Thursday, September 21, 2006

on Andy Warhol pt 2

As I was preparing dinner last night I turned on PBS to catch a documentary on Andy Warhol in the series "American Masters." Although I was taken with John Updike's remarks concerning Warhol, a line last night added a whole new dimension to my understanding. When Warhol was first experimenting with silk screening and candid photography he took one of his friends (I am trying to find the name. Update to follow) to a photobooth on 42nd, pumped coins in the machine and said, "Now pose, this is costing me money." He would go on to show a series of 36 images from this photobooth. When interviewed the subject remarked, "I thought I was going to have my photo taken, like Richard Avedon, but instead he dragged me down to 42nd..."

After years of fascination, I finally bought "In the American West" by Avedon. Having been utterly captivated by the images in this book for a few years now, I was really excited when it arrived on Tuesday. Avedon's portraits focus such a careful eye on the subjects; every pore, every scab is indelible. Much in contrast to Warhol, Avedon looks at the beautiful "accuracy" (his word, not mine) of the camera to show those of us that inhabit the world. This counterpoint was what I was missing from my initial understanding of Warhol. Sure, Warhol saw a new mass media and it's radical shift of the visual-scape, but his was only one critique. Avedon came to offer a brilliant balance to Warhol in his ability to show and replicate accuracy when Warhol could not. While Warhol's screens smudged and blurred, each of Avedon's prints were as stunning as the very first. You couldn't have had Warhol without Avedon, and it all comes from this very casual remark of Warhol's subject.

Note: This post, like many in 3W, is mostly in my head and only partly in the text. If you are lost, consider yourself in good company. But like Warhol's works, a little is sometimes more to work with than a lot.

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