email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlaySame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
In The Painted Word, Tom
Wolfe's brilliant exposé of the insecurity, egoism, avarice, and hypocrisy of
the pioneers of American Modern Art, Andy Warhol is chosen by Wolfe as the
archetype for the greedy upstart artist. Wolfe quotes with undisguised disdain
and disgust a classified ad that in 1966 Warhol had printed in the Village
Voice to the effect that he would endorse anything for money. For
numerous intellectuals familiar with or interested in art or especially
aesthetics, Wolfe's characterization was and still remains, more or less, the
regnant take on Warhol. Andy Warhol, it is often pronounced, was a phony.
Warhol's autobiographical book from
1975, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, at first does very little to force
one to change his or her opinion on this: it begins, in lieu of an
introduction, with a transcript of a phone call between Warhol (who is called "A")
and another unnamed person (who is called "B"), redacted by Warhol,
who inserts his thoughts regarding the conversation into the text to create a narrative.
This banal, at times even pathetic, 11-page introductory conversation is
entitled "B and I: How Andy Puts His Warhol On," and it is ostensibly
meant to inform the reader of Warhol's famous candor, his ability to speak
critically of himself openly, and of some of his essential characteristics,
such as the fact that he cannot bear to be alone (5). But what it instead conveys,
especially to anyone even mildly suspicious of Warhol on account of
presentations such as Wolfe's, is that Warhol is superficial, shallow and
He is also full of contradictions.
For example, though one of the first lines of the book is Warhol stating that
he cannot be alone, he tells us in the first chapter--entitled, "Love
(Puberty)"--that he is essentially a loner (23). He informs us that he did
not have any psychological problems of his own (23), after already having
narrated that he "had had three nervous breakdowns" when he was a
child (21), and also describing in detail how pathologically jealous he was: "I
get jealousy attacks all the time...I may be one of the most jealous people in
the world....Basically, I go crazy when I can't have first choice on absolutely
everything....As a matter of fact, I'm always trying to buy things and people
just because I'm so jealous somebody else might buy them..." (49-50). No psychological
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,
then, presents the critical reader with a portrait of the artist as a shallow,
egotistical, superficial, self-contradictory man. Tom Wolfe is vindicated--Warhol
is a phony. But wait. Warhol is a phony what?
In chapter five, entitled "Fame,"
Warhol confesses something that actually begins to force the critical reader to
reconsider the grounds of his negative attitude against him: "People used
to say that I tried to 'put on' the media when I would give one autobiography
to one newspaper and another autobiography to another newspaper. I used to like
to give different information to different magazines..." (79). This is
intriguing. Is that what Warhol is doing here, too? Is he providing just one
among several possible autobiographies of himself? Indeed, Warhol published
other books, other autobiographies, such as POPISM: The Warhol Sixties,
and perhaps he enjoyed portraying a different Warhol in each of them.
And keeping this in mind, we must
ask ourselves, what obligation does Warhol actually have to us, to his readers,
not to dissemble, to fool around, to exaggerate or underplay, to seduce or
mislead--aren't these partly the essence of art? While we are engaged in demanding
of him, Will the real Andy Warhol please stand up?, Warhol, for his
part, is sitting back and retorting, First prove to me why I should.
And I think he's got a point.
Although admittedly I started off
in Wolfe's camp, and the first fifty pages of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
only serve to entrench a reader's negative biases, eventually, in middle
chapters such as chapter 5, "Fame," chapter 6, "Work," and
chapter 7, "Time," considerations such as those above mentioned began
to eat away the ground of my critical stance. The reader begins to wonder, what
right do I have to demand anything more from Warhol than his art?
This is not to say that Warhol is
not a phony. Perhaps he is. But first it must be made clear by the accuser what
he is a phony of. It is true that The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
is not a great book. It lacks cohesive structure. For example, the later
chapters (chapter 11, "Success," chapter 12, "Art," chapter
13, "Titles," and chapter 15, "Underwear Power") simply become
short stories, which are entertaining and contain excellent dialogue, but have
scarce connection to the first ten chapters. Furthermore, chapter 14 is a
pointless waste of time. Additionally, in other chapters, such as 10, "Atmosphere,"
Warhol speaks of art and his preferences regarding space in a room and similar
matters, and it is nearly impossible to believe that he really means a word of
it. The book is bad. But on the other hand, Warhol never pretended to be a
great writer. On the contrary, he admits that he wanted to write books only
because many people he knew were writing books (jealousy) and of course he
wanted to make money (greed).
In sum, The Philosophy of Andy
Warhol may be a bad book by a jealous, greedy, dissembling, upstart artist.
But through this bad book, my own opinion of this artist was slowly transformed
from one of mild contempt into fascination and then ultimately both awe and
respect. Perhaps Tom Wolfe is right, and Andy Warhol is a phony. But I must
confess that Warhol won me over. Due to this book, I will now always be forced
to query, upon hearing Wolfe's oft-repeated accusation, Warhol is a phony what?
© 2007 Aakash Singh
Aakash Singh, Reader in Philosophy,
University of Delhi, South Campus, India