ACTION PAINTING: Andy Warhol at Work


The number of photographs of Andy Warhol mingling at parties and with friend’s and celebrities dwarfs the number of images of the artist making art. This imbalance reflects Warhol’s highly successful effort to keep the spotlight on his official public persona and away from his personal and creative self, especially after 1968. There are, however, revealing images of Warhol at work, almost exclusively from the 1960s.

This sequence, taken in March, 1965, shows Warhol and studio assistant Gerard Malanga silkscreening and painting one of the Flower series. The scale of the painting, the physicality of the large-format silkscreen process, and the placement of the canvas on the studio floor, to be worked from all sides are striking, and remind us that despite the differences in content and medium, Warhol’s painting practice clearly was clearly influenced by the scale and working techniques of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Jackson Pollock, whose working methods were captured on film by Hans Namuth in a documentary film of 1950.

The map of art history shows a huge chasm yawning between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, but these images of Warhol remind us that the distance between the New York art world of 1950 from that of 1965 is not very great, and that for many reasons, it would have been impossible for Pop Art to succeed, had it not carried over key aspects of Abstract Expressionism.

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