Price and Irwin ex­hibit a tremendous (typically LA) concern with technique and craft.

Leider differentiates between Irwin's painting and that of" deduc­tive" artists, such as Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, some of whose major concerns involve limitations and modifications of the framing edge. Irwin is not concerned with these problems par­ticularly. He is concerned with other problems, the most important of which is possibly the non-image image. We might still wonder how Irwin's art is related to that of Op art painters. More historically, there are doubtless fascinating correlations between Irwin and Georges Seurat, in terms of theory and technique, and artistic stance, over and above the stylistic point of contrast suggested briefly in the catalogue. Seurat also felt he had to take some account of the edge, and painted a "frame" on several works; but neither his, nor Irwin's subject matter can be " deduced " from the edge as with Stella's work. Yves Klein also subtly rounded the edges of his canvases, and used a " mysterious " monochrome, creating effects in some ways like Irwin's art.

Wrestling with the non-image image problem, maybe the paint­ings really are pictorial in concept, in a perverse way. The dots may form an "indistinct, irregularly-shaped mass ", but they are cen­tered, not "roughly centered"; there is nothing at all rough about Irwin's art. In fact, the shape of the mass formed by the dots re­sembles the conventional shape of a television screen. And in Los Angeles, the " color haze " inevitably suggests smog. This suggests further an irreverent iconography: a different color painting, with one for each day of the work week. It is difficult to understand, other­wise, why Irwin exhibits more than one painting, as beautifully and subtly different as they are. Is there any formal reason why they should be regarded as more than academic exercises (after the first, great painting) ? Would a mathematical formula, or a mechanically produced work do the job as well (and easier) ? Irwin, of course, has the same right to make arbitrary decisions as does Warhol or any other artist; but raising these highly intellectualized and hypotheti­cal issues seems to be part of playing Irwin's game. He gives little quarter, conceptually, and would probably ask none. Andy Warhol gives anybody quarter; he needs none.

In their concern with the total scene in creating the conditions for a human aesthetic experience, Irwin and Warhol are not opposed, but parallel, if distinct, in style. As Leider eloquently stated in sum­marizing the background of Irwin's art, "what was thought to be essential was in fact superfluous". But with Andy Warhol what was thought to be superfluous was in fact essential.

(I would like to express my gratitude to Andy Warhol, Paul Mor­rissey, and members of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable for their help in preparing these notes.)

Kurt von Meier

Below is a letter from Kurt to the Publisher of Art International, James Fitzsimmons, about this article focused on Andy Warhol. 


This is the cover of the October , 1966 edition of Art International, in which this article appeared. Art International discontinued publication in 1984. Kurt was a regular contributor during the years 1966-67.

(Note: Images and hyperlinks have been added)